United Airlines to pause Sonoma County service; Santa Rosa airport passenger traffic improves in September

United Airlines, which was expected to bring back its Denver flight this month, has decided to suspend all service to Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport, including its San Francisco flights, as of Nov. 1, according to airport officials.

“What they’re telling us is that they’ll bring back both San Francisco and Denver on March 27, 2021,” said airport manager Jon Stout. “That will depend on how COVID improves between now and then, but we are working with United very closely. It is just a suspension; they’re not closing their station (at the airport).”

The Sonoma County airport’s passenger volume in September improved from August, but year-over-year figures remain down 67.6%. The airport flew a total of 17,185 passengers last month, up from the 11,850 passengers served in August, the county-run facility reported Monday.

“It’s a slow progression, not too fast,” said Stout, noting that with Sonoma County remaining in the highest level for COVID-19 transmission, the facility remains on pause for promotional activities, as well as for tracking or surveying passengers.

Day-to-day pandemic-induced cancellations among the three commercial carriers servicing the airport — Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines — have settled down, Stout noted.

He was hopeful United would keep its San Francisco service intact, but that was contingent on the second CARES Act being approved, which hasn’t happened.

United in September flew 797 passengers in September, an 82.6% drop from a year earlier, and about 68 fewer passengers than the carrier flew from Santa Rosa in August. Its load factor was 38%, down 52.5% from a year earlier.

Alaska Airlines, which flies the highest volume of passengers of the three commercial air carriers servicing the airport, flew 11,879 travelers in September, up from 8,099 passengers a month prior, but down 65.7% from September 2019. Alaska’s load factor — the measure of how full its airplanes were on average — was 45%, down 44.4% from a year earlier.

American Airlines last month carried 4,509 passengers through Santa Rosa, down 59.5% from September 2019, but still improved from the 2,886 passengers flown this past August. The carrier’s load factor was 52%, down 36.6% from a year earlier.

Neither American nor Alaska have made recent changes to their flight schedules, Stout said, but American may add two additional Phoenix flights over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The airlines servicing the airport usually release their schedules four to six weeks in advance, he said.

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