Paris flights up in air

A state agency has ponied up $250,000 to entice Delta Air Lines to start Salt Lake-to-Paris direct flights -- a concept it finds tres bien for Utah's economy.

The Governor's Office of Economic Development Board on Friday approved a $250,000 Industrial Assistance Fund grant for Delta, which the company would receive after a maiden flight between the capitals of Utah and France. But a pair of other organizations need to add to the incentive pile before Delta would act on the proposal.

"They still have a lot to do," Jerry Oldroyd, chairman of the board's incentives committee, said of Delta. "This is not an announcement (of flights becoming reality)."

Oldroyd described the IAF grant as "last money in," saying that Salt Lake City's Department of Airports needs to provide $1 million -- $655,000 in cash and $345,000 in waived landing fees -- and the Utah Office of Tourism needs to provide $600,000 in in-kind marketing funds.

Board documents indicate that Delta tabbed Salt Lake over 14 other U.S. cities with larger market potential for the Paris flights. The airline is seeking money to promote the new route in order to make it sustainable and profitable, the documents say.

Oldroyd noted that the Salt Lake Chamber, the Utah Technology Council and the business community support the idea of the flights, which could start next year.

Delta has estimated that adding the flights could mean 1,100 new jobs at its Salt Lake City International Airport hub and a $90 million economic impact.

"But what we do know for certain -- absolutely certain -- is it's going to help us promote tourism in the state," Oldroyd said. "It's going to access our parks, access the ski resorts, provide access to the state of Utah that we simply haven't had before. It will help us tap that European market and that, we think, in and of itself, would be good news if we can get it."

But another benefit would be boosting international business, he said.

"Equally important is the fact that this is going to help facilitate commerce between Europe and Salt Lake City. It's going to help businesses trying to do business in Europe, and that is a real economic incentive," Oldroyd said.

Jeff Edwards, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah, noted that many companies that have added operations in Utah have European connections.

"This idea of them (Delta) coming and offering European service is a big factor for the outdoor products industry and the place where we're spending a lot of time recruiting," Edwards said. "Many of those companies have European operations -- particularly Salomon, Atomic and Rossignol as examples -- all three of them have large manufacturing operations in Europe, and this would be a key gateway for them. They've all expressed support for this idea and have been communicating to Delta as well as part of that process."

Board documents show that Delta operates 373 flights to 114 destinations daily from Salt Lake, its second-largest hub. But it's the second-largest city in the West without direct flights to Europe. Atlanta-based Delta serves 311 cities in 52 countries and operates daily trans-Atlantic flights to 32 destinations. Delta direct international flights from Salt Lake

-- Mexico: Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Cancun

-- Canada: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnepeg Source: Delta Air Lines E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com


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