Sonoma County Airport draws praise with new terminal and upgrades

As the busy holiday air travel season starts, the Sonoma County Airport is ramping up big time to become a real option for future holiday travel, business folks, and wind country tourists.

Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport recently opened a new, terminal, departure lounge and baggage area as part of an ongoing $40 million modernization. The theme of the renovation — the beloved Peanuts characters, in honor of the airport's namesake.

Everything is new, including two passenger friendly security lanes, and new baggage carousels.

"It's absolutely beautiful. Getting the 737's (Boeing aircraft) in here is phenomenal. It's beautiful," said passenger Lois Smith.

"Last time they just had a tent more of less, a blow up tent for a staging area. Yeah, it looks a lot nicer and TSA looks a little better too than what it was before," added another passenger Bill Anderson.

Even though some 9,000 air passengers come to the North Bay daily, more than 90% use other airports like SFO and the Oakland International.

"We consider our market really San Rafael north and if you look at the drive time, that makes sense for us. In that area, there's about 860,000 people," said airport manager Jon Stout.

But this gives this airport opportunities to lure in airlines and compete for future passengers

"They are interested in our market, and we do continue those discussions, and we are looking at new opportunities like Chicago or Boise and also up gauging and increasing frequency with our current carriers," said Stout.

"I had been flying into Sacramento and driving over. And, now, with the way the airport has grown, I'm coming directly in," said Smith.

Currently Alaska, American, and a new carrier, Avelo, operate out of the Sonoma airport.