Sunday, May 29 , 2016, 4:20 pm | Overcast 63º

Allegiant Makes Inaugural Hawaii Flight from Santa Maria

Santa Maria Public Airport provides food, hula dancers for first passengers bound for Honolulu

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Lori and Rick Bienkowski sat side-by-side in the Santa Maria Public Airport terminal Saturday afternoon, necks adorned with colorful leis and eyes fixed on an animated group of local Hawaiian hula dancers.

The Santa Maria couple, who wore leis from their trip to Hawaii three years ago, were excited to be among the 200 plus passengers to board the inaugural nonstop Allegiant Air flight to Hawaii from Santa Maria.

“We’re celebrating our sixth anniversary,” said a smiling Lori Bienkowski. “Gotta get in the spirit ahead of time. How nice is this?”

Nearby, singing and smiling hula dancers of Hoapili Pomaika’I Aloha — translation means “Friends blessed with love” — danced for hours while passengers waited to board the flight.

Airport officials arranged for Zoe’s Hawaiian Barbecue to cater a free meal and Red Dirt Coffee House to offer local Hawaiian brew.

Lori Bienkowski said they were grateful to board the Santa Maria flight instead of driving south to LAX.

“Saving the six hours and parking is a lot,” she said. “This is wonderful. We love Hawaii.”

Outside, beneath a gray sky and light rain, crews prepared a Boeing 757 jetliner that will fly weekly from Santa Maria to Honolulu — making the city one of four in the West to boast the Allegiant flight.

Santa Maria Airport general manager Chris Hastert said everything was running smoothly and according to plan Saturday, which wasn’t a surprise considering crews had already done three dry runs to familiarize themselves with the airport and the new equipment required for the larger aircraft.

An Allegiant Air 757 sits on the tarmac at the Santa Maria Public Airport on Saturday prior to the airline's first flight to Hawaii from Santa Maria. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
An Allegiant Air 757 sits on the tarmac at the Santa Maria Public Airport on Saturday prior to the airline’s first flight to Hawaii from Santa Maria. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

At last count, 207 passengers and a few standbys were set to board the plane that seats 223 instead of the usual 150.

Hastert said the airport is excited that Allegiant, which already flies regularly to Las Vegas from Santa Maria, is the first airline to announce more service since the airport’s runway expansion.

“Couldn’t be happier,” said Hastert, adding that the airport is in talks to add more eastbound flights. “We would definitely like to expand our service.”

“What better day could you send people off to Hawaii?” he said, looking out at the rain-covered runway.

Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said she was glad to see the smiling faces of so many passengers, many of whom showed up more than two hours before the 4:35 p.m. flight time.

“I think they’re just so excited to go to Hawaii,” Wheeler said. “Anytime we have a new flight, we try to make a big deal out of it. We think it’s a good match.”

She said anyone who books a one-way, nonstop flight to Honolulu before next Saturday will pay just $135.

The Hawaiian community in Santa Maria is also grateful for the added flight, said Trini Martinez of Santa Maria.

He was at the airport Saturday taking pictures of his wife, Elizabeth, and her hula group.

Martinez and his wife, who is half-Hawaiian, travel back to the state at least twice a year. He said they’ll be taking advantage of the Santa Maria flight in January.

“I just think it’s great,” Martinez said. “A lot of the Hawaiian people in Santa Maria are excited about it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.