The $1 million pledge drive to start daily flights between Modesto and Los Angeles has been experiencing turbulence, but a clear sky may yet be on the horizon.
The citys airport consultant says a major carrier would start the flights at Modesto Airport if the $1 million is reached, with flights starting as soon as this summer. The pledges are not binding but show the carrier that there is a demand for the service and that the flights would be profitable. The consultant has declined to name the carrier.
Oregon-based Sixel Consulting Group is conducting the seven-week drive on behalf of Modesto. The campaign started Jan. 13 and ends Feb. 28.
Sixel had collected about $25,000 in pledges as of Tuesday, some nine days into the campaign. But the group collected about $43,000 Wednesday, which put the campaign total at about $68,000. Donations to the local chapter of Make-A-Wish also are being counted in the pledge drive. The donations will be used to buy airline tickets for children whose wishes are granted.
Its been a challenge, Sixel Marketing and Public Relations Manager Katie Jones said. Its been a little rocky at the start. Everyone agrees its a good idea, we just need to get them to commit.
Modestos DoubleTree Hotel has pledged $10,000. General Manager Kole Siefkin said thats how much his hotel spends annually on travel. He said the flights would be a boon for the region. He said a sizable number of his hotels guests are from Southern California or pass through Los Angeles International Airport on their way here.
Jones has spoken to about 10 businesses and other groups since the campaign started. Wednesday, she spoke to the Oakdale Rotary Club and then at the monthly meeting of the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureaus hotel council, which represents 21 hotels in Modesto, as well as two in Ceres and four in Salida.
She told council members they could fly to Los Angeles from Modesto in less time it would take them to drive to Sacramento and Bay Area airports for a flight. She emphasized the pledges are nonbinding.
SkyWest Airlines provides the only regularly scheduled commercial flights at Modesto Airport three daily flights to and from San Francisco. Those flights often are delayed because of bad weather and construction projects at San Francisco International Airport, causing Modesto travelers to miss their connecting flights.
Southern California is the top destination for Modesto Airport passengers. SkyWest offered Los Angeles service from 2006-08. Before that, the last Los Angeles flights were in 1992.
Jones told the hotel council members that the carrier would have a better chance of success because it would take a more conservative approach by offering two daily, nonstop flights to Los Angeles. She said the pricing has not been determined, but it could be $120 to $150 for a one-way ticket.
Sixel Consulting has an incentive-based agreement with the city, in which it does not get paid unless it secures the Los Angeles flights.
For more information on the campaign or to make a pledge, visit www.destinationlax.com.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.