Southwest to bridge Reno-Oakland distance

Reno and Oakland officials celebrated the return of direct flights between the cities with an announcement Tuesday, first at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in the morning followed by a quick hop to Oakland International Airport for a noon presentation.

Beginning June 5, Southwest will service three flights daily from Reno to Oakland International Airport, Marily Mora, president and CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, announced in the main lobby of the airport.

“Southwest truly is an airline that deserves to be celebrated,” she said.

Flights booked through Dec. 14 will have an introductory price of only $49 each way.

The announcement accompanied a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Southwest’s service to the Reno airport.

Officials from Southwest and Oakland/Berkeley as well as Reno/Sparks were welcomed with cake, made by Isabel’s Bakery in Sparks, balloons and the University of Nevada, Reno drum band.

“Thanks UNR drummers for putting a little pep in our step,” said Dave Harvey, senior director of strategic planning for Southwest.

During the 25 years of Southwest service in Reno, the airlines had been “building bridges” between northern Nevada and other parts of the west, he said.

“Our futures are bright between Southwest and Reno,” he said then added, “There’s more to come.”

Reno/Sparks/Tahoe business and government representatives have been working to expand the number of direct flights from Reno. One of the top goals was the return of the Reno-Oakland connection, which Southwest discontinued in June of 2013.

While local officials lobbied for the connection, they had help at the other end, too.

“Every time I’m in Oakland or Reno I’d hear over and over again, ‘please bring back Reno-Oakland service’,” Harley said.

The flights will link Reno to the entire Bay Area. The two areas are becoming increasingly interconnected as Bay Area businesses relocate or open additional offices in Reno.

Increasing flights out of Reno comes with an obligation for the community to fill those flights.

Andy Wirth, the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Corporation and chairman of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority said the community was ready to support the connection.

“On behalf of the ski industry we’re doing all we can to fill flights,” he said, adding that Southwest continually showed its commitment to the community with numerous donations to nonprofits as well as being a business partner.

Mora cited a study through UNR that showed Southwest flights directly and indirectly add $1 billion to the economy of the region each year.

Also on hand with an invitation to Reno-area residents to visit the Bay Area were Natalie Alvanez, vice president of marketing and business development with Visit Oakland, and Dan Marengo, marketing director for Visit Berkeley.


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