United Airlines will begin offering a daily nonstop flight catering to business travelers between the Tri-Cities Regional Airport and Los Angeles International this spring.
Allegiant Airlines already provides seasonal service to LAX, but caters to leisure travelers.
The Port of Pasco and the airline were expected to announce the deal Monday morning.
Service commences March 31, with round-trip fares running about $207 on Google Flights.
The Pasco-bound flight will leave LAX 12:45 p.m. daily. The LAX-bound flight will depart PSC at 4:17 p.m. daily.
The flight time is about three hours. United has assigned a 76-seat Embraer 175 aircraft with coach and first class seating available.
Word got out early when the airline entered it into its scheduling system. An eagle-eyed Tri-City Herald reader reported that he was able to book a direct flight to Los Angeles in May through Orbitz and reached out for confirmation.
“(It’s) awesome news if true,” the Kennewick reader observed.
The port together with the Tri-City Development Council have lobbied airlines to provide service to Los Angeles for about five years, citing demand from the local market. Hundreds of Los Angeles-bound travelers drive to Seattle or Portland daily to catch flights.
In 2015, the Pasco airport received a $750,000 federal Small Community Air Service Development grant to pay an airline to offer the service.
A local alliance that included the local ports, city and county governments, Battelle, J-U-B Engineers, Bechtel, the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce, Washington River Protection Solutions and Ti-lie provided local support, including $300,000 in matching funds.
Even with incentives, convincing airlines to increase service to Pasco was a tough sell. Officials initially hoped to land an airline in 2016 and offered repeated reassurances that they were meeting with executives regularly to pitch the Pasco airport as a lucrative stop.
The port completed a $42 million remodel of the airport terminal in 2017. Last month, it launched a $10.7 million taxiway renovation to improve conditions around the runways.
It even managed to set a passenger record in 2017, even though Alaska Airlines curtailed flights due to a pilot shortage in its Horizon Air subsidiary. The airport recorded 376,481 boardings for the year. It should set another record this year. Through September, the airport recorded nearly 288,000 boardings, about 16,000 ahead of last year.
Together with Delta, Alaska Air/Horizon Air, United and Allegiant connect to Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Mesa Ariz. United serves Denver and San Francisco from the Tri-Cities.