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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 4:51 am | Fair 43º


Mokulele Airlines Plans to Switch Santa Maria Flights to Burbank Instead of LAX

Hawaii-based island hopper started serving Santa Maria last October

Mokulele Airlines will be dropping flights between Santa Maria Public Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, and instead will fly to and from Hollywood Burbank Airport, reportedly as soon as September. Click to view larger
Mokulele Airlines will be dropping flights between Santa Maria Public Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, and instead will fly to and from Hollywood Burbank Airport, reportedly as soon as September. (Contributed photo)

An airline carrying passengers between Santa Maria and Southern California plans to land at a different airport in hopes of boosting ridership.

Mokulele Airlines will be dropping flights between Santa Maria Public Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, and instead will fly to and from Hollywood Burbank Airport, reportedly as soon as September.

“We approved them to switch to Burbank. They’re still working out the details,” said Chris Hastert, general manager of the Santa Maria airport.

A smaller airport, Burbank still has multiple connections to other airlines, Hastert said.

However, the Burbank airport is expected to have fewer postponements than those encountered at the extremely busy LAX, which deals with delays blamed on a heavy air traffic.

“Hopefully it’s going to drastically improve reliability,” Hastert said. 

Low passenger numbers have prompted the push to switch airports, he added.

The airport board recently approved extending an agreement with Mokulele Airlines to guarantee revenue up to $250,000.

That will push the total approved, not handed over, to Mokulele to $925,000. On June 23, the airport’s revenue subsidy amounted to a payment of $50,000.

While an announcement about the switch is pending final approvals, the new destination appears on Mokulele’s online schedules through outside vendors such as Expedia and Travelocity. 

The airline’s own website does not allow any reservations between SMX and LAX beyond Aug. 31, but has not yet listed Burbank. 

As part of its expansion to the mainland, Hawaii-based Mokulele Airlines began flights at the Santa Maria airport in October, starting up as United Airlines stopped serving the northern Santa Barbara County community.

Mokulele employs 9-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan single-engine airplanes, much smaller than the regional jets used by United Express or the 19-passenger turboprop planes it previously used.

In May, Mokulele airline reported 55 flights, with a passenger load factor of 47 percent for actual flights, according to Santa Maria. For scheduled flights, the load factor was lower or 39 percent.

Load factor refers to available seats that are filled with paying passengers. Scheduled flights can be canceled due to assorted reasons.

Allegiant, which provided 14 flights between Santa Maria and Las Vegas, had a load factor of 73 percent.

Last September, Allegiant reported a load factor of 86 percent while United Express, then serving Santa Maria with regional jets, had a 67 percent load factor. 

Mokulele logged 245 passengers in April and 231 in May, for a drop of 6 percent.

Likewise, Allegiant saw a reduction for the same period. 

Santa Maria airport leaders have battled declining air service even while nearby Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo — both county seats and university towns — have seen added flights and destinations.

To help attract customers, Santa Maria continues to provide free parking for passengers.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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