American Airlines completed its first non-stop flight Wednesday from Phoenix to Rapid City.
The 50-seat jet airliner touched down at the Rapid City Regional Airport four months after airport officials announced the start of year-round, daily nonstop flights between the two cities.
Airport administrators and board members welcomed the flight to town at an informal gathering Wednesday afternoon. With the addition of the route to Phoenix, the number of major cities that the airport offers non-stop flights to grows to 14.
The other year-round flights travel to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Mesa, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. Seasonal flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark and San Francisco are also offered.
“From our standpoint, we’ve been working hard on getting air service and the American flight to Phoenix offers better connectability to the West Coast," Airport Executive Director Patrick Dame said Wednesday.
Local government and business officials expressed enthusiasm at the inaugural flight through the city Communications Division.
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"The doors of opportunity for growth and exposure to Rapid City and the Black Hills area have been kicked wide open in the last year with the growth at Regional Airport," Mayor Steve Allender said in a press release. "Expanding direct flights to some of the country's biggest cities will have very real, positive impacts on our city and area, and it's reflected in the record numbers of passengers that are taking advantage of the new flights with a sincere desire to experience this region and all it has to offer."
The flight that landed Wednesday was full, according to Airport Deputy Director Toni Broom. The outbound flight that left later that afternoon was half-booked, she said.
American Airlines is offering the flight through SkyWest Airlines, one of its regional subcontractors. It will depart from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at 12:27 p.m. and arrive at in Rapid City at 3:50 p.m. MST.
The return flight will take off at 4:20 p.m. MST and land in Phoenix at 5:55 p.m.
Efforts to bring the route to Rapid City began in July of 2018 with the awarding of approximately $914,000 to the airport in federal and local grant money. Approximately $700,000 of that figure came from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Small Community Air Service Development Program