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Santa Barbara Airport sees increase in passenger numbers

The Santa Barbara Airport is staying as busy as ever. Departure gates are bustling with hordes of passengers flying out of Santa Barbara.

Airport officials say they’ve seen a strong increase in passengers over recent months, a 7 percent boost to be more precise. One possible attribution is the new nonstop service to Dallas, which began in June 2016.

American Airlines has seen a 16 percent increase in passenger numbers since the Dallas-Forth Worth service was enacted.

Both United and Alaska Airlines also benefited from the airport’s passenger boost. The airlines flew more passengers from June through September compared to a year ago. Both airlines have also increased their aircraft size to accommodate the greater passenger demand.

Airport officials say the annual projected 660,000 passengers for 2016 is still less than prior to the airlines mergers that occurred on the heels of the Great Recession of 2008, but the passenger increase is flying in the right direction for the first time since 2011.

“We’ve got the wind at our backs, and are capitalizing on this opportunity by visiting the major carriers on a sales tour to bring in even more service. It’s a very competitive environment but we are being aggressive and meeting with Delta, Southwest, Jet Blue and American in the coming months,” said Santa Barbara Airport Director Hazel Johns. “Successes like Southwest Airlines’ new service to Long Beach Airport prove that an even stronger market like Santa Barbara can support new service. We can compete favorably with many other airports because our newer facilities are efficient and cost-effective.”

And airport officials are not done yet. They hope to soon add more air carrier and flight options. With the assistance, of UC Santa Barbara researchers, a survey will be conducted on departing passengers to learn more about their travel habits and what they would like to see at the Santa Barbara Airport.

“We expect to hear that travelers want more air carrier and flight options, and lower fares,” said Johns. “And that is why we are working in partnership with Visit Santa Barbara and the business community to make the case for SBA with new carriers.”

The UCSB research is part of a larger effort to definitively expand the Santa Barbara Airport as the economic driver for tourism, academia, business and jobs in Santa Barbara.

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