The Modesto Airport will offer a weekend getaway package for travelers looking to grab some sun during the foggy valley winter. The flights will also breathe some life into an airport that's struggled recently.
Harrah's resort in Laughlin, Nev. is offering the three-night $199 package, which includes airfare, hotel rooms and ground transportation from the Bullhead City, Ariz. airport to Harrah's casino resort. The first three-night package is scheduled for Valentine's Day weekend; another is slated for June 8.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will operate the flights using MD-80 jet aircraft. That's the same airline that offers regular flights from Stockton to Las Vegas.
Like many valley airports, Modesto struggles to maintain regular airline service. That's seen as a problem that keeps the city's economic development from taking flight.
SkyWest Airlines once offered daily flights from Modesto to San Francisco and Los Angeles, but dropped the Los Angeles route in June 2008. Flights to San Francisco still take off daily.
About 52,000 passengers flew out of Modesto in 2007. In 2009, just 26,924 did.
The city hired Oregon-based airport consultants Sixel Consulting Group earlier this year to help attract commercial carriers. City staff have also reached out to casinos and resorts such as Harrah's as a way of attracting airline business, said Deputy Director of Public Works Dennis Turner.
Goal to reach a major hub
Turner said he wasn't sure whether the Harrah's packages were a result of Sixel's work or the city's. Sixel's deal with the city says it only gets paid if it succeeds in attracting regular flights to Modesto.
A federal grant helped pay for the SkyWest flights to Los Angeles. When that $500,000 in funding ran out, SkyWest said it couldn't sustain the route, Turner said. Now the city is applying for another round of federal funding that could help secure another commercial carrier, Turner said.
The grant's rules prohibit the city from using the money for Los Angeles flights again, but the funding could go toward flights to another major hub, such as Portland, Phoenix or another Southern California city, Turner said.
The city expects to find out whether it won the new grant within the next few weeks, Turner said.
Other airport news:
The airport recently finished construction on a 10-bay hanger for private aircraft.
The City Council this week approved a $94,566 contract with Kimley-Horn & Associates Inc. of Stockton to repair a crumbling concrete pad that planes park on when they're loading and unloading passengers.
The council also this week OKed a five-year plan for the airport. The plan calls for studying whether the airport needs a new passenger terminal.