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Santa Barbara Airport adds flights, sees strong pandemic recovery

Southwest Airlines is adding a new daily service from Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) to Sacramento (SMF) starting June 5.
Santa Barbara Airport
Southwest Airlines is adding a new daily service from Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) to Sacramento (SMF) starting June 5.

More than two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Santa Barbara Airport, or SBA, says it’s seeing a strong economic recovery.

The airport announced the return of a seasonal non-stop flight to Chicago starting June 3. It will be SBA’s first red-eye flight, leaving at 11:45 p.m. every night over the summer except Saturdays.

The airport is also permanently adding a new daily 10 a.m. flight to Sacramento starting June 5 and increasing flight services to Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Angi Daus is the marketing supervisor at SBA. She said the addition of these new services is a testament to the successful pandemic recovery of the airport.

“Our recovery has been phenomenal," Daus said. "It’s been very quick. We did not predict it to be this quick but we’re happy to report it.”

Daus said SBA has been seeing recovery since about March of 2021. She said the airport has seen record travel numbers as one of the fastest recovering airports in the nation.

“Actually, December of 2021 we had a record high of all time out of our passenger terminal, which was just over 2,100 passengers in one day,” Daus said.

She said if the airport continues on track with passenger numbers this year, SBA is expected to exceed one million passengers.

“And that’ll be a record year for Santa Barbara,” Daus said.

She said there are still some flights that were stopped during the pandemic that have not been brought back yet.

“We did lose our Delta service to Salt Lake City," Daus said. "We don’t expect to get that back in this calendar year.”

Though, Daus said, things could change. SBA still offers a number of flights to airports that connect to Salt Lake City.

Daus said an increase in travelers may result in longer lines at SBA on the weekends. She said it’s best to arrive early and travelers can already book ahead for summer trips on these newly offered flights.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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