February 6, 2023
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Editorial: Central Coast airport discussion takes flight


Two upcoming programs in San Luis Obispo will tackle an important issue for the Central Coast — how to get improved air service to aid business travel and advance economic development.

RRM Design Group is hosting two meetings — one in the morning on Sept. 17, and another in the afternoon on the same day, to update business and community leaders on the state of the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. Also discussed will be  plans for future development, including the effort to gain non-stop service between SLO and Denver International Airport.

The program is being developed by the airport and the Economic Vitality Corp., which previously collaborated on a $500,000 federal grant and a market analysis that will no doubt inform the Sept. 17 programs.
We’ll grant that the SLO Regional Airport has come a long way since 2008, when it lost 90 percent of its service and the future looked grim. However, gaining more flights into SLO is not an easy task.

One of the region’s knottiest problems is that both San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria have airports with viable airfields but populations that are relatively small when it comes to supporting air service.
Santa Maria has the edge on population — it is much bigger than San Luis Obispo and it can draw flyers easily from south SLO County. Santa Maria may also be the superior location for leisure travel, with Las Vegas and more recently Hawaii being added as destinations.

SLO’s airport gets a lift from nearby Cal Poly, from a growing number of medium-sized tech companies in the county, and from the county’s food-and-wine-centric tourism scene.
Some experts believe this is an either/or situation and it’s true that if one city gets a Denver flight, the other may have to wait years or perhaps decades before it can go back to test the waters again.

We learned long ago that when it comes to picking winners in the arena of aviation, or anything else for that matter, the marketplace speaks with a more powerful voice than just about anything else.
No RSVP is required for the Sept. 17 meetings, which are in the RRM training room at 3765 S. Higuera St. in SLO. The morning session runs from 9-10 a.m. and the afternoon session from 4-5 p.m. If you have questions, contact Phil D’Acri of the SLO County Regional Airport at (805) 781-5218 or pdacri@co.slo.ca.us.

We think increased air service for the Central Coast — an area that is increasingly powerful magnet for tourism, tech firms, wineries and agribusiness — is an important goal, and we’re glad to see it rise to the top of the economic development agenda.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Howell says:

    Fact check, the Metropolitan Service Area (MSA) for Santa Maria is approximately 171,000 people. The MSA for San Luis Obispo is 270,000. In 2012, San Luis Obispo carried almost three times the number of commercial passengers as Santa Maria, 127,000 vs 44,000.