ExpressJet Airlines has begun twice-daily, nonstop service from Fresno to Long Beach, providing San Joaquin Valley travelers with increased options for flying to Southern California.
The Houston-based airline already has flights from Fresno to Ontario and San Diego and added the Long Beach flight as a way to boost ridership. It began providing service to Fresno earlier this year.
"This market has responded positively," said Jim Ream, ExpressJet president and CEO. "We are hearing from our customers that they appreciate being able to save time and enjoy a more comfortable ride in our quiet and fuel-efficient young fleet of jets."
ExpressJet serves more than two dozen cities in the United States, including Sacramento, Albuquerque, N.M., and Kansas City, Mo.
It operates 50-passenger regional jets for its flights from Fresno to Southern California.
"We appreciate the confidence that ExpressJet has in the Fresno market to expand air service," said Russ Widmar, Fresno's director of aviation.
Widmar said connecting Fresno to a popular destination through Long Beach could be a boon to holiday travelers.
Travel agent Keith Johnson agreed, saying that new direct flights also will be especially attractive to travelers boarding cruise ships leaving the Port of Long Beach.
"I think that could be huge," Johnson said. "People really want to avoid the traffic when they get into LAX."
Johnson said flights on ExpressJet are being offered at $59 one way.
ExpressJet spokeswoman Kristy Nichols said that to accommodate the Long Beach flight, the airline reduced one of its flights to Ontario.
"It was an aircraft allocation issue," Nichols said. "We saw this as a great opportunity to add service to Long Beach so we had to reduce our frequency to Ontario."
As for future flights from Fresno to other cities, such as Sacramento, Nichols said the airline is looking at that.
"It is something we are keeping a close eye on," she said. "As with anything, it's a supply-and-demand issue. We want to make sure we are adding service to those cities where there is the most demand. If people want to see service to Sacramento, the best thing is to let us know."
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>"Oh, they're coming here," said Ed Beckman, a Fresno businessman who closely follows the aviation industry. "But the question is, where are they going?"
"The whole idea is that people who don't want to make a connection will fly nonstop, but you need frequency. It's hard to make money with only two flights," Boyd said.
By comparison Southwest Airlines, currently the largest airline at the Ontario Airport with 56 daily flights, serves six cities nonstop.