A 6 a.m. sendoff ceremony today will launch daily nonstop airline service between Raleigh-Durham International Airport and San Francisco, something long sought by North Carolina business travelers.
Gov. Bev Perdue and local economic development honchos boarded the first flight. All 152 seats were sold out.
Casey Steinbacher, president and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, says the new United Airlines flight will provide a valuable conduit for people and capital between the Triangle and Silicon Valley.
Its about talent recruitment and venture capitalists who like to be a direct flight away from any company theyre going to invest in, Steinbacher said. To be able to get them here so they can view first-hand the incredible innovation thats going on in the Research Triangle is only enhanced with a direct flight.
The United flight departed RDU a few minutes before 7 a.m. and will arrive before 10 a.m. Pacific time. The return flight leaves San Francisco just after 1 p.m. Pacific, landing at RDU after 9 p.m.
Thats regarded as a business-friendly schedule for travelers who want to make late-morning meetings in the San Francisco Bay area. RDUs only other nonstop to the West Coast is Deltas evening flight to Los Angeles.
Triangle business executives have lobbied the airlines for years to provide a nonstop flight that can cut hours off the travel time for employees at biomedical, technology and other companies with work sites and clients in both the Triangle and the Bay area.
RDU also is marketing San Francisco as a steppingstone to major Asian destinations for business and vacation travelers.
Richard White, a Raleigh native and 2003 graduate of N.C. State University, is CEO of UserVoice, a San Francisco tech startup that provides customer feedback platforms for Web-based businesses. Five of his 23 engineers and support staffers work in downtown Raleigh, in a cozy wood-floored office above a Hargett Street bar.
White keeps a Skype video link open between the two offices, and he likes to fly key employees from one coast to another so they feel like theyre all on the same team.
But the big problem has just been trying to get them out here, White said from his San Francisco office. Theyll spend eight hours making the trip, changing planes in Charlotte or Atlanta or a whole day when bad weather causes a missed flight.
He says the new direct flight will make the trip easier, and it will remove an obstacle to expanding UserVoice operations in North Carolina.
Ill be out there next month for our office-opening party, White said.
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