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[caption id="attachment_47423" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Alaska Air currently serves Santa Rosa with Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft."][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Seattle-based Alaska Airlines today announced it is adding daily nonstop service from San Diego to Santa Rosa but will discontinue service between Santa Rosa and Las Vegas to support the new route.

The airline will, however, add a third flight between Santa Rosa and Los Angeles, which will operate four days a week through August 2012. The Las Vegas route will be eliminated on June 3.

The decision to halt service to Las Vegas came from Alaska Airlines, and the Sonoma County Airport will seek other potential carriers to replace the route, airport spokeswoman Melinda Gay said.

"There should be a strong chance that we will get (Las Vegas) back, but it might not happen until the runway project is complete in 2013," she said. "Alaska carried good passenger loads, which should be attractive to other carriers. Although passenger loads to LAS have been good, the once-daily flight has not been as profitable as required for Alaska Airlines to sustain it. We are not alone in hoping for its return and will continue to promote it to other airlines," she said.[poll id="3"]

Getting the San Diego route is good news for the airport though, Ms. Gay said.

The new route to Santa Rosa is part of a broader expansion into California for Alaska Airlines,  which will also begin service between San Diego and Monterey, along with twice daily service to Fresno and service between Reno, Nev., and San Jose.

“Alaska Airlines has proudly served California for more than 30 years and we’re pleased to continue to grow our presence in the Golden State,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing.

The announcement today by Alaska Airlines came barely a week after the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve an $84 million safety upgrade and expansion to the airport. The project is viewed by proponents as a significant boost to the economy by opening up an already established tourism destination to new markets while creating around 900 jobs through construction.

The safety upgrades and expansion could attract more airlines and flights to Santa Rosa and will allow for mid-sized commercial jets to land here.

The new routes will be operated for Alaska by Horizon Air using 76-seat Bombardier Q400 turbopropeller aircraft.  Service from San Diego to Santa Rosa will start June 5, according to the airline. Horizon Air currently operates five daily flights out of Charles M. Schulz--Sonoma County Airport to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland and Seattle.

According to Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air’s Q400 plane is among the most environmentally friendly regional aircraft, burning 30 to 40 percent less fuel, producing an equally lower amount of emissions and generating 10 decibels less noise than comparable jets.

In Sonoma County, passenger volume at the airport reached an all-time high in 2011, with 207,188 total passengers, an increase of 9.8 percent over 2010.

To celebrate Alaska’s new service, the carrier is offering  $69 fares on flights between San Diego and Santa Rosa, and between San Jose and Reno; and $59 fares on flights from San Diego to Fresno and Monterey.  Tickets must be purchased by Jan. 25 and can be used for travel from June 5 through July 18, 2012. Visit www.alaskaair.com to purchase a ticket or call 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522 or TTY/TDD line 1-800-392-0228).San Diego-to-Santa Rosa flightsStart dateFlightDepartsArrivesFrequencyJune 5 San Diego to Santa Rosa9:45 a.m. 11:50 a.m.DailyJune 4Santa Rosa to San Diego4:25 p.m.6:22 p.m.DailySeasonal Santa Rosa-Los Angeles serviceStart dateFlightDepartsArrivesFrequencyJune 4Santa Rosa to Los Angeles1:35 p.m.3:09 p.m.Sunday, Monday, Thursday, FridayJune 4Los Angeles to Santa Rosa11:30 a.m.1:04 p.m.Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday