Starting in a few weeks, travelers at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport will be noticing some changes for the better, and some for the worse.
In a decision mirroring a nationwide trend, one of the airport’s two carriers—SkyWest Airlines (which operates in SLO as United Express)—has decided to switch from smaller turboprop planes to larger jet planes, while also reducing the total number of flights offered.
Beginning on April 7, the total number of daily SkyWest flights departing SLO for LAX (Los Angeles) and SFO (San Francisco) will drop from 11 to five. There will be three daily flights to LAX and two daily flights to SFO under the new schedule, when there had been six and five, respectively.
“Regional airports all over the country are seeing this pattern of consolidation,” said airport General Manager Kevin Bumen. “That said, it’s important for people to understand this is an airline decision, not an airport decision.”
Bumen added that while the loss of flight time flexibility is a downside, SkyWest will be switching from 30-seat turboprop planes to 50-seat jets, meaning the total number of available round-trip daily seats from SLO will decrease only moderately.
“We have about 516 daily round-trip seats available now, and that number will only drop to 458 seats on April 7,” Bumen said. “We’re also already in negotiations to regain that third SFO flight, which would actually get us above that 516-seat number.”
When contacted by New Times, SkyWest spokesperson Marissa Snow said that the airline first announced its fleet’s transition away from turboprop planes in November 2014. She added that the airline expects to complete the nationwide changeover to jets by May.
“These 50-seat jets will now be the smallest planes we operate, which means smoother, quicker, and quieter flights,” Snow told New Times. “Our schedules will be optimally timed for connections, and we will make sure our fares stay competitive with those in comparable markets.”
Bumen said the SLO airport has accepted SkyWest’s “business decision” and is focused on offering the best flights and services possible for travelers.
“We hope that with the arrival of these new aircraft, people will see there’s convenience and comfort in flying out of SLO,” Bumen said. “Turboprop planes are just not a comfortable experience for some people, and this is the end of the turboprop era.”
The other carrier at the SLO airport—US Airways Express—will continue to offer three jet flights per day to Phoenix.