SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Many are hesitant to return to flying during the COVID-19 pandemic, but not everyone is waiting. Santa Barbara Airport has gradually seen more activity through the summer months after a very quiet spring.
Those taking to the skies now can expect a different-looking travel experience.
“We want to create an experience that is safe and healthy and clean, but also low anxiety-inducing,” Santa Barbara Airport marketing coordinator Angi Daus said Wednesday. “To make it as easy as possible to get through the terminal.”
Face coverings are required at the airport, with added signage inside and outside the terminal. Passengers may be asked to briefly remove their mask to show their face at the TSA security checkpoint.
Large, glass barriers are now installed at check-in counters, gate boarding podiums, rental car counters and other areas where passengers would interact with someone. Airport spokesperson Deanna Zachrisson says those glass barriers are likely a permanent addition, expected to stay even after the pandemic subsides.
Past security, tables, chairs and other common areas are being cleaned more frequently. Additional hand sanitizer dispensers have been added throughout the terminal. Seats at the airport's restaurant are now more spaced out as well.
At the gate, passengers scan their own boarding passes, or a gate agent will use a handheld scanning device.
Check-in and other queue areas are spaced out by stickers on the floor to allow for distancing.
“Unfortunately we’ve lost some [airline] service out of Santa Barbara,” Daus said. “But that’s allowed us to spread out even more in our little airport here.”
A steep drop in demand led to some routes leaving SBA. The airport is operating at about 30 percent capacity compared to last year. So far, the airport's busiest day during the pandemic came on Labor Day with 660 passengers; Daus says a pre-COVID peak day would bring nearly 2,000 passengers to the airport.
But passengers and service are gradually returning. Alaska Airlines will offer direct flights to San Diego beginning Nov. 20.
More flights could be added in the coming months, while Daus says the airport expects passenger numbers to continue to grow through the holiday season.
To learn more about traveling safely through SBA during the pandemic, you can click here.