New in 2018: Direct flights to San Francisco address a growing demand

A growing demand from Iowa’s tech and startup community will be met in 2018 from the Des Moines International Airport.

Starting June 5 the Des Moines International Airport will offer direct flights to San Francisco and a direct path to Silicon Valley.

Flights are offered each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Frontier Airlines, an ultra-low-cost carrier.

The demand first appeared three years ago, where 57,000 passengers were flying back and forth from both cities, according to Kevin Foley, Executive Director of the Des Moines International Airport.

“Since then that number has grown, the last report I had is we are up to about 68,000 passengers,” Foley says. “So the demand for a San Francisco flight is growing.”

Foley said over the years there were members of the tech community that had spoken with him about the need for a direct flight.

“It wasn’t real loud,” Foley said. “We hear it but of course the more support I have when I get in front of the airlines, the easier it is to sell a flight or a route. So I was getting that message but it wasn’t real loud yet.”

He said airports aren’t able to choose which routes they offer and that they have to recruit airlines. When the initial demand appeared, Foley said he first approached United Airlines to fill the void.

“Had a very large employer said to me we need a nonstop flight in and out of San Francisco, I would have asked them to go to the airlines with me and have a conversation with them,” Foley explained. “Because if the airlines know it’s business travel and they can absolutely count on a number of passengers every year, they are more inclined to move quickly about putting a flight in some place. Nobody actually did that other than the startup companies.”

Foley estimated that in 2018 the route will see a 20-30 percent jump in passenger traffic.

“When that occurs I will of course go to other airlines and back to Frontier asking for daily flights,” Foley says. “Try to get a route there and keep as much competition on that route as we can.”

The Denver-based Frontier Airlines offers five non-stop destinations from Des Moines, including direct flights to its home base at Denver International Airport.