Statistics tell the story as airport woos new service

Airports often spend years wooing an airline to provide service.

That wasn't the case when Express Jet looked at launching service to Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The airline last week said it will begin service between Reno and California's Ontario and Long Beach airports and will add daily flights to Tucson and Spokane.

Tom Medland, director of air service business development at Reno-Tahoe International, said there was no need for extended meetings with Express Jet executives after he showed them data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Ontario represents the largest unserved market for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Medland said last year 97,820 passengers about 268 per day booked flights between the Los Angeles-area airport and Reno-Tahoe International.

The Department of Transportation figures track the origin and destination of every ticket.

Medland says when nonstop service to Southern California airport starts, the flight should take less than two hours. "Express Jet won't get all 97,00 people, but they will get a portion of them," he says. "It is convenient and whole lot shorter to fly on a nonstop."

Currently travel between Ontario and Reno takes more than four hours with connecting flights in Las Vegas, San Jose or Oakland.

Long Beach, which will be served with two flights a day from Reno, Spokane and Tucson also were among the Top 10 markets without direct service from northern Nevada.

Express Jet, which formerly was branded as Continental Express, will serve the routes with 50-seat Embrear-145 regional passenger jets.

The numbers told the story when Medland made a sales call to Express Jet.

"DOT numbers are hard, firm numbers that everybody believes in and trusts," Medland says. "Express Jet sees Reno-Tahoe as a place to grow their business. That's one of the prime reasons we got four destinations as opposed to one."

With its reclining leather seats and free XM satellite radio, the entire Embrear-145 feels like the first-class compartment of most jets, says Heidi Berthold, a spokeswoman for Reno-Tahoe International.

Express Jet plans on hiring 10-15 local employees to work its ticket counters and passenger gates and will invest about $375,000 in airport facilities and equipment.

Medland says Express Jet formerly flew 269 airplanes as a Continental Express. With the rebranding, it will fly 60 planes.


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