Local air travelers will soon have a new destination to travel to as United Airlines is adding a direct flight between Chicago and Grand Junction.
United announced Wednesday it will start a seasonal flight between Grand Junction Regional Airport and Chicago O'Hare International Airport in June.
The flights will run on Saturdays from June 8 through Oct. 26. Tickets for some of the flights are already on sale.
"I think it demonstrates United's commitment to our market," Grand Junction Regional Airport Director Angela Padalecki said. "It's really exciting."
The weekly flight from Chicago to Grand Junction will depart at 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time and arrive at 12:12 p.m. local time. The Grand Junction flight bound for Chicago will leave at 12:50 p.m. and arrive at 4:40 p.m. United will fly a 70-seat Canadair RJ-700 between the two locations.
Chicago is the seventh-largest destination market for Grand Junction travelers, according to Padalecki, who noted that the new flight adds 37 destinations that are available to local fliers within one stop.
The flight is one of 11 new routes United announced on Wednesday from its hubs in Chicago, Washington D.C. and Houston, including seasonal direct flights between Houston and Durango and Chicago and Durango.
The announcement comes on the heels of a Grand Junction voter-approved lodging tax increase that goes into effect Jan. 1 and will allow the Grand Junction Regional Air Service Alliance to offer incentives to airlines to start new flights in and out of Grand Junction.
Agreements between the Air Service Alliance and airlines are confidential. Air Service Alliance officials said they were not involved in the negotiation for the Chicago flight.
Visit Grand Junction Director Elizabeth Fogarty said her staff has been targeting Chicago with personalized ad content for the past 10 months with the help of the state of Colorado.
"Chicago has continued to be a trending destination for inbound travelers to Colorado for some time now," Fogarty said. "We're very excited about the direct flight and this will just further reinforce the current ad strategy that we already have in place with Chicago."
Fogarty also praised Padalecki for her efforts in bringing a new direct flight to Grand Junction.
"I'm really proud that Angela was able to negotiate this deal and it certainly aligns itself with our current initiatives with Chicago for inbound visitation to Grand Junction."
This is the first new flight at the Grand Junction airport since American Airlines added a weekly seasonal flight to and from Los Angeles in 2017. That flight was halted and was deemed unsuccessful, but Padalecki said she believes the Chicago flight will work because there is interest from Chicago travelers to visit to Grand Junction for tourism. The interest in Los Angeles was mostly from travelers from Grand Junction and more focused on business. Business travelers don't often fly on weekends.
Padalecki said the hope is that the flight will succeed and more will be added to and from Chicago throughout the week during all seasons.
"This is how airlines get their feet wet in a market," she said.