Stairs and escalators leading to the gates at the Santa Barbara Airport.
Travelers at the Santa Barbara Airport soon will be able to fly directly to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. American Airlines is adding seasonal nonstop service starting May 8. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara soon will have direct flights to the Windy City, as American Airlines plans to start seasonal, nonstop service to Chicago this spring.

American, which currently offers daily flights to Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth from Santa Barbara, will start the new Chicago service on May 8, Deanna Zachrisson, the Santa Barbara Airport’s business development manager, confirmed to Noozhawk.

The flights, presumably aimed at the leisure-travel market, will be on Saturdays and Sundays between May and September, Zachrisson said.

American plans to use Airbus A319 jetliners — a twin-engine aircraft that can seat 124 to 156 passengers, depending on the configuration.

The flights will depart O’Hare International Airport in Chicago at 9:50 a.m. with a noon arrival in Santa Barbara, then turn around for a 5:45 p.m arrival in Chicago, Zachrisson said.

The new Santa Barbara service is part of an expansion by American in the Chicago market that includes service to Fresno; Billings, Montana; Spokane, Washington; and Nantucket, Massachusetts.

In the fall of 2019, United Airlines announced it was instituting daily red-eye service between Santa Barbara and Chicago O’Hare, scheduled to start in June 2020, but those plans were scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

United has not announced whether or when it intends to institute the Santa Barbara-Chicago route, but Zachrisson said the carrier is now eyeing daytime flights rather than the red-eyes.

United currently flies from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and Denver. It canceled its daily service to Los Angeles International Airport last spring as the pandemic took hold, and it’s not known when those flights might resume.

In related news, Southwest Airlines plans to hold a job fair next month to hire 25 to 30 employees as part of its entry into the Santa Barbara market, Zachrisson said.

The no-frills airline announced in January that it would begin service to Las Vegas, Oakland and Denver from Santa Barbara on April 12, flying its trademark 737 aircraft.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.