Stockton airport aims higher: $400,000 grant will help secure regular service

Oct. 24--STOCKTON -- A $400,000 federal grant should help Stockton Metropolitan Airport secure regular air service from another passenger airline, officials said Tuesday. The airport offers five daily flights a week from Stockton to Las Vegas...


Oct. 24--STOCKTON -- A $400,000 federal grant should help Stockton Metropolitan Airport secure regular air service from another passenger airline, officials said Tuesday.

The airport offers five daily flights a week from Stockton to Las Vegas.

The U.S. Department of Transportation air-service development grant, together with $400,000 in community matching funds, will be used to support additional air service in Stockton.

"This grant and the local commitment is enough to secure jet service on a major airline to a connection hub and that's pretty much in the bag," said Barry Rondinella, outgoing airport director.

He said the airport was in "pursuit of securing twice-daily service." However, he declined to name an airline or what cities might be reached from Stockton. But, Rondinella has met with officials of Delta Airlines.

Tommy Joyce, owner of the Top Flight restaurant at the airport, would welcome more traffic in the Stockton terminal.

"It would definitely increase my business," he said Tuesday.

His business is not dependent on air travelers, however. It draws on lunch customers from industrial and commercial businesses around the airport and other parts of Stockton. Top Flight was a going concern even before Allegiant Airlines began service to Las Vegas in June 2006.

He figures air travelers account for about 25 percent of his trade, Joyce said, "Now that I'm opening weekends to accommodate some of the passengers."

San Joaquin County is growing and needs additional flight service, said Victor Mow, county supervisor, whose board oversees airport administration.

"Obviously, if we could use those dollars to attract another airline to our airport, that's a positive," he said Tuesday. "Now, hopefully, we won't have to drive 50 miles, 80 miles to catch a plane. I think that's all positive."

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday named the airport's deputy director, Steven Hicks, to serve as interim airport director.

Rondinella is in his last week at the Stockton airport. He is to join the Sacramento County Airport System as deputy director of operations on Nov. 1.

He began with San Joaquin County in 2001 just as America West Airlines launched three-day-a-week service to Phoenix, only to see that effort wither in the recession and travel downturn that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"This is kind of my legacy," he said of the new federal grant.

"I restored air service after the 9/11 thing and now we're going to add to it. Pretty soon we're going to see passenger volumes that you'd have to go back to 1988 to match."

Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 or rfujii@recordnet.com

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