Southwest Airlines customers will be able to fly on non-stop flights to both Las Vegas and Denver from Fresno beginning April 25, company officials announced Thursday.
There will be 3 daily flights to Las Vegas, with one-way fares starting at $39. Southwest will also offer one daily flight to Denver, with a one-way fare as low as $69.
“I do think it’ll be a positive impact on the competition, on the fares,” said Kevin Meikle, aviation director at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, in a Zoom meeting with reporters. “I think these flights are going to be full going out every day.”
“I do think it’ll be a positive impact on the competition, on the fares.”– Kevin Meikle, Fresno Yosemite Airport aviation director
GV Wire℠ compared Southwest’s fares to Allegiant and Frontier airlines. Both carriers currently fly direct to Las Vegas and Denver from Fresno.
Allegiant flights to Las Vegas are priced at $97, one way, at about the same time Southwest will begin its service. Frontier flights to Denver start at $86. Neither airline offers daily service, however.
“It remains to be seen how the airlines will react. But I think I think they’re going to react positively,” says Meikle. “I think we’re going to see great fares and who knows, maybe we’ll see some other movement with other airlines that will further enhance the the the offerings out of our airport.”
Other Possible Destinations
The word “initial” flight schedules was featured prominently in Southwest Airlines’ press release about the Las Vegas and Denver routes.
“I think moving forward, we will see more opportunities,” says Meikle. “We have had discussions specifically about Hawaii and other destinations as well.”
Meikle points to Miami as a good example. Southwest just began service there in September of last year and they’re already exploring other destinations.
“They’re constantly evaluating where best to put their aircraft,” says Meikle. “We fully expect them to continue to to grow the market, whether that’s in another month or two or six months or ongoing, we don’t know. But we do know that that that’s going to happen.”
Attracting Travelers to Fresno
“I know that that our airport has a marketing budget and we’re going to maximize the use of that marketing budget so that we can encourage people to to fly Fresno.” – Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer
“This is going to create more opportunities for people to fly to Fresno to to take advantage of our surrounding area,” says Dyer. “Whether you’re going to Yosemite or Kings Canyon National Park or the Sequoias or you’re just going to come in here to enjoy our world class zoo and some of the other things that we have here, the underground garden, or just enjoy our nightlife.”
Dyer’s voice now greets travelers via regular announcements over the airport’s overhead speakers. Dyer said other outreach efforts are being used, as well.
“I know that that our airport has a marketing budget and we’re going to maximize the use of that marketing budget so that we can encourage people to to fly Fresno,” responded Dyer.
Meikle says he’s already connecting the Southwest Airlines marketing branch with local convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, the Fresno County Employment Development Corporation and other similar entities around the valley.
“In Visalia, in Porterville and all these organizations, we’re doing introductory communications with Southwest,” explains Meikle. “So there’s going to be a very robust outreach and marketing all across the board, both from a leisure travel as well as a business travel perspective.”
Trying to Attract New Business
Dyer says before he took office as mayor at the beginning of January, he was talking with people in the corporate world about Fresno as a place to do business.
“We’ve been on a recruiting mission trying to get the right corporations and businesses here,” explains Dyer. “I can’t tell you how many of those people have asked about our airport.”
Dyer says his message to business leaders is Fresno is centrally located in a state of 40 million people, there is available land, there is not much traffic congestion like other big cities in the state, and has an available workforce.
“We are poised to take off in terms of economic development right here in our region,” says Dyer.
Dyer says he also got a phone call from Mike Betts, CEO of Betts Manufacturing in Fresno, as soon as Southwest announced they were planning to offer local service.
“His words were, ‘this is a game changer.’ I’ve heard this from people who have been involved in marketing in Fresno who market for out of town corporations and companies as well,” said Dyer.
Readying For Southwest’s Arrival
The airport is readying ticketing counter space to accommodate the Southwest’s arrival.
“We’re going to be doing their branding there and showing people links to their website right on the back wall screens behind their counters long before they actually start flying,” says Meikle. “We’re going to see a Southwest presence in our lobby here just in a few weeks.”
Meikle says Southwest plans to bring in some employees from other airports, augmented by contracted staff.
In addition to jobs brought in by the airline, Meikle says there will be a trickle down effect.
“On the other side of the coin is the concessions, whether it’s the restaurants or the gift and news (stand),” says Meikle. “What this really means is there’s going to be more passengers flying.”
Dyer Says Airline is Here To Stay
Southwest representatives were in Fresno in November ahead of the announcement about the airline’s new Fresno service.
Dyer wanted to allay concerns that the move might be only a trial run for the airline.
“I asked the question, are we are we simply going to the dance together? Or are we going to get married? And their response immediately was, we’re getting married,” said Dyer a little tongue in cheek.
He says the company’s intention is to come to Fresno to stay.
Recently, an Iowa airport announced it would start to conduct mandatory COVID-19 screenings for all departing passengers. This after the FAA gave the go-ahead for airports to do so.
The screenings will soon begin at the Eastern Iowa Airport for all outward-bound passengers leaving on a flight and for employees working beyond TSA checkpoints.
GV Wire℠ asked if the Fresno Yosemite International Airport would be following suit and doing the same soon.
“No, we’re not really talking about doing that,” answered Meikle. He says an organization called the ‘California Airports Council’ keeps a close eye on these types of things and advises its members on the best course for them.
“So at this point in time, that’s not something in terms of that questionnaire screening that’s happening yet. I mean, it could,” says Meikle. “But with this vaccine coming now, everybody is hopeful that we can just keep moving forward and hopefully put all this behind us.”