As the upcoming holidays come rolling along, if locals aren’t enjoying the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” they’re hopping out of town. We should consider ourselves lucky. For a city of its size, Salt Lake City is fortunate to have an international airport that is a hub for a major carrier—Delta—allowing us to get from the Wasatch Front to places all across the country in just a few hours. On top of that, there are also some new options out of smaller airports in Provo and Ogden.
A Crowded Trip to Grandmother’s House
On a typical day at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLCAirport.com), there are 33,624 seats available on 328 commercial departures, with 32 of those flights heading directly to international destinations. That’s according to Dave Korzep, superintendent of operations at the airport, who notes that those numbers will be higher on days like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or the Sunday at the end of that weekend. He also states that in much the same way Black Friday has been creeping into Thanksgiving evening, Travel Wednesday has been creeping past midnight, to the point where “We’ve actually seen a rush on [Thanksgiving] morning.”
Anthony Black, a spokesman for Delta, says the airline will typically top 250 flights out of SLC on peak days, and because the carrier has experienced consistent demand over the holidays in past years, “We expect the upcoming travel period to be very robust.”
Dinner and a Concert
It comes as no surprise that the airport and airlines want you to make sure and get there early on the busiest days; sitting around an airport waiting for a flight is not on anybody’s priority list. But this year, you can’t complain too much if your wait consists of having a bowl of Market Street clam chowder while listening to live music played by professionals.
“Come out and enjoy a meal and a cocktail,” Korzep says. “Our food and merchandising was completely re-done last year with an emphasis on local businesses.” The new entries include brands that had already become local favorites outside the airport such as Market Street Grill, Greek Souvlaki, Millcreek Coffee Roasters and Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta. You can also find entries that aren’t otherwise in Utah, such as Pinkberry yogurt bar.
Anyone facing a long flight out of Salt Lake City and trying to deal with the dread of having to see certain family members again over the holidays will be pleasantly surprised to find that you can try the award-winning spirits of local Park City distiller High West, or grab a locally crafted beer at Squatter’s Airport Pub.
While you’re munching, the holiday season will feature professional musicians playing street-busker style throughout the airport to help lighten some of your travel stress.
Beyond Salt Lake
The arrival of Allegiant Travel Company (AllegiantAir.com) means that Utah travelers to California and Arizona can get out of town not just via Salt Lake International Airport, but also through smaller airports in Ogden and Provo. Allegiant started offering flights from Ogden to Phoenix in late 2012, and just since February of this year, began flying out of Provo to Los Angeles, Oakland and Phoenix.
Travelers who want to try this new option should note that there is a limited number of flights, and will need to plan ahead. For example, during Thanksgiving week, the Provo-LAX route is going from two flights per week to four. Travelers should also be aware that Allegiant uses a la carte pricing, a concept that has been spreading in the airline industry but that Allegiant uses even more than most, because, as spokesperson Lindsay Hernquist says, “Everyone travels differently and we allow our passengers the choice of what they want.”
Allegiant starts with a very competitive basic ticket price, and passengers can add on everything from assigned seats, checked bags, carry-ons, priority boarding and the right to change their flight with no fees—all for a price. This can have its benefits or its costs, depending on what you’re looking for. “If you’re traveling alone and don’t care what seat you’re in, you don’t pay for that,” Hernquist says. Conversely, families who want to sit together in certain areas can expect to have fees added.
Whether you’re traveling for the holidays for fun or because Grandma demands it in order for you to stay in the will, start earning those frequent-flier miles and get your vacation booked early.
Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin host the Travel Brigade Radio Show and Podcast. Follow them on Twitter @TravelBrigade.