Modesto’s effort to land LA flights still in the air

02/20/2014 2:52 PM

02/20/2014 10:24 PM

Modesto has averted crash landing its effort to restart passenger flights with Los Angeles.

An airliner is giving the city and its consultant more time to collect pledges from businesses, residents and others that they would spend $1 million on tickets for daily flights to and from the Modesto and Los Angeles airports.

The consultant has said a major airliner would start the flights if Modesto can collect the pledges. The pledges are not binding, but they show the carrier the flights would be profitable from the start. The pledge drive was slated to run Jan. 13 through Feb. 28, but the carrier agreed to extend it to March 31.

“Ultimately, the airliner wants the service to be a success, so it is willing to give the community more time if that is what it takes,” said Katie Jones, marketing and public relations manager for Sixel Consulting Group, the city’s airport consultant. “The deadline is not as important as gathering the pledges.”

She said the campaign had raised nearly $250,000 as of Wednesday. She said pledges have been made by Foster Farms, American Chevrolet, the DoubleTree Hotel, the Montpelier Nut Co. and former Modesto Councilman Brad Hawn.

Jones said because the deadline has been extended the flights won’t start as soon as early summer if $1 million is reached. Sixel has declined to name the carrier.

Jones said she now is working with the city’s Community & Economic Development Department and the Modesto and Ceres chambers of commerce to find more prospects. She has spoken to businesses, service clubs and other organizations throughout the region.

Sixel Consulting has an incentive-based contract with Modesto. That means it does not get paid unless it lands the flights.

SkyWest Airlines provides the only regularly scheduled commercial flights at Modesto Airport – three daily flights to San Francisco. Those flights often are delayed at San Francisco International Airport, causing Modesto travelers to miss their connecting flights. City officials say Southern California is the No. 1 destination for passengers flying from Modesto Airport.

SkyWest offered Los Angeles flights from 2006 to 2008. Before that, the last Los Angeles flights were in 1992.

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. For more information on the campaign or to make a pledge, visit www.destinationlax.com.

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