Instead of fighting miserable traffic to catch flights in the Bay Area or Sacramento, we all need to give Stockton Metropolitan Airport a chance.
The Modesto Airport’s opportunity to become a regional hub has come and gone. Commercial airlines tried to make a living with passenger flights here, and failed. It’s time to throw our full support to Stockton.
Its airport represents one of our region’s best ongoing options for real economic vitality, not to mention the convenience for vacation and other travel. And its leaders seem open to the very good idea of rebranding, including a new airport name that could reflect regional support; how does “Modesto-Stockton Airport” sound?
That’s not going to happen. But “Stockton-Modesto Airport” might, and that has a nice ring. We’re less excited about “Central Valley Airport” because it’s too vague and faceless.
New, twice-daily United Airlines flights (in each direction) from Stockton to Los Angeles, starting four weeks ago, literally open a world of options, because you can catch connecting flights to just about anywhere from LA. That’s the best new news about Stockton Metropolitan, which for years also has offered a few Allegiant flights each week to Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego.
If we can go anywhere from Stockton, that also means businesspeople can come here from anywhere. That’s a big deal for our economy, whose challenges include not enough easy connections to spirited hubs like the Bay Area and Southern California.
Speaking of the Bay Area, it’s worth noting that a few of its civic leaders joined some of our Modesto City Council members and Stanislaus County supervisors at a recent ceremony celebrating Stockton’s new flights to LA. San Francisco International Airport actually helped bring United to Stockton, The Record of Stockton reported.
Why help a competitor?
Because SFO doesn’t see this region as competition as much as an opportunity to drain away some of the smaller flights that clog SFO’s busy runways and terminals, not to mention the extra traffic that Valley vehicles contribute to their streets.
Trains also take cars off the road. We strongly urge leaders to push for some kind of connection between the Stockton Airport and ACE rail, to be extended south in coming years, with stops in Ripon, Modesto, Ceres, Turlock and Merced.
About 15 years ago, Stockton briefly offered flights to LA. Modesto jabbed back with SkyWest (a United carrier) flights to LA from 2006 to 2008, which stopped when a federal subsidy ran out. SkyWest then tried flights from Modesto to San Francisco, but quit in 2014, blaming poor performance while passengers complained of missing too many connecting flights, blamed on fog delays. Earnest attempts to lure another passenger carrier to Modesto eventually fizzled, while a new federal grant is floating Stockton’s current link with LA.
“We’re past that (competing),” said Terry Withrow, chairman of the Stanislaus Board of Supervisors. “We need to join forces with Stockton and do everything we can to help them be successful, because if they are, the whole region is successful. That’s our regional airport.”
Stockton isn’t satisfied with the new LA service. Big plans show a fancy new terminal in a few years, perhaps with two stories. Officials are happy with its cargo carrier, which it can’t name because of a confidentiality agreement although our reporter spotted photos of Amazon Prime Air planes sitting on the tarmac. And the airport hopes to expand that service with a 600,000 square-foot cargo facility that could create 1,000 jobs.
Modesto Councilman Bill Zoslocki, a private pilot and member of the city’s airport advisory committee, says common sense should drive many more passengers to Stockton, about a half-hour from Modesto. Those who do spend much less on parking — a flat $10 a day in Stockton, compared to $16 at the Oakland airport, and $25 at SFO. They also spend less on gas and a lot less time on the road. And they need never consider booking a hotel the night before an early flight.
What’s the message to Modesto-area travelers?
“Give Stockton a chance,” Zoslocki said.
It won’t make sense every time you fly. But the next time you do, try Stockton Airport. It’s now our airport.