For Chico travelers, change is Delta

Chico resident Greg Fischer educates business travelers on how to plan better trips.

Getting more air service in Chico is like the weather: Everyone complains about it, but there doesn’t seem to be anything anybody can do about it.

Well, that’s not quite true. The city is trying to woo additional carriers, but it’s challenging.

Currently there are four flights on United Express (SkyWest) to San Francisco. Few passengers go only as far as SFO; most connect for destinations elsewhere.

A 2005 study by InterVISTAS Consulting, commissioned by the city, confirmed the conventional wisdom: About 90 percent of Chico-area passengers fly out of other airports, mostly Sacramento. To where would we go from Chico if we could? The No. 1 destination is LAX; San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas and Portland round out the top five.

What carrier might fly to LAX from here?

United Express is a possibility, but unless SkyWest were to operate the service, United would have to be convinced that most of the passengers would connect to other United flights in LAX, which is not likely.

Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, is a stronger candidate but thus far hasn’t shown interest. However, Horizon has flown out of Redding to Portland for many years, and since 2005 has operated popular flights from Redding, Eureka and now Santa Rosa to LAX.

Perhaps the way to L.A. is through Salt Lake City. Delta has a major hub there. Through its contract carrier (also SkyWest), it has expanded service to secondary cities such as San Luis Obispo, Medford and Salem, Ore., using attractive regional jets.

With SLC flights, our service would equal Sacramento’s for most eastbound destinations. Why? Except for hubs like Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta, Sacramentans also must connect when headed east.

Everybody likes a winner. Airlines watch each other closely. If we could possibly land Delta service to SLC and make it a success, then Horizon and United Express are more likely to consider an L.A. flight.

Is there anything you can do? Yes: Use the existing service out of Chico. At the very least, it may lead United Express to add frequencies to SFO. Contrary to myth, the prices are not always a lot more expensive than from Sacramento, plus you save the drive time, gas and parking expense.

Except for the hubs, the red-eye JetBlue flight to New York’s JFK airport and United’s one nonstop to Washington, D.C., you’re going to have to change planes anyway when headed eastbound out of Sacramento—whereas when flying from Chico, the connecting flight out of San Francisco is much more likely to be nonstop to your final destination.

Don’t forget to write! It never hurts to send a letter to Delta or Horizon telling them how much you’d like to see them in Chico.