SLN Airport Reporting Points
November 2018
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From the XD's Desk: 
Special Air Service Edition
Welcome to a special edition of Reporting Points that documents the successful start of United regional jet flights from Salina to Denver and Chicago. Salina's partnership with United and SkyWest Airlines has provided local and area travelers with a level of air service that has been lacking for many years. Now the North Central Kansas region has access to a vast network of national and international destinations.

Enjoy reading Tim Unruh's lead article that summarizes the first six-months of United service to Chicago, Denver and beyond. The associated testimonials from local leaders and area travelers emphasize the importance of regional jet service. Their comments confirm that United flights operated by SkyWest Airlines have elevated Salina to a new era of air travel.

My sincere thanks and gratitude to all that have contributed to a successful first six-months.

"There are few greater contributors to economic  development than quality air service. United jet  service operated by SkyWest to both Chicago and  Denver will increase trade activity to and from  Salina and North Central Kansas by enabling  faster and easier movement of passengers to  more locations. Quality air service helps with  business recruitment, business retention and  quality of life. " 

 - Gary Foss, Managing Partner, ArkStar Group

Tim Rogers, A.A.E.
Executive Director
Salina Airport Authority
Salina Regional Airport & Airport Industrial Center

A New Era for Salina Air Service
Gary Foss, ArkStar Group Managing Partner
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Public address cracks the silence at M.J. Kennedy Air Terminal, sending passengers through security screening, one step closer to boarding a 50-seat jet, operated by SkyWest Airlines for United Airlines to either Chicago or Denver and possibly beyond.
Others in the often-packed lobby peer west through large windows, anticipating the arrival of a jet painted in United's logo and colors. The new service for Salina and north-central Kansas started on April 9.
Those rumbling reverberations are like a sweet symphony to Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina Airport Authority.
"Love that sound," said the tall, lanky airport boss as he pores over growing passenger numbers supplied by the reliable and profitable air carrier.
Many others who have joined in the revival of Salina's air service echo that sentiment.
"Just stand in the lobby. Isn't that beautiful?" said Gary Foss, managing partner of the ArkStar Group, Salina's soft-spoken guru of flight, who convinced United and SkyWest in the fall of 2017 to serve Salina.
"It's one of the things that motivates me, watching a community embrace air service, and thinking what ArkStar can do for it," he said.
Graphics produced for a late October study session of the Salina Airport Authority board, tell the beginning of a success story:
  • Total roundtrip passengers from May to September this year, with United/SkyWest as the carrier with jet service, exceeded the same period in 2017, when Great Lakes Airlines served Salina with propeller aircraft.
  • This is only the beginning, according to ArkStar projections, as increases are predicted next year, especially when more passengers realize their ability to connect to other destinations once those flights land at Denver or Chicago. Hence the tag "Denver, Chicago and Beyond."
  • A massive advertising campaign, utilizing print and electronic news media, billboards, social media, even the local movie theater and the electronic marquee on Ohio Street in east Salina, is scoring millions of impressions.
Word is spreading, Foss said, and excitement is "ramping up."
Rogers isn't the only local proponent who is giddy at the notion of what United/SkyWest jet service can do for Salina, Saline County and north-central Kansas.
Travel agent Luci Larson likens the latest air service in Salina to making the "major leagues" of commercial aviation.
Her enthusiasm doesn't stop there. "We are finally on the map. We are uptown," said Larson, co-owner of Action Travel, 116 S. Seventh. "We're playing ball with the big boys."
Other than a brief heyday of Salina air travel in the early 1980s, Larson said this is as good as it's been.
"Since then, this is probably the best ever," she said, "due to the frequency of the flights, and the size and capacity of the aircraft."
The addition of a major airline in the name - United operated by SkyWest Airlines - gives customers a sense of brand comfort and the expectation of satisfaction, Larson said.  Most in the business refer to this service as just United, Foss said.
"As soon as you give it a recognizable name, it's more in everybody's comfort zone," Larson said.
"When you go out to the airport and see United on the airplane, everybody has a bigger smile on their face," Larson said. "We finally made it. We finally have a recognizable airline in our community."
The transformation is remarkable, said Brian Weisel, airport authority board chairman, and he gives much of the credit to Rogers and his staff for their persistent grassroots efforts over the years.
"They're exceeding expectations by leaps and bounds," Weisel said. "The terminal building used to be pretty much empty. Tim and his team are the ones who really made that happen. They do a lot of amazing things out there."
Landing here is sweet, said Jeff Montgomery, manager of the Global System Controls group at Coperion K-Tron Salina, Inc., 606 N. Front. The company designs and manufactures material handling and feeding systems, feeding equipment and pneumatic conveying equipment, according to its website.
"When the plane lands, you are home," Montgomery said. "Returning to (Wichita, Manhattan or Kansas City) only means the journey has yet to end. There is the drive, usually late at night, and that dampens the spirit of getting home from a business trip." 
Times change, Weisel said, and fluctuations have followed at the airport area, but open industrial space is dwindling these days.
"There is a pretty high occupancy rate, which is a good problem to have," he said. "Without air service, some companies won't even think about relocating to a town. United service is a major, major selling point."
Today, parking spaces closer to the terminal's automated glass doors are often taken, and the concrete lot is littered with cars and trucks, some bearing licenses plates from out of state and many Kansas counties surrounding Salina.
Overflow parking has been added and there are plans to permanently pave that spot.
Perhaps more than ever, Salina is connected to the world.  The beginning of this more lucrative air service era is hinged to expertise of air service consultant Gary Foss.
Foss is the managing partner of the ArkStar Group, Frisco, Texas. A phone call from a former airline executive led Rogers to a phone call with Foss and a plan to propel Salina air service to new heights. "I knew immediately that Gary was the man for the job," Rogers recalled. ArkStar and the airport authority entered into a business relationship in May 2017.
"Gary and his team got to work quickly," Rogers said. ArkStar associates immediately completed a true market and demand study to determine Salina's strength and weaknesses. The study led to a plan to establish the Salina Regional Airport as the airport of convenience for Salina and surrounding counties.  "The study and resulting plan were based on good facts and forecasts," Rogers said.
United and SkyWest both used the ArkStar study to decide to offer United flights to both Denver and Chicago.  During October last year, Rogers decided it was time to release some teaser information to the community, during a Salina Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"I said 'Get ready for a new era in air service.' It was a big deal," he recalled. The statement is coming to fruition.
Foss is familiar with the dynamics of a community like Salina, having opened American Airlines regional jet service at numerous cities like Salina during his career at American Airlines. At American, he was vice president of planning and marketing for the airline's regional network.
Now there is an alternative in Salina, with connections to two of United's largest hubs. As predicted in the ArkStar study, the Salina Airport is transforming into the region's airport of convenience.
"The numbers tell the story", Foss said referring to the leakage study released Sept. 19, 2017. It showed that within the Salina catchment area, there were 300,000 people who would consider Salina to be the "airport of convenience," based on drive time. Those passengers were driving to other airports such as Wichita and Kansas City. "They were driving to other airports because Salina didn't have a competitive product. Now Salina is winning passengers back", Foss said.
The extent of the changes won't be known until United "has a year under its belt" at Salina, Foss said. He expects that Salina will retain more area travelers. "There's no reason why Salina can't grow the market significantly," Foss said.
The efforts are "paying off" said Alan Eichelberger, airport authority board member, at the Oct. 24 study session.  "You're getting a nice return," Foss replied. "This is a very active community, and what it's doing might be pioneering. You feel the electricity and how truly people want United flights to succeed.
"You don't find that spirit everywhere."

In Their Own Words - "Fly Salina"  
Ben Hadden
November 2018

Exlines Sold on United Service
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Every part of the United service out of Salina is a great fit to frequent flyers Rob and Kelli Exline. The best aspects are the obvious ones.
"The impact to us is a real timesaver, not to have to drive to Wichita or Kansas City to fly west," Kelli said, "and we enjoy, after coming home from a trip, to have just a 15-minute drive home."

That convenience is "fantastic," said Rob, owner and CEO of Exline, Inc., of 3256 E. Country Club Road. The company's primary function is providing manufacturing and maintenance service to natural gas compressor stations all over the United States.
The couple flies to Los Angeles often, and uses air service to reach other destinations.
"Along with the free parking, you really don't pay that much more to fly out of Salina. A roundtrip flight to LA and back is really reasonable," he said. "We can take off at 5:35 and be there by 10 a.m. (Pacific time)."
The 50-seat jet planes "provide a much more comfortable experience than our previous options out of Salina," Rob said.
United service is an important selling point from a business standpoint, he said, when it comes to "suggesting or recommending to our customers that they fly to Salina, because of the quality of the aircraft that they fly." It represents Salina well, Rob said, and is a big improvement.
"Good quality air service is something we've missed for a long time," he said. "We have a nice advantage now."
It's clear that people have responded. The Exlines like seeing a busy airport terminal, and don't mind searching for a parking space. "The parking lot is filling up, and that's a good problem," Kelli said. There is plenty of room to add more spaces, Rob said. They are among those who provide word-of-mouth advertising of United's service.
"We need more and more people to think to use that service," he said.
This Christmas, Kelli's mother, Patty Brown, 87, of Huntington Beach, Calif., plans a flight into Salina to visit family. "How wonderful it is for her to land here and not have to drive. It's one less leg of the journey," Kelli said. "That makes traveling for her much more comfortable and easier."
The Exlines expressed much praise for Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina Airport Authority, for his efforts in securing top-notch commercial air service for the city, Saline County and region. "We've known Tim a long time. He's a wonderful representative of our community, a first-class individual," Rob said.
Not only is the couple excited about the present air service, they're hopeful for further enhancements, such as added flights.

"We do a tremendous amount of business in Houston. I hope a flight there is added," Rob said. "That's also a great connection to the southeastern part of the United States. We also go to Florida a lot."

Good Air Service Adds to 'Wow Factor" at Vortex
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Nothing impresses Vortex Global customer's more than visiting company headquarters in Salina, said CEO Jeff Thompson.
"When we get people to Salina, I call it the Wow factor," he said. "They walk away saying 'Wow, I had no idea the kinds of facilities you have in Salina." 
Vortex designs and manufactures valves and other equipment specifically for the handling of dry bulk materials, and does business all over the globe.
One critical factor is getting customers here, Thompson said, and that's where United flights shine.
"The new air service is a great benefit for companies like Vortex, not only for our employees to go out and about, but also for our customers who come and see us," he said. "We do a lot of hosting."
His personal experience with the service has been positive.
"I've used only the Chicago flight a couple of times, and it's very convenient," Thompson said. "I plan on using the Denver flight soon. It's better than driving."
Locals Fly Salina to China
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Over lunch in Salina during June of 2017, Cara Ernzen pressed two special people for a bold commitment.
A college English teacher in China, Cara, in her late 20s, influenced her mother, Pat Ernzen, and family friend, Charlotte Herrman, both of Salina, to pay her a visit.
"It was like 'Mom, are you coming for a visit, and Sharlie, are you coming, too?' That's my nickname," said Charlotte Herrman, also Cara's former babysitter.
"That didn't leave us many options," Herrman said, while recounting their journey halfway around the world.
Cara was home on break during the spring of 2018, when the suggestion was revisited, and planning ensued.
The friends gave Cara a couple of months to adjust to a new job and community in China, and got to work scheduling the nearly 7,000-mile journey.
"The race was on. We had passports, but had to get travel visas. You have to apply online, print them off and send them to the (Chinese) consulate in Chicago," Herrman said. "We had them back in 10 days."  
They enlisted the services of Luci Larson, co-owner of Action Travel, 116 S. Seventh, who made the arrangements.
Early in the process came a phone call from Larson, with a report on the costly travel visas, but also some good news.  "We got our flights for like 600 dollars each. We thought they would be well over a thousand," Pat Ernzen said, "and Luci told us we were flying out of Salina."
Rather than a three-hour drive to Kansas City, 90 minutes south to Wichita, or just over an hour to Manhattan, the ladies needed a mere 10 minutes to arrive at Salina's M.J. Kennedy Air Terminal - where parking is free - to begin their global extravaganza.
"The Salina airport was great, so convenient," Herrman said. "Getting ready to check in, there was a lady who had driven from Wichita to get on the flight."
They boarded a 50-seat United jet that took off for Denver "with a short hop in Hays," she said.
Fog delayed the flight to San Francisco. Once there, the Salina travelers found themselves "hoofing it across the airport," Herrman said, to join the other seven passengers bound for Shanghai, China.
"From Denver on, we got to fly the great big United Boeing 787s. They were new," Herrman said. "We walked past the first class section, kind of drooled, and went on to our economy seats."
Both agreed the seating was comfortable.   The flight to Shanghai took 11 hours, two hours less than Larson predicted, and that delighted the travel companions.  After more than five days in China, with Cara Ernzen serving as their personal tour guide, Pat and Charlotte enjoyed an uneventful journey back to Salina.
There was a long layover in Denver, which they expected, and a 20- to 30-minute wait in Hays, Herrman said, thanks to a storm in Salina.
But because of the time difference, the Salinan's left China on Oct. 5 and touched down in Salina, also on the fifth.  "It was a long day," Ernzen joked.
There was a mild fallout when jet lag hit. "I was exhausted," Herrman said. "I wasn't getting to sleep until 3 in the morning."
Passengers on the 50-seat jets were given cookies on the first flight, and then pretzels, they said, and the nutrition options expanded on the larger planes.
"United had wonderful meals," Herrman said. "Each time, there were two choices, and even with my food allergies, I could always come up with something to eat."

What shocked others they encountered along the way, was learning that the vacation began in Salina, instead of a hub airport.
"We really like that we flew United the whole way," Ernzen said. "Even though we had that glitch in San Francisco, our luggage was there when we arrived."
The mission was a rousing success, they said, thanks in part to the friendly United staff aboard each flight.

"We were just so happy on this trip," she said. "The memories are unbelievable."

Salina Doc Gives Air Service Good Grade
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Roughly half of a year after United's foray into Salina airspace, Dr. Trent Davis gives the carrier high marks.
The neurologist and Salina city commissioner, and his family, have flown United roughly nine times combined, for connecting flights in Chicago and Denver, and occasionally for pleasure to those cities.
They use United as the first leg in journeys to Washington, D.C., where Davis's maternal family resides, and west to California, where his wife Pamela, is from.

"I felt so proud the first time I flew back home, to see the name 'Salina,' like Atlanta, in Chicago O'Hare Airport," Dr. Davis said. "But we have to teach people it's pronounced Salina, not 'Saleena.' "
The new local service saves him time and money.  "United flights have just about eliminated having to drive to Kansas City to catch flights," Davis said.
The schedule melds perfectly with his medical practice.  "I can pretty much work an entire day on Friday and drive 10 minutes to the airport, as opposed to taking a day off just to get to the airplane in Kansas City or Wichita," he said, "and in two hours I'm in Chicago, waiting for my flight to DC."
Perks at the Salina terminal - free parking and shorter waits to board, for example - have trickled to other areas, and are prompting folks to fly SLN.
"Every time I have flown out of here, I have sat next to someone who has driven up from Wichita," Davis said. "With the schedule and the flight they say they just can't beat it. A lot of people from (southern Kansas) have found out about this flight to Chicago."
He added that the connections through O'Hare have gone smoothly, and coming home from there "has been flawless."

For more information visit TSA Travel Tips
Noticeable Changes
Tim Unruh
November 2018

As a former member of the Salina Airport Authority board of directors, Dick Renfro is well aware that commercial air service is vital to the city, Saline County and region.
"Down through the years, we've certainly had our ups and downs," said the retired banker. "It seemed like we'd get a partial solution, but not a total solution."
Six months into a federal Essential Air Service contract with new United service to Denver and Chicago, fortunes may be improving after hearing that more air service voids than ever may be filled.  Renfro credits much of the uptick to the airport authority board and staff.
"I know how extremely pleased board members are with the service," said Renfro, retired president and CEO of UMB Bank in downtown Salina. He served the airport authority board from 1992 to 1997.
Renfro echoes the pleasure of many.  "I can drive three miles to the airport, park for free and not have to drive to Kansas City," he said.
Most days, one visit to the M.J. Kennedy Air Terminal near the south end of the airfield, is all it takes to notice change.  "It's a wonderful sight to see the parking lot full," Renfro said. "I'm pleased for Salina, and the surrounding area."
Growing passenger numbers have put a lift in the spirits of many local leaders, he said.
"We are an educational, medical, retail, industrial and an entertainment hub for central and north-central Kansas," Renfro said. "The air service just adds to that, and puts the icing on the cake."
United Meetings

Getting the team together has never been easier with service now to two of United's biggest hubs - Denver and Chicago!!!   United Airlines offers discounts for as few as ten people into and out of Salina Regional Airport (SLN)!  
Whether for business, or getting the family together for the holidays, go to, register and book your meeting.   You will be sent a promo code to share with attendees.  Further details can be found online at

More Flights the Better for OPC
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Air service is key to many employers, including one that helps workers and businesses alike.
Occupational Performance Corporation helps employers match employees to the right job, and protects both parties through testing. The Physical Capacity Profile, performed at 123 OPC clinics in 18 states, establishes baseline data to help companies hire the right people, match workers to jobs they can handle, and helps keep workplaces safe, said CEO Brian Richardson.
Occupational Performance, with headquarters at 917 E. Prescott in Salina, needs good forms of transportation to bring in workers, company leaders and testing professionals.
"As the air service gets bigger, and more flights are available," Richardson said, "that certainly helps us."
Denver Day Trip in 45 Seconds
Ben Hadden
October 2018

Denver Day Trip

United/SkyWest an Economic Driver
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Good air service makes sense in many ways, said Bob Vidricksen, Saline County Commission chairman. 

Economic activity drives Saline County, he said, and it's essential in running the county government.
"The only ways that the county has to raise revenue is through property and sales taxes," he said. "If Salina grows, that's more funds for the county."
Just 15 percent of Saline County's property tax revenue comes from outside of Salina's city limits, Vidricksen said.  

After serving as the county commission's airport liaison for nearly two years, he's seen this round of air service grow "from infancy to fruition," and what's happening is impressive.
"It's making headway at a high rate of speed," Vidricksen said.
It's obvious that the county should back the airport authority, he said, given the potential for more tax revenue, without having to raise mill levy rates. .
"For the airport's economic development efforts to help us, we've got to help them," Vidricksen said. "The numbers are there."
Salina Leaves Wellington, KS Traveler with Good Impressions
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Lynne Lawrence's first experience flying Salina was impressive, even when something went wrong.
The Wellington resident would not hesitate to make another 123-mile trip north for air travel, versus 38 1/2 miles to Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita.
Her Oct. 19 trip with five friends to a Garth Brooks concert at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., was enjoyable and memorable. The air service, she said, clearly enhanced the excursion.
"When we scheduled the trip, four of them had already booked a trip out of Salina and asked us to join them," Lawrence said.
She wondered to a friend, why Salina? "She said it's significantly cheaper than Wichita. They had a 250-dollar savings. We booked later and saved 150 dollars," Lawrence said.
Perks didn't stop there.

"We were surprised when we arrived and there were no fees for parking," she said. "I noticed the employees outside and inside, keeping it neat and tidy. You could tell they were all taking pride, making sure the airport looked nice."
They were embraced by friendly and accommodating airline workers. Security levels from Transportation Security Administration agents, were encouraging.
"They were thorough. I was surprised that security was as good as it was," Lawrence said. "We all had carry-ons and they went through some of our baggage."
Even in the midst of a less-than-perfect issue, she said United performed admirably.
"We boarded the plane, and before we could take off, a door latch malfunctioned," Lawrence said.
She flies several times a year, and noted that similar issues can occur at any airport. But at Salina, the airline staff won praise.
"The copilot was good to come out and keep us updated. They were calling maintenance at Salina airport. The communication was great," she said.
The friends enjoyed their flight to Chicago, where they drove in rented vehicles to South Bend, arriving a bit later than anticipated on a Friday night.
"Our event was Saturday night, so it all worked out," Lawrence said. "It was an absolutely awesome time."

Two of her traveling party, who fly to Chicago and drive to South Bend often, left with the same impressions of Salina's air service.
"We would all do it again," Lawrence said.

Air Service Keeps Salina Competitive
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Nowadays, when Sylvia Rice pitches to companies and individuals on Salina's virtues, air service is high on her list.
Feedback these days, to the Visit Salina director at the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, often is stellar.
"We've had various forms of impact, all of it positive," Rice said. "We hear from individual travelers who are choosing Salina for a variety of reasons. It's a great plus for us to be able to include our jet service in proposals for conventions, where speakers, vendors, and attendees can fly direct."
Visit Salina often brings in sports rights holders for site visits while they consider whether to stage sporting events in Salina.
"They can experience the ease of flying direct, which is also a benefit to their teams, should we land their contract," Rice said.
She has noticed a boost in tourism and retail business, thanks to United's service over the past six months.
"We've got regional folks who are driving to Salina to fly out and are being introduced to this city in a different way," Rice said. "As these new visitors are coming through to utilize our air service, they are also going to experience our restaurants, businesses and hotels."  In short, the upgrade is all good.
"Having jet services put us on a different playing field," Rice said. "It heightens our exposure and further enhances everything else that's happening, from the downtown revitalization to the river project and everything else that Salina is."
Air service propels improvements, she said, and on a personal note, it just makes Salina life better.
Case in point, her stepdaughter, Charity Dalzell, flew home during September from northern Michigan, landing at Salina. It saved up to a full day of driving to another airport.
"It was so great to be able to just pull up here," Rice said. "The Chicago connection is what enabled us to do that."

The Salina Region Has Connections
Tim Unruh
November 2018

Reliable and affordable air service from Salina to Denver, Chicago, and just about anywhere else, is an attractive perk for the entire region.
Just ask Doug McKinney, executive director of the Beloit, KS based North Central Regional Planning Commission.

"There is no doubt that many who want to go to metro areas can make use of this service. It's a convenient way of traveling," he said. "It has been for me, my son, too, and I'm sure for several coming from towns throughout the region."
McKinney calls himself a "once-a-year user," but there are others who will catch a plane in Salina several times a year, or some who board monthly or even weekly.
McKinney recalled a meeting he attended in downtown Denver. After driving to Salina, there was a short flight to the Mile High City.
"I was amazed at how reliable and steady and safe it is," he said.
Once in Denver, McKinney hopped the light rail for an "environmentally friendly" ride to downtown. You also can choose to rent a car, hire an Uber driver, taxi, or bus, and there is rail service well into the Rocky Mountains.

"It was very easy to connect, get my bags, and just roll with it," McKinney said. "My light rail ride was very helpful, certainly affordable and handy, and you got a little bit of scenery, too."
The regional planning commission board has supported the Salina Airport Authority's efforts to improve its service.

NCRPC serves 12 counties in north-central Kansas, and a larger area for other special purposes.

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