New Jet Service Soars into Buchanan, By Peggy Spear
May 02, 2016 07:54AM
● By Elena Hutslar
Contra Costa County is taking off, quite literally, as a new charter jet service roars to life at Concord’s Buchanan Field. JetSuiteX, a new venture from private jet company JetSuite, launched their first flights from Concord to Burbank earlier this week, offering round-trips, up to three times daily, as well as a weekend jaunt to Las Vegas.
“This is a long overdue service to the community,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, who helped broker the deal when JetSuiteX first approached the county in February. “They said they wanted to launch in April, and I was skeptical that it could happen,” she says. “But it did.”
The value of the service is easy to see, she said. The “scheduled charters” are a great option for business travelers in the county who would normally have relied on quick trips from Oakland, San Francisco, or even San Jose airports, while fighting rush-hour travel.
The planes themselves are refurbished American Eagle jets, according to Keith Freitas, director of airports at Buchanan Field and the Byron Airport. They will serve up to 30 passengers at a time.
The inaugural price will be $109 one-way and upwards of $300, depending on the day of the week and as demand increases, said Gareth Edmondson-Jones, a spokesperson for JetSuiteX.
The other advantage of the flights is that passengers won’t have to endure long TSA screening lines. “But that doesn’t mean the travel is unsafe,” Edmondson-Jones said. Passengers will still be screened to make sure they are not on the “No-fly” list and checked for any explosive devices. He said there would be other security measures in place but was not at liberty to go into detail as to what they were. “Rest assured, there will be visible and invisible security all around,” Edmondson-Jones said.
Refurbishing the Airport
Both Freitas and Edmondson-Jones downplayed the noise level the jets would create. “We already have charter jets taking off from Buchanan, so it will only be about four more flights per day,” Freitas said. And Edmondson-Jones said that the JetSuiteX planes were “some of the quietest” out there.
With the new service, JetSuiteX has plans to refurbish the old PSA terminal at the airport, which was, in essence, a double-wide modular building, Freitas said.
The decision to begin service from Buchanan was a “no-brainer,” Edmondson-Jones said. “There’s a sizeable amount of people who fly for business between southern California and the Bay Area each day, and many come from Contra Costa County.”
Underused Airports Get a New Life
He says the idea came from an old Jet Blue model that looked at underused airports in urban areas — specifically Long Beach and JFK in New York — and saw how there were “millions of people who lived near these airports and didn’t take advantage of them because there weren’t services they needed.” Jet Blue went in and started offering flights, and in the case of Long Beach, they saw a huge revitalization. “Jet Blue made a go of Long Beach, and JetSuiteX wants to do the same thing here.”
The weekend trip to Las Vegas — which leaves Friday and returns Sunday — is sure to be popular, Edmondson-Jones said, as it will attract those who want to get away for a little fun.
The Pioneer Newspaper found another demographic that JetSuiteX did not take into account: college-age kids who want to make the jaunt home from Southern California schools. “My daughter Rose will love this,” said Walnut Creek’s Ruth Seabrook, whose daughter attends school in the Los Angeles area.
It makes sense, says Kish Rajan of Walnut Creek, the former director for Governor Office of Business and Economic Development (GO Biz) who currently works with the Southern California Leadership Council. Not only did he see the economic advantages for both Contra Costa and Burbank, but also will be a frequent traveler himself on flights several times a week.
“Flying into Burbank is so much easier,” he said. “LAX is a monster. Plus, Buchanan is right near my home, so I don’t have to fight traffic coming from Oakland or San Francisco.”
He said these types of scheduled charters are the wave of the future. “It’s almost like the ‘Uber-ization’ of air travel. We’re repositioning our assets in a new way.”
Effects on Concord’s Economy
Perhaps the biggest impact will be on the economy of Concord and surrounding cities, Mitchoff said. “We are much closer to wine country and other attractions here at Buchanan,” she said. “It makes sense for tourists who want to come and not pay top-dollar San Francisco prices and can enjoy what Contra Costa and the surrounding areas offer.”
Concord’s Manager of Economic Development John Montagh agrees. “This will be a boon for Concord’s own tourist efforts, as we have the hotels, restaurants and other amenities that people can enjoy.”
It is also a boon for Buchanan Field itself, Freitas said. “We do a lot to educate the community about what we offer here,” he said. “This will allow us more visibility and show what a gem we have.”
Buchanan Field is one of two airports operated by the county; the other is in Byron. The Airports Division is self-funded and actually generates revenue for the county, schools, and other community-related agencies. The Airports Division works with tenants at both airports to provide the community with a wide range of services, from flight schools, to skydiving, to private hangar rental, Freitas said.
It remains to be seen how consumers greet the new service, but Edmondson-Jones is positive about the response. “We’re in it for the long haul,” he said.
For more information, contact Contra Costa Airports, call 844-Fly-ToUs, or visit online at www.ContraCostaAirports.org.