In a sign of a gradual resurgence of commercial air travel from Santa Barbara Airport, officials announced Tuesday that Alaska Airlines was adding a daily flight to San Diego this fall.
New flights were planned earlier this year, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, which caused the airline to have a dent in passenger traffic.
From November 20, Alaska 76 Western will fly Embraer 175 jet aircraft between the two cities.
The hour-long flights will depart San Diego International Airport at 3:05 pm, and depart for Santa Barbara on the return journey at 4:45 pm
“For anyone in Santa Barbara, traveling to San Diego is a six to eight-hour drive through Los Angeles,” said airport director Henry Thompson. “But now, one of the best places for both business and leisure is within reach.”
Currently Alaska is offering daily flight flights to and from Seattle and to Portland via Santa Rosa.
Tuesday’s announcement has slowly recovered as airline traffic at Santa Barbara Airport.
After shedding about 95% of its passenger traffic in the first two months, the airport has seen a nearly 25% general increase in passenger numbers in recent weeks, according to Dinnna Zakrison, the airport’s business development manager.
This past Sunday, the airport tallied 447 passengers, while on the same Sunday in 2019, the count was 1,949 passengers.
“We are slowly gaining momentum …” Zachrisson told Noozhawk. “Although, (COVID-19) cases have ticked, we have seen a bit of a plateau at about 4 passengers per day.”
In another part of the good news, United Airlines is adding a second daily flight to embark on the Decent Sept 2, Zakrison said, and will add early morning flights to San Francisco.
United has not indicated that it will resume flights from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles International Airport, which primarily serve as connectors to more distant destinations.
“A lot of the reasons United Lacks (from Santa Barbara) do, they are connecting to other places,” Zachrison said. “The longer the flight, the more difficult the airlines have to sell them. People feel fine sitting in a plane for two or two-and-a-half hours, but it is not so if it is five or six hours. ”
American Airlines, which had the best performance at Santa Barbara Airport in June, continues to fly daily to Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.
Delta Airlines has suspended its service between Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City on July 7, and has not indicated that those flights are likely to resume.
“It’s too early to get a commitment to get back in service,” Zakrisen said. “If the economy is not looking better from now on at the end of September, the suspension will probably be prolonged.”
Contour Airlines, which was flying small regional jets between Santa Barbara and Sacramento, Oakland and Las Vegas, has not indicated when it might return to the market.
Zachrisson said Contour is actively looking at how traffic is doing on a daily basis. “They are a small carrier, so when there is demand they need to come back to the market.”
General aviation activity has increased, Zacharson said, although it did not have a specific number.
“I think it’s probably what we’re seeing on Freeways,” he said. “For some time, no one was out, but now a lot of people are out and about.”
Looking ahead, Zrrisson said, the state of the commercial airline appears to be stable, while the future is uncertain.
“I think we’re looking all the way to see if this latest uptake of COVID has any impact …” she said. “We just want to see if there is any kind of detrimental effect. It’s a slow growth. Another 6% increase last week.”
Zachrisson said that there has been a high level of cooperation at the airport terminal between both passengers and staff for precautions related to COVID-19 – wearing masks, social distance and hand cleaning.
He said that as an exception, some passengers have come by plane from areas where the use of masks is not prevalent, “but usually they quickly cross through the terminal and leave.”