The major airline carrier announced the change would be effective April 1, and was a product of the nationwide restructuring of routes due to American’s merger with US Airways.
“US Airways will continue to offer American Airline customers access to SBA from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport,” said Matt Miller, an American Airlines spokesman.
American has offered L.A. flights from Santa Barbara since 1984, and the elimination means seven flights to the major city (operated by United Airlines) instead of 11, according to Acting Airport Director Hazel Johns.
She said American made up 13 percent of passengers frequently flying out of Santa Barbara.
Passengers already booked on American Airlines via Los Angeles after April 1 were encouraged to contact American directly at 800.433.7300.
“Anytime there’s a merger, there’s always going to be a possibility of changes,” Johns told Noozhawk. “Since they’re still serviced by American through the merger, we anticipate a majority of those passengers will just flow to the new airline structure and make connections through Phoenix instead of Santa Barbara. Most passengers flying to L.A. aren’t getting off in Los Angeles.”
The Santa Barbara Airport offers five flights to Phoenix on American/US Airways, and the routes will allow passengers access to 60 percent more daily departures than from L.A., Johns said.
Beginning in April, the merged airline will operate an average of 281 daily departures to 75 nonstop markets from PHX, compared with a daily average of 174 daily departures to 50 nonstop markets from LAX.
For domestic service, the airline will operate an average of 260 daily departures to 63 nonstop markets from PHX, as opposed to a daily average of 167 daily departures to 44 nonstop markets from PHX.
Johns said the major airline mergers have become more popular in recent years to stave off bankruptcy, citing Delta’s takeover of Northwest Airlines.
She said the change would have a to-be-determined impact on the airport budget, but nothing “catastrophic.”
The more passengers who fly out of Santa Barbara, Johns said, the better the airport’s chances of not losing more flights.
“Without the market," she said, "it’s difficult to attract new service or improve our service.”