The nonstop service to and from Portland will continue through Aug. 25, according to Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing.
“This new route gives our customers easy access to some of the most popular summer markets,” he said in a news release.
Charles de L’Arbe of the Santa Barbara Travel Bureau said the bureau often uses the Seattle service, and that he would like to see the Portland service offered year-round as well to avoid the sporadic weather-related runway closures at the San Francisco Airport.
“Personally, I would love to see it offered year-round, but the airlines are getting fairly nimble with putting flights on a seasonal basis,” de L’Arbe said.
But as the bankrupt American Airlines considers a merger with US Airways, airports small and large probably won’t add many — if any — routes and flights, said Chris Hastert of the Santa Maria Airport.
“The airline industry is in a difficult time right now,” he told Noozhawk last month. “With the American bankruptcy, we’re not seeing much expansion in smaller and larger airports. There’s not much expansion route wise for major carriers. American scaled back quite a bit in Santa Barbara and cut itself entirely out of San Luis Obispo. It may not have as much to do with market’s ability to fill planes than the shrinking fleet size.”
Delta Air Lines posted a smaller-than-expected gain in May revenue and load factor. The airline said Monday that it predicted a 7 percent growth in per-seat passenger revenue, but it increased only 6 percent last month.
The Santa Barbara Airport supports five major airlines, including United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines and US Airways. The SBA and the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce are pushing for a direct flight to San Jose, SBA Assistant Airport Director Hazel Johns said.
United offered a flight to San Jose from Santa Barbara until about 10 years ago, when SkyWest filled the void. But SkyWest cut the flight in February 2010 because of low occupancy, according to Johns.
“The surveys indicate that if the service were available, they would use it,” she said.
While United recently expanded its Santa Barbara routes to Denver, many small airports have been losing flights, including Oxnard, which lost three United flights late last year. Santa Barbara previously supported flights to Salt Lake City, Dallas and Houston.
The SBA expects a 5 percent increase in occupancy this summer and has had fewer seats available than in 2007, Johns said. While airport officials are excited for the two-hour flight to Portland, it’s difficult to read the overall state of the airline industry, Johns said.
“There’s been a hesitancy in the community with the economy and what’s happening next,” she told Noozhawk last month. “Once we complete our construction project for our new terminal (around July), it will benefit.”