Bob Highfill Record Staff Writer @BobHighfill
STOCKTON — Soon, traveling from the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California won’t require a long drive south on Interstate 5 or Highway 99 or fighting traffic to catch a flight from the Bay Area or Sacramento.
In August, United Airlines will begin twice-daily, nonstop service between Stockton Metropolitan Airport and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) via SkyWest Airlines, a United Express carrier since 1997. The aircraft will be 50-seat United Bombardier Crj 200s.
“I’m through-the-moon excited, especially for folks in our community who have to fly a lot,” Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs said. “Having an option to Los Angeles, that gets you up and back the same day, will be helpful for them and help people connect with the (world.)”
Tickets are on sale now for travel Aug. 20 and beyond via https://www.united.com or United reservations at (800) 864-8331. A check of United Airlines’ website Wednesday showed round-trip flights costing $185, with departures from Stockton at 7:41 a.m. and 3 p.m., arriving at LAX at 9:10 a.m. and 4:29 p.m., respectively, with departures from LAX at 1 p.m. and 5:10 p.m., arriving in Stockton at 2:22 p.m. and 6:32 p.m., respectively.
The aircraft will be parked overnight at Stockton Metropolitan Airport to service the first flight each day, meaning passengers won’t have to wait for a flight coming from another destination.
Officials at a news conference Wednesday at the Stockton airport said business and leisure travelers not only will have easier access to the second-largest city in the country and a major global tourist destination but also to United’s worldwide network through the airline’s Los Angeles hub.
According to Stockton Metropolitan Airport, 5.5 million passengers within a 25-mile range of the airport travel more than an hour to airports in the Bay Area or Sacramento annually. The new Stockton-L.A. service will allow residents to fly local and alleviate traffic congestion over the Altamont Pass, Interstate 5 and Highway 99.
Wes Rhea, chief executive officer with Visit Stockton, said the new service will be a game-changer.
“For us, the reality is when we’re out selling and promoting Stockton for meetings and conferences and sporting events, air lift and how do you get to Stockton usually is the No. 1 question,” he said. “It’s always tough when the first answer out of your mouth is that it’s a close 45-minute drive to the nearest airport.”
San Joaquin County District 4 Supervisor Chuck Winn pointed out that among his constituents who stand to benefit, Lodi should, especially as an agricultural-tourism destination, “with our 88 wineries that we have in the Lodi area,” he said.
“Since our wines are distributed worldwide and we receive global recognition for our wineries, that is going to be a great opportunity to expedite travel,” Winn said. “I know some of our winery owners travel 150,000 miles a year, so this will be real important to them.”
Stockton airport director Russell Stark said officials with United are scheduled to walk through the airport today. Stark said no major renovations will be necessary to accommodate the new service, but another security line will be added to facilitate the boarding process.
In 2017, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors considered adding “San Francisco” to the name of Stockton’s airport in an effort to draw more attention to the area and drum up more business. Though San Francisco International Airport’s director and a Bay Area congresswoman objected, SFO officials helped bring the service to Stockton.
“That drew the attention of San Francisco airport,” said San Joaquin County District 3 Supervisor Tom Patti, a member of the San Joaquin County Aviation Advisory Committee. “They’re overburdened with some of these small flights and they want to bring less traffic to SFO, and they know this region is underserved.”
Allegiant Airlines offers two flights per week out of Stockton to Phoenix; three flights a week to Las Vegas, and will resume service to San Diego in March. This will be the first time since 2003 that Stockton will have daily service to a large hub, international airport. At that time, America West offered daily service from Stockton to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
“It’s probably the most phenomenal tourism development we’ve had probably since the downtown waterfront project (in 2005),” Rhea said. “We couldn’t be more excited.”
Contact reporter Bob Highfill at email@example.com or (209) 546-8277. Follow him on Twitter @bobhighfill.
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News