Charleston International Airport’s first direct flight to Los Angeles will help fulfill the region’s economic demand for gateway access to the Asian market, according to Elliott Summey, CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
This fall, JetBlue is opening more than 50 new routes between the East and West coasts, including South Carolina’s only direct flight to Los Angeles International Airport. The new route is scheduled to open up Dec. 18.
Summey said the Los Angeles-specific connection has been a priority for Charleston County, the aviation authority and the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau as they’ve actively been chasing gateway airports over the past few years.
LAX will serve as Charleston’s launching pad to Asia, just as the addition of direct flights to London opened up quicker access from the Lowcountry to the more than 130 airports that Heathrow Airport connects to in Europe.
The quicker connection will save time and money for corporate executives, manufacturers looking to locate their business to Charleston and those involved in industry recruiting.
“Having those modes of transportation are important to folks, especially from a corporate standpoint,” Summey said.
Additionally, he sees the direct flight to and from LAX as a contributing factor to the S.C. Ports Authority’s growth.
“The port is our largest economic development in Charleston and aviation wants to play a role in supporting that,” he said. “As they’re calling on customers and customers are calling on them, we’re now making it easier to get to Charleston, and that’s a big deal.”
The direct flight to LAX also is expected to play a positive role in Charleston’s tourism industry, giving travelers access to Charleston with convenient flight schedules.
“We’re extremely excited about this,” Summey said. “We have a great connection to Colorado.”
United Airlines originally opened direct flights between the two cities in 2018 but had temporarily paused the route because of the coronavirus.
“As we continue closely reviewing and analyzing customer demand across our domestic route network, we are responding to an increase in customer demand for travel between Denver and Charleston,” United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.
Summey said airlines have a herd mentality and anticipates the direct LAX flight will spark further interest.
“We’re trending about 10 points higher than the rest of the country in regards to our rate of return,” Summey said. “We want to continue to do that and grow upon that. We hope that as soon as there’s a (COVID-19) vaccine, we’re going to fire all engines ahead.”l