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Santa Barbara Airport, Goleta Chamber Pushing to Reinstate Nonstop Flights to San Jose

Public and business support as well as participation in an online survey are needed to help make the case with airlines

The Santa Barbara Airport is pushing to reinstate nonstop flights to San Jose.

In a time when some airports are cutting services, the SBA and the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce are asking for the public’s support to persuade airliners to add flights.

“This work has been ongoing since the service was discontinued, but we need additional information to support our business case with the airlines,” GVCC President and CEO Kristen Miller said. “We need your help by responding to the questions regarding your travel to/from San Jose.”

United Airlines offered a flight from Santa Barbara to San Jose until about 10 years ago, when SkyWest filled the void. But SkyWest cut the flight in February 2010 because of low occupancy, according to SBA Assistant Director Hazel Johns.

“It was a low load factor, in the 30 percent range,” she said. “Even though they were charging fairly high fares they weren’t making enough money, so SkyWest pulled the service and since then the community has been asking for it to be reinstated. So we’re asking businesses in town to see if there’s support out there.”

Many small airports such as SBA have been losing flights, including Oxnard, which lost three United flights late last year.

As of Wednesday, jet fuel was going for $3.18 a gallon, a 13.4 percent hike year-to-date, according to the International Air Transport Association. Johns said profit margins are getting slimmer and slimmer.

“Airlines are cutting back for a lot of reasons, and certainly fuel cost is a major one that has been going on since 2008,” said Johns, adding that it’s up to an airliner’s discretion. “When the economy turned there were major cutbacks, and airlines are assessing new fees to assist profit and loss.”

The Santa Barbara Airport is pushing for one 70-person, round-trip flight to San Jose, and SBA needs to prove that at least 75 percent of those seats will be filled. The SBA and chamber are trying to minimize the airline’s risk by polling how often a business flies to San Jose and if it would be willing to pre-purchase flights, Miller said.

“We need three things — people to fill out the survey to prove to the airlines that it’s not just me saying there’s demand, indicate if you would participate in promoting the flights and actually put in money for San Jose trips,” she said.

Much of the demand has stemmed from the local high-tech community and university. Miller said the nonstop flights to San Jose have directly correlated to the area’s growth and business people have been impacted by the loss.

“From the chamber’s perspective, it’s vital to economic development. As we continue to grow Goleta’s high-tech clusters, those businesses tell us they need connectivity to San Jose,” said Miller, adding that the time of the flight’s departure is critical to its success.

The Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission also expressed interest in direct San Jose flights, according to Miller.

“Business is business, and we’re all connected,” she said.

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Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik 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.

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