By David Benda, Record Searchlight, December 2015

REDDING, California – As city and business leaders in Redding work to add destinations and flights at the airport, travelers got some good news Wednesday with the announcement that United Express will add a third flight to San Francisco starting next spring.

Airports Director Rod Dinger said the decision to expand service was influenced by passenger demand since the carrier started flying jets in and out of Redding in March.

SkyWest, doing business as United Express, will start the new schedule April 5, Dinger said.

United Express will leave Redding at 5:15 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Flights out of San Francisco will arrive in Redding at 9:37 a.m., 3:35 p.m. and 10:58 p.m.

SkyWest started flying 50-seat regional jets on March 5 as it retired its fleet of 30-seat twin-engine turboprops. Right now, the airline offers two daily flights to San Francisco.

“The community’s response following the transition of turboprops to regional jets last March has been very impressive,” Dinger said.

The jets are running near 90 percent capacity and the reliability of the service has improved dramatically from the turboprops, Dinger said. Ridership increased 27 percent March through July compared with the same five months in 2014.

Dinger noted the cancellation rate is less than 1 percent since the jets started flying.

Meanwhile, city officials remain confident that flights to Portland, Oregon, via PenAir will start next year. They also are talking to SkyWest about adding service to Los Angeles and feel good about those discussions.

PenAir’s plan to start to start flights to Portland from Klamath Falls, Oregon, has been delayed as work continues to re-establish Transportation Security Administration passenger-screening in Klamath Falls. TSA left after SkyWest pulled out in 2014, leaving the southern Oregon community without commercial service.

What happens in Klamath Falls has an impact on Redding.

PenAir spokeswoman Melissa Roberts said recently the airline had hoped to start service in Redding in spring 2016.

“But we thought we would be able to start up in Klamath Falls sooner. … We thought it would be as early as this month,” Roberts said in late November. “Because of the setback, there is a setback for all the areas we are looking at on the West Coast.”

Redding is among the communities in California and Oregon that PenAir, an Alaska-based commuter airline, wants to expand into, providing daily service to Portland.

Meanwhile, City Manager Kurt Starman said SkyWest has expressed interest and is motivated to start service from Redding to Los Angeles.

“Hopefully that will occur in late spring or summer 2016,” Starman said.