Business & Real Estate

United cancels Sacramento-to-D.C. nonstop flight, angers local leaders

A United Airlines jet.
A United Airlines jet. AP

United Airlines revealed Tuesday it plans to ground the only nonstop flight between Sacramento and Washington, D.C., for three months beginning in January, a decision that drew immediate disapproval from several congressional members and local leaders.

House Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, issued a statement calling the decision “misguided” and called on United to reconsider.

“I’m outraged” Matsui wrote. “Local business owners, community leaders, school groups, and families travel from our state’s Capitol to our nation’s Capitol, and the suspension of United’s direct flights will have a tremendous impact. United Airlines needs to immediately reconsider this misguided proposal.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, a member of the House transportation committee, also criticized the decision, saying it will be harder for Sacramento advocates to get “irreplaceable face-to-face meetings with their representatives and federal agencies” during the upcoming budget season. “United Airlines must explain why they feel this disruption is necessary.”

United Airlines officials on Tuesday confirmed their plans to ground the only nonstop flight between Sacramento International Airport and Dulles International Airport from Jan. 6 to April 6, but did not immediately respond to the concerns expressed by Matsui and Garamendi.

“Due to seasonal demand in the market, we’re suspending the service,” United spokeswoman Mary Clark said in a brief emailed statement. “During this time period, customers can continue to travel between the two cities via one of United’s hubs.”

United and several other airlines offer one-stop service, with connections in Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Dallas. The nonstop flight takes 4 hours, 52 minutes. One-stop flights for various airlines are listed in the 61/2- to 8-hour range.

The early months of the year are typically slow in air travel, industry officials say. However, Sacramento airport officials said they were disappointed at the loss of what has been a key flight between the California and nation’s capital cities.

“We are very disappointed, obviously, as we have worked hard to make Sacramento International Airport a more attractive venue for airlines,” spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said. “As far as we can tell, this is the first adjustment United has made to this route since it began, and we’d like it to be the last.”

An aide to Matsui said several local members of Congress, including Republicans and Democrats, will send a letter to United asking the airline to reconsider.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who discovered the flight hiatus recently when he tried to book a trip to D.C., tweeted his feelings Tuesday in one word: “Boo.”

Slothower said the Sacramento airport continues to see increases in passenger travel, which is up 3 percent in the first 10 months of this year, a sign that the local economy is on the mend after the extended recession.

“We will continue to work with United Airlines and our other airline partners to improve air service out of Sacramento,” Slothower said.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.