SIOUX CITY | Tickets for American Airlines' new routes between Sioux City and Dallas have been selling well, in what local leaders are calling a step forward for the tri-state area.
Local marketing efforts have helped build excitement for the non-stop flights to the Lone Star State, which start Thursday, said American spokeswoman Lakesha Brown.
"It's been a diligent effort," Brown said. "We know how important this is to the local economy and supporting the community."
American, the lone carrier at Sioux Gateway Airport, currently offers two daily flights to and from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The Chicago-bound planes are usually 80 percent full, leaving small doubt that Dallas trips will be successful, said Barbara Sloniker, executive vice president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce.
Sloniker said the new connection is a cause for celebration.
"The new service seems well-received from what I’ve seen. American Airlines is competitive on fares,” she said.
Sloniker and other area business leaders have secured seats on the inaugural flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Thursday afternoon. To celebrate, local leaders will hold a "First Flight Fiesta" beginning at 2 p.m. in the Sioux Gateway terminal, with a ribbon-cutting before the regional jet departs.
Mike Collett, airport director, said the new connection is much needed, giving travelers more direct connections to southern and western destinations without commuting to nearby airports in Omaha or Sioux Falls.
“It makes a lot more sense, too. Some people don’t like to fly east to fly west. They don’t want to go to Chicago to go west,” he said.
The flights represent an opportunity for the airport, with more flights and hubs a possibility in the future predicated upon the success of the Dallas routes, Collett said.
"Success builds success,” he said. “We’re always looking for more destinations but have to be realistic within the market.”
The Dallas/Fort Worth hub is American's largest, offering access to 800 daily flights with connections to more than 200 markets in the U.S. and other 24 countries.
Flights will be offered by American Eagle, a regional partner with American Airlines, which will fly 50-seat jets.
The first flight from Dallas is scheduled to land in Sioux City at about 2:46 p.m. Thursday, with the first return trip to Dallas set to depart Sioux Gateway at 3:25 p.m., according to the airline's website.
Sioux Gateway has been without routes to a western or southwest hub since Frontier Airlines ended its three flights per week to Denver in the fall of 2014, just two months after entering the Sioux City market.
Chris Camenzend, owner of Premier Travel and Cruise in Sioux City, said while American's new Dallas service is still somewhat limited for those who wish to fly to Denver or Mexico, it will go a long way towards showing capabilities of someday supporting another carrier.
“It’s fabulous we’re getting this service. It shows others we’re more likely to handle a bigger workload,” she said.
Local officials noted that American's Dallas fares are comparable to those at Omaha’s Eppley Airport and the Sioux Falls Regional Airport.
A round-trip ticket from Sioux City to Dallas, departing May 13 and returning May 16, for example, was priced as low as $499 each way, according to the airline's website.
The same trip on American was listed at $363 at Omaha and $502 at Sioux Falls.
Local officials say the convenience of being dropped off at Sioux Gateway and not worrying about traffic and paying for long-term parking was well worth a slightly higher fare.