Jet bridge at Santa Barbara airport.
The Santa Barbara Airport has added a fourth jet bridge to connect its termimal with larger aircraft that airlines are using now. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport has installed its fourth jet bridge to accommodate larger airplanes and growing passenger counts.

“We have increased our capacity fairly dramatically,” airport business development manager Deanna Zachrisson told Noozhawk. “All of our airlines are flying larger aircraft than they have in the past.”

The jet bridge connects the planes to the terminal and cost about $1 million, which was funded primarily through a Federal Aviation Administration grant.

Airport interest from major airlines diminished after the 2008 recession, and didn’t pick up again until about 2016, Zachrisson said.

The new jet bridge was part of the original approval of the airport terminal expansion. The City of Santa Barbara waited to purchase it until passenger counts went up and airline interest rekindled.

The jet bridge allows the airlines to move passengers directly to and from the terminal and the aircraft. Previously, the airport would rotate the other three jet bridges to accommodate the airlines.

“It gives us more capacity,” Zachrisson said. “It gives us more options to get people on a plane more quickly.”

The jet bridges allow passengers to walk directly to the planes from the gates, rather than walk down or up stairs to board.

“It’s much quicker,” Zachrisson said. “It’s a more direct route.”

The jet bridge was constructed in Utah, with glass sides, and “the second you get off, you see the mountains,” she said.

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines fly 737s and Airbus A319s to Seattle, Portland, Dallas and Denver, and the sizes of those planes benefit from the new jet bridge.

Zachrisson said the growth of the airport is part of the airlines’ — and passengers’ — acknowledgement that Santa Barbara presents a unique offering.

“The airports to our south, LAX and Burbank primarily, those airports are maxed out to capacity,” Zachrisson said. “There’s not a lot of opportunity there. It is more advantageous to fly out of Santa Barbara.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.