Latter-day Saint apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf said he tried in his professional life as an aviation executive to get a nonstop flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Salt Lake City.
Uchtdorf, formerly in charge of flight operations at German air carrier Lufthansa, said he was met with resistance from those at the company who told him Utah’s capital was not a viable market.
“But it is,” Uchtdorf said in an interview Monday, “because it is a connection to the world.”
Uchtdorf’s aspirations of nonstop travel from Frankfurt to the Beehive State came to fruition Monday as Salt Lake City International Airport welcomed an Airbus from Eurowings Discover, a subsidiary of Lufthansa.
The airline will offer direct, nonstop flights between Salt Lake City and Frankfurt three times a week through Oct. 14. Service then is scheduled to resume next summer.
Uchtdorf, a former pilot who grew up in Germany and often speaks of his experiences in the cockpit during his sermons as an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said it is great for church members to travel to Europe, but it also is important for Europeans to have the opportunity to visit this part of the United States.
International travel, he said, is a tool to communicate with the world, and the nonstop flight will be a help in accomplishing that.
When travelers from abroad come to this part of the country for its access to renowned national parks, Uchtdorf said, they stay in Salt Lake City, where they connect with many who may be Latter-day Saints.
“And they might find out the Mormons are really real people,” he said. “They’re nice people. They’re not bad. And this way, communication and the reduction of biases, negative biases, can be overcome.”
As a pilot for Lufthansa, Uchtdorf would fly from Frankfurt to Los Angeles and tell his passengers about Salt Lake City and Utah as he passed over the valley,
“Whenever I would cross Salt Lake City, I explained, ‘There’s Temple Square,’” Uchtdorf said, adding in jest, “‘and there’s The Salt Lake Tribune, but don’t think about it.’”
At a reception celebrating the inaugural flight from Frankfurt, Uchtdorf said he never landed in Salt Lake City unless it was needed as an alternate airport to avoid trouble.
“So, finally, the time has come,” he told those in attendance. “And I’m grateful that this happened.”
Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, said at the reception that the Eurowings Discover service likely represents the first new international nonstop flight to Salt Lake City in 15 years.
“That’s largely because we just didn’t have any room,” Wyatt said. “(It’s) an important part of why we decided to build this beautiful, brand-new airport.
He expects the route to be popular and hopes to see service expanded in the future.
After landing about 1:45 p.m., the plane taxied to an international gate with an American flag waving outside one side of the cockpit and a German flag from the other.
Aboard the flight was Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who traveled abroad with other dignitaries from Utah to promote the Beehive State as a place for commerce. Henderson said the new nonstop service was one aspect the group highlighted.
“This will make things so much easier,” she said, “for people to do business and travel and enjoy themselves, and enjoy the leisure that this flight will bring.”