The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport will soon offer a direct flight to Dallas via American Airlines, according to a press release issued by the airline Thursday.
The direct flight to Dallas/Fort Worth will take off daily, beginning April 2.
“This new flight will add 89 new 1-stop connections,” SLO Airport Director Kevin Bumen said.
San Luis Obispo airport officials made a grand announcement Thursday afternoon.
Bumen said the addition of the direct flight to Dallas is a result of increased ridership, as well as a partnership with the county’s tourism department on continued efforts to bolster tourism.
“We’re in a space that this airport has never operated in terms of total passenger volume,” Bumen said. “This year, we’re anticipating half a million passengers.”
Air traffic in and out of SLO is taking off. Nearly 405,500 passengers came in and out of SLO by October of this year. Oer that same 10-month period last year, just 336,500 passengers flew in and out and that number was just 276,350 by October of 2016.
“That’s very exciting because, in a small community, air service is fragile, people have to use it or we lose it,” Bumen said.
The SLO airport has come along way since its inception in 1939, when it opened with a single hangar and dirt runways.
“The new terminal has been a game changer for the destination,” Visit SloCal CEO and President Chuck Davison said. “People’s ability to step off into a fresh, open, energetic space creates a real sense of destination from the moment they arrive until the moment they depart.”
Three airlines – United, American and Alaska – offer direct flights to San Francisco, L.A., Phoenix, Seattle, Denver and now Dallas.
But making new direct flights available is a major investment of time and money.
“Visit SloCal has invested over $1 million in the last 18 months into marketing in these new destinations to bring new air service to SLO County,” Davison said.
Other projects to help the airport function on schedule — like adequate parking — are also in the works to accommodate all passengers traveling to or from the area.
“You do outgrow the facilities you have. We’re not there yet, we’re not even thinking about that yet. But this is certainly going to put some demands on our parking and we’re already planning a parking expansion,” Bumen said.
Destinations like Portland, Salt Lake City, and San Diego are on Bumen and Davison’s radar, but don’t expect direct service to those locations any time soon.
“Most importantly, we’re working on ensuring our new markets are strong and healthy and we continue to add as the market can accept that,” Bumen said.