Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 10:57 am | Overcast 59º


Local News

Allegiant Makes Inaugural Hawaii Flight from Santa Maria

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

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.

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.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

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.

Sign Up Now >