United Airlines to suspend service at Sonoma County airport; new Santa Rosa flights debut

United Airlines plans to indefinitely suspend service out of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport beginning Nov. 1, citing ongoing pilot shortages, Airport Manager Jon Stout said late Friday.

The airline, which services the San Francisco and Denver markets from Santa Rosa, never resumed its Denver flights after first suspending all service at the Sonoma County airport Nov. 1, 2020, because of the pandemic. Since then, United has repeatedly pushed back the Denver restart date, most recently to Jan. 4, 2023. The airline resumed service to San Francisco on Aug. 1, 2021.

The announcement of curtailing service from Sonoma County comes after United announced plans to suspend service in several regional markets, according to multiple reports.

Most recently, United announced it will be halting service over the next few months between Flagstaff, Arizona, and Denver; Texarkana, Texas, and Houston; and between Los Angeles and San Diego.

But Stout is hoping United will return at some point.

“We still have aspirations to get them to return to Denver,” Stout said. “That is really the goal with United.”

Meanwhile, the Santa Rosa facility has officially welcomed a new airline.

On July 14, leisure carrier Aha Airlines launched nonstop service between its hub at Reno-Tahoe International Airport and Santa Rosa. The Business Journal reported the news when it was announced May 3.

“We’re excited for the connectivity to Reno,” Stout said, adding airport officials will be working with Aha and the city of Reno on promotional efforts, with the goal of additional frequency or other options for the market.

Aha — short for air, hotel, adventure — will initially fly between Reno and Sonoma County twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, with 50-seat Embraer ERJ145 regional jets.

Moving over to passenger figures for June, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Avelo Airlines collectively flew 57,966 passengers through the Sonoma County airport, up 17.9% from a year earlier, according to airport officials. That’s up from 51,606 travelers in May.

Alaska Airlines in June flew 32,156 passengers through Santa Rosa, up 6.9% from a year earlier. The airline’s load factor — the measure of how full airplanes are on average — was 83% on Santa Rosa flights.

American Airlines last month flew 14,206 passengers through the regional airport, up 21.3% from a year earlier. American’s load factor was 84%.

Burbank-based Avelo Airlines in June flew 10,214 passengers through the airport, with a load factor of 61%.

And United Airlines flew 1,390 passengers through the facility last month, with a load factor of 46%.

Stout said the Sonoma County airport has flown more than 50,000 passengers each month for the past four months, and he anticipates that will continue — and potentially rise — to 60,000 passengers through October. The last time the facility recorded more than 50,000 passengers for consecutive months was in July, August and September of 2019, he said.

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