New Flights at Santa Barbara Airport Show Travel Demand Rebounding Post-COVID

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Santa Barbara Airport is adding two new flights this weekend.

United begins nonstop service to Chicago tonight and Southwest Airlines will begin flights to Sacramento Sunday morning.

Angi Daus, Santa Barbara Airport’s information and marketing manager, said demand for flights to these destinations has increased.

The trip to Chicago was on the schedule last year and the flights were scheduled from June to September. That’s the plan so far this year, but there are indicators the service could continue beyond that timeframe into 2022.

“We’re hoping for great success to show United that the Santa Barbara community wants to travel and use the O’Hare hub to go anywhere in the world, but people from the Midwest also want to come to Santa Barbara. “Daus said.

The flight from Chicago is a red eye. It will depart at 11:45 p.m. and arrive at 5:00 a.m. Chicago time.

The flight is available every day except Saturday.

The Sacramento will be a daily flight departing at 10:00 a.m. for the trip which will take approximately one hour.

It’s a permanent addition as Southwest has expanded to four destinations from Santa Barbara.

Daus said, “when they come and set a route, they set a route and they’re here to stay.”

All passengers on the inaugural flights will receive some kind of Santa Barbara gift or treat, which for the night flight will be cookies and milk.

For the travelers we spoke to at the waterfront, the excitement is back even with some lingering concerns about COVID.

Eve Veronneu is a Quebec visitor who arrived via Los Angeles. “We bought our ticket in March and I didn’t think I could travel, and I was comfortable enough to do so.”

As much as people indicate they want to get out and hit the road for some, they’ll have to budget. The price for a fill-up is now about $25 more than what we paid a year and a half ago. “

Artist Marilyn Simandle, a former resident living in Alabama, has now said, “I actually travel less by plane and more by car.” Gas prices where she lives are about $2.50 less than they are on her trip to California. “In Alabama it’s 3.94.”

Travel and tourism analysts say domestic numbers are up with a busy summer ahead and interest in international travel is also rebounding
Donnie George said that in addition to his trip to California, he had other plans and didn’t want to wait any longer. “I want to get up and do something. When we got married seven years ago, she introduced me to Europe,” he said with his wife.

Veronneu traveled with COVID safety in mind. “We are very careful with the masks and with the hand sanitizers and wipes,” she said.

Rising numbers of travelers mean there are likely to be issues including staff shortages at many levels, from hotels to restaurants to airports. Almost all travel and hospitality sectors reported a shortage of workers ahead of the summer.

Daus says the Santa Barbara airport is sometimes considered very easy to get to and travelers don’t need to spend extra time. She says these days it is not true. Having adequate ramp-up time to park and go through the TSA is critical to performing your flights with the type of passenger influx that is occurring.