Goodbye Los Angeles. Hello San Francisco.
United Airlines, which currently flies direct between Kelowna International Airport (YLW) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has announced it is replacing that daily direct service with direct flights to and from San Francisco International (SFO) starting this fall.
The flights will continue to be operated by United’s regional airline United Express and will start Sept. 20.
According to YLW director Sam Samaddar while the decision was United’s, it actually fulfils the original request he made to United five years ago when the local airport went looking for an airline that would fly direct between San Francisco and Kelowna. Instead, it was offered the Kelowna-LA route and jumped at the offer.
Samaddar said for United the decision makes sense given SFO is it’s main hub airport and it has more connections from there to U.S. and international destinations than any other airport.
While the new San Francisco flights will replace the current scheduled service to and from LA Sept. 19, there will continue to be intermittent LAX to YLW non-stop service between Dec. 20 to Jan. 4 on Saturdays and Sundays and then just Saturdays from Jan. 31, 2015 to Feb. 7, 2015. Those flights will primarily accommodate the skiers coming here, said Samaddar.
United will contact customers currently booked to travel to LAX after Sept. 20 or outside the dates mentioned above to offer alternate arrangements, said a news release issued by the Kelowna airport.
As of Feb. 7, 2015, passengers will still be able to book a United flight from Kelowna to LAX, he said, but it will be routed through San Francisco.
“This new service to SFO will provide our travellers better connection points to many more U.S. cities,” said Samaddar. “The SFO terminal also provides travellers better connection points and closer walking distances from international to domestic gates. In addition, there are shuttles from SFO to each of the LA- area airports including LAX, Burbank, (BUR), LA Ontario International (ONT) and John Wayne Airport (SNA).”
United is the largest carrier at San Francisco International Airport, offering nearly 300 daily flights to more than 90 destinations in the U.S. and around the world, more service than any other airline from the Bay area.
From its San Francisco hub, United also offers more non-stop trans-Pacific service to and from the United States than any other carrier hub. United currently operates nearly 30 daily non-stop flights from San Francisco to 21 international destinations.
Flying time from Kelowna to San Francisco is just over 2.5 hours and the daily flights will leave Kelowna at 3.55 p.m. and arrive in San Francisco at 6:33 p.m. The flights from San Francisco to Kelowna will leave at 12:40 p.m. and arrive at 3:18 p.m. United Express will use 50-seat Skywest CRJ200 aircraft on the route.
“This is very exciting for our leisure and business travellers,” says chairman of the airport Advisory Committee, Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray. “SFO has been on our wish list and in our business plan for a few years now. We are pleased this opportunity with United has presented itself.”
News of the change was greeted with enthusiasm bty representatives of several business sectors here, including the high-tech industry, wineries and tourism.
“The addition of a direct Kelowna-San Francisco route will be an invaluable tool in growing Kelowna’s technology industry,” said Lane Merrifield, co-founder of Club Penguin and a local entrepreneur. “A direct air link will greatly assist in company access, investment opportunities and workforce development as the Okanagan Valley continues to link economically to Silicon Valley. Kelowna is already known as one of Canada’s most entrepreneurial cities, and this only reinforces that.”
Nancy Cameron, CEO of Tourism Kelowna said access the San Francisco tourist market, with LA still within our reach, will be positive for the growth of tourism here.
Like the Okanagan Valley, the area around San Francisco is known for its high-tech industry, its wine industry and tourism.
“From the community standpoint this new route will be a huge benefit as it will attract visitors from San Francisco for wine tourism, Golf, skiing and to see this fantastic region,” said Quails’ Gate Winery CEO Tony Stewart.