Airline passengers from Fresno and the central San Joaquin Valley to Europe and other global destinations will have more options next summer, when Delta Air Lines launches a new nonstop route between Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Atlanta, Georgia.
The airline and Fresno’s airport announced the new service on Friday. The flights are projected to start in early June 2024, with tickets available as soon as Saturday on Delta’s booking website.
“That’s a very big deal; it’s huge,” said Cheri Verrastro, owner of the Travel Shoppe travel agency in Fresno. “It brings Delta back into our picture, because they really haven’t been a player in Fresno because they only go to Salt Lake City.”
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta Air Lines’ home base, is the world’s busiest airport, according to OAG, a global aviation data website. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that the Atlanta airport served more than 45 million passengers boarding flights in 2022. Fresno was ranked 93rd among U.S. airports with almost 1.1 million enplaned passengers in 2022.
When the flights commence, they will reach farther east than any other flights from Fresno – almost 2,000 miles – surpassing the 1,750 miles on United Airlines’ seasonal service to Chicago.
“Delta Air Lines’ launch of Atlanta service is truly a big deal for Fresno and the Central Valley,” said Henry Thompson, director of aviation for the city of Fresno, which owns and operates the Fresno airport.. “Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport consistently ranks as one of Fresno Yosemite International Airport’s Top 10 markets where travelers from the Central Valley are flying. …”
Fresno airports spokesperson Vikkie Calderon told The Bee that Delta plans to offer the flights year-round rather than seasonal. “Performance will be monitored (by the airline),” she said, “and any adjustments will be made based on bookings and load factors.”
Delta will use 160-seat Boeing 737-800 jets for the new route. The schedule announced Friday calls for flights leaving Atlanta to depart at 7:53 p.m. Eastern Time each day, arriving in Fresno at 9:50 p.m. Pacific Time.The flights to Atlanta will leave Fresno at about 10:50 p.m. Pacific and arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson at 6:26 a.m. Eastern.
Verrastro said she expects the once-daily Delta flights to generate substantial demand among passengers in the Fresno region because Atlanta, she said, not only offers a jumping-off point to cities across the East Coast but also “connects to all of Europe, like Paris and Rome.”
Currently, “we really only have United (Airlines) and American (Airlines) to get across the pond,” she added, using the colloquial term for the Atlantic Ocean. But, Verrastro said, the new route will also provide additional options for connections to Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
She predicted that the added destination could also help with airline fares that passengers have to pay “since it will give us more options.”
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer also hailed the announcement. “Whether traveling for business or pleasure, the people of Fresno deserve an airport that gets them where they need to go,” he said. “The addition of this service to Atlanta helps propel us towards that goal.”
Dyer added that other nonstop flight destinations on his wish list for Fresno’s airport include Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; John Wayne Airport in Orange County; and Hawaii.
Delta’s service to Salt Lake City has been a staple of the Fresno airport for years, and Salt Lake City was the fifth-ranked destination for nonstop flights from Fresno in 2022 at just shy of 70,000 passengers. But the airline has also had some fits and starts at Fresno, at times offering – and subsequently discontinuing – nonstop service to Los Angeles and to Seattle.