SALINA – M.J. Kennedy Air Terminal could lay claim as Salina’s busiest place at 6 every morning, now that flights are nonstop to Denver.
Flavored with free doughnuts, 29 passengers and others filled the parking lot and terminal Thursday morning for the inaugural flight straight to Denver International, where many connected to other destinations, and some continued to Colorado destinations.
The 6:10 a.m. Flight 5147, was set to arrive in Denver roughly 90 minutes later, thanks to no more stops in Hays, either coming or going.
“Once you’re in the air, you just want to get to your destination,” said Tammy O’Connor, who lives near Salina.
She and husband, A.J. embarked on a trip to New York, and thanks to the quick first leg of their journey, the couple were due to land in the Big Apple at 1:36 p.m., eastern time.
Longtime Salina businessman John Vanier was eager to experience a flight west without the Hays stop.
Previously “We had to sit on the ground in Hays, and that was longer than the flight to Hays, coming back,” Vanier recalled, “so this is a good deal.”
He was headed Thursday to Breckenridge, Colo.
Shortly before 6, the P.A. announcer invited waiting passengers to begin the screening and boarding process.
“Bye beautiful,” Salinan George Cardinal said to his daughter, Michelle Dolan.
The Sacred Heart High School development director, left Thursday morning for New York, to meet with some Sacred Heart alumni and visit her sister.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “Just having (air service) here and not having to go to Kansas City or Wichita, is pretty amazing,” Dolan said.
Nonstop to Denver further enhances scheduled air service out of Salina, said Tim Rogers, Salina Airport Authority executive director.
“Nonstop flights to Denver coupled with an early afternoon arrival in Chicago and now a complete Saturday schedule will result in further passenger growth.” Rogers added.
Flight 5194 was scheduled to take off at 12:35 p.m. Thursday for arrival at Chicago O’Hare Airport at 2:39 p.m. There were 35 passengers booked on that flight.
The Friday, March 6 flights to Denver and Chicago, on CRJ-200 regional jets, were booked up, with 50 passengers each, said Kasey Windhorst, the airport authority’s business and communications manager.
“We are officially sold out of seats Friday, which is very exciting,” she said.
Both Saturday, March 7 flights are nearly sold out, Windhorst added, with more than a 90-percent load factor.
The flights to Denver and Chicago boast connections to 99 cities across the nation and world, according to Gary Foss, managing partner of the ArkStar Group, air service consultant to Salina.
The recent schedule change allows travelers to use both hubs, providing the option of flying out through one and returning through another, he stated in a previous release.
Visit united.com to learn more about Flying Salina.