Big Changes to United’s Salina Flights

Two big changes in the United Airlines flight schedule out of Salina are aimed at achieving smoother and more convenient air travel that will significantly reduce travel time.

Beginning March 5, 2020:

Salina’s scheduled air service will resume nonstop flights to Denver seven days a week. The stop at Hays will be eliminated to and from the huge airport in Colorado, where connections can be made to 172 cities.

Daily service to Chicago will be re-timed to improve connections at O’Hare Airport to most major destinations. United currently offers service to 208 cities from Chicago, most of which can be reached on a one-stop basis from Salina.

The changes will improve commercial air service out of Salina, said Gary Foss, Salina Airport Authority’s air service consultant.

The changes were prompted by a Salina Area Chamber of Commerce survey, in which local businesses responded with a “resounding” desire for nonstop flights heading west.

“The number one travel choice was nonstop service to Denver,” Foss said.

Currently splitting two flights a day with Hays, six days a week, the service may seem to be trimmed, Foss said, but the single flight a day, every day, in tandem with the seven days per week Chicago service dedicated entirely to Salina, adds an additional 36,000 seats a year to the Salina market.

“Now we have all the seats to ourselves,” he said.

Eliminating the stop in Hays cuts at least an hour round-trip from Denver flights, estimated Kent Buer, president and CEO of First Bank Kansas, and chairman of the Salina Airport Authority board.

“It’s huge for Salina. That extra 30 to 40 minutes stopping in Hays was really a pain for a lot of people,” he said.

Ditto that, according to Sylvia Rice, director of Visit Salina, the travel and tourism arm of the chamber.

Beginning March 5, flights to Denver will leave Salina at 6:10 AM central time and arrive at 6:50 AM mountain time. Currently, they’re leaving at 6:50 AM central time and not arriving until 8:25 AM mountain time, due to the one stop in Hays.

“This is a comment we hear often – that the stop in Hays is troubling for many of our travelers,” she said.

Flying straight to Denver “does make it more attractive,” said Bob Vidricksen, chairman of the Saline County commission.

“It quickens your trips and lessens the hassle, so it’s a good deal,” he said.

Salina Mayor, Dr. Trent Davis, sees the Denver change as “very nice for us here,” and a good move for the airline’s leaders.

“It’s gonna open up a world of connections,” Davis said. “I think we can make that flight a profitable one for them.”

Adding Saturday Denver flights is also a plus, said travel agent Luci Larson, co-owner of Action Travel, 116 S. Seventh.

“Saturday service to Denver, right now, is sporadic. The fact that we are going to be able to get in and out of here on all Saturdays, is going to alleviate a lot of problems,” she said. “Now that we’re nonstop, that’s icing on the cake.”

Earlier flights from SLN to Chicago-O’Hare make better connections; leaving Salina and arriving earlier.

“The better connect times open up Florida to one-stop connections, in particular to Orlando, home of Disney World and Universal Studios. It’s a popular destination,” Foss said. “West Palm Beach, Tampa — that whole Florida market will have much better connections.”

Flying often to see friends and family in Washington, D.C., often on Fridays, Mayor Davis anticipates the schedule change will allow him to enjoy Friday evenings at his destination, rather than waiting until the next morning to start visits at his family home.

“If I can get to D.C. by 6 in the evening, I can use that evening,” he said. “In case of a missed connection in Chicago, I’ve got other flights that United can put me on.”

In addition, the schedule change adds a golden bundle to Chicago and Denver.

“It allows more opportunities for a party to fly out over one hub and fly back over another,” Foss said.

For example, he said, “You can fly to Denver, get connections to Boston, (Washington) D.C. or New York, and fly back through Chicago; and all for the same fare.”

The changes “can only be positive for Salina,” Rice said.

Come March 5, Salina will up its game.

“Now people from western Kansas who want to fly to Chicago are going to be driving to Salina,” Buer said. “It’s that next progression of offering a higher level of service.”

Mayor Davis praised the moves of Gary Foss and his marketing firm, the ArkStar Group.

“They have predicted what has worked in the market so far,” Davis said. “I trust Gary’s judgement.”

Did You Know?

-Putting it simply, currently there are 3,910 seats available each month out of Salina. The March 2020 schedule change increase available seats to 5,649 each month, adding 1,738 round-trip seats a month, according to analysis from Gary Foss, Salina air service consultant.

-17 of Salina’s top 20 connecting markets have improved total trip times with the new schedule.