Cheryl Sarfaty North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma County Airport Expands Air, Ground Operations as Denver, Dallas Flights Inbound
February 13, 2019
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  • Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport (airport code STS) continues to be a focal point for the growth of the region’s economy, and that won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

    The Santa Rosa airport is adding new destinations, bringing back seasonal offerings and pushing forward with expansion and remodel projects.

    United Airlines on March 8 will begin service to Denver. American Airlines on May 3 will join Alaska Airlines in offering daily flights to Los Angeles. And on June 6, American will launch daily service to Dallas-Fort Worth.

    For United, it was a sound decision to bring its Denver service to STS.

    “Our new flight between Sonoma/Santa Rosa and Denver will offer customers easy access from the West Coast to the Rockies, and it will open up hundreds of options for customers to connect through our Denver hub to destinations all over the world,” said Steve Jaquith, United’s vice president of the Denver hub. “The new flight will also make it easier for customers flying through Denver to experience a dream vacation in California Wine Country.”

    Meanwhile, Sun Country Airlines will be marking its third year at STS with seasonal service to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. But this year, they’re extending their season from two to six months. Flights resume May 10 and end sometime in December, according to airport manager Jon Stout. Plans for Sun Country to resume seasonal service to Las Vegas are still being worked out, he said.

    Looking ahead, Stout said he’s hoping to add Hawaii to Alaska Airlines’s menu of offerings at STS within the next two years.

    “It’s a big decision, but we’ve planted a big seed,” Stout said, adding that the air carrier has expressed interest.

    James Gore, Sonoma County supervisor for the 4th District, which includes the airport, agreed he’d like to see STS add service to Hawaii in the future. But for now, it’s time for international flights.

    “Now that we’ve secured the connections to the entire continental United States, our goal needs to be focused on getting customs and a flight to Guadalajara,” Gore said. “According to data procured by the airport, it is the third-highest in demand destination for our regional residents. So, working to achieve that is important.”

    The airport’s continuous evolution also expands opportunities for business travelers to fly directly in and out of Sonoma County, an attractive alternative to driving or shuttling more than 60 miles from San Francisco International Airport, Stout noted.

    “It makes us a viable option for businesses,” Stout said, stating that business executives can more easily travel elsewhere to meet with customers, and vice versa. “So it makes the ease of doing business greater and it also helps with business retention.”

    On the construction front, airport officials recently held an informational meeting to present to a group of contractors plans for a two-phase, $25 million permanent expansion of the terminal that will triple its size from 15,000 square feet to 45,000 square feet, Stout said.

    “We’ve finished the schematic design phase and are now working on detailed design,” he said. “We submitted for grant funding last fall and are waiting on the results of our application.”

    “There’s no doubt there are contractors interested in it,” Stout added, explaining that seven contractors from out and around the state attended the meeting. “It was just an informational meeting so that was really encouraging.”

    The estimated completion date for phase 1 is late 2019 or early 2020 and phase 2 in 2022. (See the fact box for project highlights.)

    “The story of Sonoma County Airport’s growth is really more a story about the airport’s smart growth,” Gore said. We are a regional airport, our goal is not to have 100 flights per day, but the fact that we are attaining high-value options such as Denver, Dallas, Phoenix and the entire West Coast, shows that our advocacy and our region is working.”