From Salt Lake City to the City of Lights, a direct nonstop flight to Europe from Utah became une realite on Monday.
To celebrate Monday evening's inaugural Delta Air Lines flight to Paris, passengers at the departure gate munched on French-inspired hors d'oeuvres while a musician played Edith Piaf's "Padam Padam" on an accordion at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
"This really represents the dawn of a new transportation era for this state," said Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., as he bid adieu to the flight of Utah passengers.
Delta Flight 170 departs daily from the Salt Lake airport at 5 p.m. and arrives at Charles de Gaulle International Airport 10 hours and 15 minutes later. Delta Flight 171 leaves Paris daily at 10:20 a.m. and will arrive in Salt Lake City 11 hours and 10 minutes later, at 1:30 p.m. local time.
While numerous chartered planes have traveled to Europe from Utah, Delta is the first commercial airline to fly there nonstop. Delta chose Paris for Salt Lake City passengers because it has employees in Paris operating the six other daily Delta flights from Atlanta, New York City and Cincinnati. The flight is a partnership between Delta and Air France, and the two airlines are both booking the flight, as well as splitting profits.
"We're hoping to get the recreational skiers and the summer visitors here," Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said, noting that companies such as Rossignol in Park City and Amer Sports in Ogden have connections to Europe.
State economic officials hope the weak dollar will encourage tourism and business in Utah.
"The world is getting a little smaller," said Franz Kolb, director for Europe for the Governor's Office of Economic Development. "This reminds me of the Olympics. But with the Olympics, people came here. Now we can go there."
The 216-passenger Boeing 767 cruises at 537 mph at 35,000 feet. Delta pilot Larry Foster described the airborne route from Paris to Salt Lake City: France, England, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Canada's Ontario province, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.
"It doesn't look like a direct flight, but it is," Foster said. "It's a great circle route. Take an orange and slice it. You'll find the shortest route isn't west."
Jeff Edwards, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, has traveled to Europe numerous times. He said that changing planes takes a toll when trying to adjust to different time zones. Not having to stop, he said, "was so much better."
On Monday, a round-trip ticket in coach for July 3-10 cost $1,386.80, plus about $83 in taxes. Expensive? Oui, but even so, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said that this week, the flights are 70 percent booked. They are 80 percent booked next week.
Most of the passengers in the flights to and from Salt Lake were local dignitaries. But a few French passengers made the trip, surprised that there's a direct route to Salt Lake City from Paris and surprised they were on the inaugural flights.
Marie-France Delattre, a professional photographer from Nantes, France, plans to spend 24 days in Utah and Wyoming shooting the mountain landscapes.
"It was quite fast," Delattre said of the flight, adding that the last time she came to Utah, she flew to Los Angeles, rented a car and drove to southern Utah.
Passengers Freifrau and Peter von Steinacker said a layover in Salt Lake didn't make much of a difference in their travel plans. The couple were traveling home to Nice, France, from Palm Springs, Calif. They would have had the same number of transfers if they had flown directly to Paris from Los Angeles as they would flying to Salt Lake City.
Randy Hales, chief executive officer of Orem-based Mity-Lite, a furniture manufacturer, needed to be on the Monday flight in order to attend a ribbon cutting at a new Mity-Lite facility in Germany. From Paris, he plans to take a high-speed train to Germany."This is perfect," he said. "From Paris it's about a two-hour train ride to where we're going," he said.