In the spring 2018, Flagstaff Pulliam Airport will begin offering non-stop American Airlines flights to and from both Los Angeles and Dallas. Los Angeles flights will start on May 5 and Dallas flights the following month, on June 7. Tickets for both are now on sale.
American will use its current 70-seat aircraft for both services, which include first-class options. The services will initially only be available on Saturdays as part of a test run to evaluate long-term viability. The Los Angles flight will depart from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Saturday at 2 p.m. (all times listed here are local) and arrive in Flagstaff at 3:30 p.m. It will then depart Flagstaff at 4 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 5:43 p.m. American Airlines will need to fill 75 percent of the seats before making the flight permanent.
The Dallas flight will depart from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) at 11 a.m. and arrive in Flagstaff at 11:30 a.m. The returning flight will depart Flagstaff at 12:45 p.m. and arrive in DFW at 5:15 p.m.
Airport Director Barney Helmick says the expansion has been a project he and the city have worked on for the past seven years. Horizon Air offered a flight to Los Angeles from Flagstaff years ago, but the flight was less popular with travelers and more costly for the airline because of a mandatory stop in Prescott.
“We’ve probably met with 15 different air carriers in that time span,” said Helmick. “There’s a lot of information that has to be gathered and lots of people to meet with.” Eventually, Flagstaff city officials landed on American Airlines.
“LA is a great connection for some of our international visitors,” Helmick said. “This gives them another option instead of having to connect through Phoenix or take a bus. It’s time and money for tourists and our industry people.”
This year, nearly 70,000 passenger seats were filled in flights coming and going from Flagstaff, a 6 percent increase from last year, and an estimated 57 percent of those fliers were not locals, but tourists flying in and out to visit Northern Arizona.
“If we continue to have this growth in international travel, we will hit our set targets,” said City of Flagstaff Economic Vitality Director Heidi Hansen. “But our first goal is to make sure people are flying and that it’s the best it can be, today.”
Much of the airport’s success and growth has been attributed to an advertising campaign targeting locals to “Always Fly Flagstaff First.”
“This is taking a village,” said Hansen. “By no means does the City of Flagstaff think [it is] in this by [itself]. We know that with the growth of NAU, the growth of our business community, the growth of our visitation, we know all of that is contributing to getting additional service. And we want the community to know that this is something we’re doing together.”
She added that additional flights mean more travel options for both residents and visitors, as well as employment prospects that will come about as a result of increased airport staffing and connections.
With the Los Angeles and Dallas routes now on the schedule, Helmick and Hansen have set their sights on San Francisco and Denver, connections they hope to make by 2019.
Flagstaff Business News will delve into the costs and convenience of Flagstaff airport travel and what it means to the local economy in its February podcast, On the Grid. To listen, go to flagstaffbusinessnews.com. FBN
By Kevin Schindler, FBN
Flagstaff Airport Director Barney Helmick