Regional Travel Having Lift-Off at Monterey Peninsula Airport

Beginning June 7, United Express carrier SkyWest Airlines will offer daily nonstop service in the afternoons to its hub airport in Denver. Flights from Denver will arrive mornings. Flights to Denver are expected to cost around $350, according to United's Web site. Cost of Denver-Monterey flights were unavailable.

It will be the only nonstop regional flight offered by the small airport occupied primarily by taxi flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"We're happy. We've been working on this for some time," said Thomas Greer, the airport's general manager.

The airport for several years has been considered an under-utilized economic resource by tourism industry leaders. Airport and city officials have lobbied for a regional flight to Monterey since 2000, when United Airlines dropped its twice-daily round trips to San Francisco on large jets and switched to smaller, 50-seat jets to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Denver flight "is good for us," Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer said. "It will provide a lot of opportunity for folks wanting to get to the middle of the country."

John McMahon, president and CEO of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the flight "fabulous news" for county tourism.

"Direct access is a key benefit" in attracting meeting and convention planners to the area, he said.

The flight is part of the airport's strategy to pull travelers away from the San Francisco Bay Area. By adding Denver, a "gateway city," the airport may claim some of the market share, said Charlie Hayes, the airport's deputy general manager.

"By opening up Denver, it provides a great opportunity for Monterey to get to the Midwest and any cities on the East Coast," he said.

Greer and Hayes met with the airline as recently as March 2 to discuss the service.

"It takes time to develop this," said Hayes, a former management consultant and transportation director for the city of Fresno.

"By opening up Denver, it provides a great opportunity for Monterey to get to the Midwest and any cities on the East Coast," he said.

Sean Donohue, vice president of Ted and United Express, said the benefit goes both ways.

Calling the Monterey Peninsula a "world-renowned tourist destination and golf haven," Donohue said the flight "will make the Monterey Peninsula... more accessible for customers in Denver and beyond."

Just off Monterey-Salinas Highway near Garden Road, Monterey Peninsula Airport is served by three regional air carriers, United Express, American Eagle and America West Express, with more than 40 daily flights.

American Eagle offers flights to Los Angeles. America West Express offers daily nonstop flights to Phoenix, Ariz.

United Airlines (OTCBB: UALAQ.OB) operates more than 3,500 flights daily on United, United Express and Ted to more than 200 U.S. domestic and international destinations from its hubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Washington, D.C. With air rights in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and Latin America, it is the largest international carrier based in the United States.