Shortly after noon, American Airlines added Santa Rosa to its destination and departures -- adding daily nonstop flights to Phoenix Sky Harbor from Sonoma County.

The flights are operated by American Airlines partner SkyWest on its Bombardier CRJ-700 70-seat jet aircraft and depart from Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport each day at 12:45 p.m.

“Today is a game-changer,” said Jonathan Coe, president of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

That it is beneficial for the hospitality industry is self-evident, but the new flights also will be of value to businesses who have customers east of California, he said. Now those firms can avoid going through San Francisco or Sacramento airports.

Phoenix is a hub where American Airlines offers more than 300 connections to 75 destinations daily, including Mexico.

Although American Airlines has no immediate plans for future destinations, the first two day’s flights are fully booked, and that’s a good sign, according to an official for the airline.

“The numbers are looking good,” said Joe Hughes, regional director.

In 2016, almost 300,000 travelers passed through the Santa Rosa airport, a 30 percent increase from 2015.

Allegiant Airlines ceased flights from Santa Rosa to the Phoenix-Mesa airport Jan. 2, after less than eight months of service.

In conjunction with the new American Airlines flights, the Santa Rosa airport has launched a new $180,000 advertising campaign that includes a new website and 19-foot advertisements on the sides of 10 Golden Gate Transit buses that travel Highway 101.

Sonoma County Tourism launched a sales and marketing campaign last year, called Sonoma Passion, that will also focus efforts on Phoenix.

The airport is also in the middle of a $20 million project that will more than double the size of the terminal and the number of parking spaces at the west end of Airport Boulevard. The expansion is expected to be completed in early 2019.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at or call 707-521-4259.