A new ride-sharing flight service designed to connect the local business community to the Silicon Valley soon will launch from the Santa Barbara Airport.
The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce and its Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet (GEM) initiative have partnered with a private charter company to develop the Santa Barbara Airshare program, which would allow locals to book direct flights to San Jose, Sacramento and San Diego.
The online platform for the air service offered via Santa Barbara Aviation is nearing completion, with official program launch expected in the coming months.
Santa Barbara Airshare reinstates a regular direct flight to San Jose — something the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce has been working to bring back since commercial airlines canceled the service in June 2010.
“It’s a huge savings,” said Kristen Miller, chamber president/CEO. “We don’t want to be Silicon Valley. … We are where we are for a reason. But to be able to connect with those people a little more easily, it’s just an added tool for our local economy.”
Miller told Noozhawk the idea of the program is to allow users to “be master of their own universe,” employing a username to search the online platform for dates and times when others are planning to fly or to create and then book their own preferred flights.
A day trip to San Jose would be about $800, but fares would vary depending on the number of passengers in the seven-seat private charter.
Miller said the ride-sharing program is directly in line with the mission of GEM, which is the chamber’s year-old partnership with the City of Goleta and UC Santa Barbara to attract and foster local tech start-up businesses.
“As GEM was being formed, this was in the top three things the entrepreneurs told us they needed,” she said. “It’s one of the most exciting things we’ve been working on.”
While the website nears completion, Miller said, chamber members have been meeting with UCSB employees and local business people to better design flights that are comparable in price or cheaper than commercial travel.
Sheridan Rosenberg, who founded Santa Barbara Aviation with her husband, Max, in 1999, said the new direct service will eliminate a lot of stress for travelers who would no longer have to pay for overnight stays or rental cars, not to mention cutting down on time spent away from the office.
The flexibility of the pay-as-you-go model means fliers also don’t have to worry about committing to a monthly membership, she added.
“It’s a terrific value,” Rosenberg said, noting a likely overlap with current clients. “It’s very burdensome for people to travel in and out of Santa Barbara, especially out of the Bay Area or down to Orange County for business.
"In some ways, it’s just really impossible. I’d really like to open it up so it’s not so exclusive. This is something that’s really for our community.”