I wrote this article last October for the 2017 edition of the annual Santa Rosa Metro Chamber directory (aka Community Resource and Business Guide), which was published on Friday, Feb. 17, in connection with the Chamber’s annual luncheon meeting, when the Chamber’s rebranding was unveiled. (Until then, the Chamber was called the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.) The Chamber’s redesigned and revised website, to which I’ve contributed writing and editing (which I’ll continue doing as additional pages need updating), is to “go live” this coming week.
For thousands of people in and around Santa Rosa, 2017 will ease the Transportation Blues, in particular, the long pre- or post-flight drive to and from SFO or Oakland. The cure? No, not Alka Seltzer. It’s the new, American Airlines hop from the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (STS) to Phoenix and connections to the world beyond.
The cure will take off in February (NOTE: the route was inaugurated on Thursday, Feb. 16) as the new flights to Phoenix transform the unpredictable trek to SFO or Oakland into a fading memory. Instead, travelers can begin their journeys with a short drive to STS. Once in Phoenix after a two-hour flight, they’ll find nonstop connections – on American alone – to over 30 points east, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and San Antonio. Phoenix also offers direct connections to many additional destinations on other airlines.
A shot in the arm, not just a headache cure
The Phoenix connection will do far more than serve as an analgesic for the relief of a minor, if recurrent, headache for local travelers. More important, it will also be a potent tonic for Wine Country tourism.
“By facilitating the arrival of a daily planeload of visitors from the East, Midwest and Southwest, these new flights will be a shot in the arm for vineyards, wineries, hotels, restaurants and the broad spectrum of local businesses that support our visitor industry,” says Jonathan Coe, president of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber. “We’re excited. Bring it on!”
For years, as a member of the airport’s Airline Attraction Committee, the Chamber has been hard at work, trying to turn STS into a gateway to Wine Country for visitors from a wider swath of the country than that served till now mainly by Alaska Airlines’ West Coast routes. “Getting our first connection to an eastbound hub is great news,” adds Coe. “The even better news is that it strengthens our case for an additional eastern connection through Denver.”
Coe hopes that, coupled with the new flights, the recently approved expansion of the airport terminal to more than twice its current size and the planned increase in its parking capacity will boost the role of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County as a portal to Wine Country. “I want wine lovers to say ‘Sonoma … Santa Rosa’ at least as often as ‘Napa’ when talking to friends about their visit to Wine Country,” he says. “The Phoenix connection is a big step toward making this a reality. You’ve got to remember,” he points out, “Napa hasn’t got a commercial airport.”
“Just as importantly, American’s flights to and from Phoenix will enable Sonoma County executives to bypass SFO and Oakland when connecting with clients and markets in the east,” Coe concludes. “It means greatly enhanced national business access.”
Airport Manager Jon Stout notes that STS has been host to airlines providing short-hop service to and from Santa Rosa since the late 1940s. However, he adds, “Now we’re serving three major carriers – Alaska, Allegiant and American. That’s a Triple-A list if ever there was one. We’re now tightly linked to the rest of the country. We’re playing in the big leagues.”
The American Airlines connection to Phoenix promises a real boost to the economy and quality of life in Santa Rosa.