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New flights at the Santa Barbara Airport show travel demand is returning strong after COVID

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Airport is adding two new flights this weekend.

United begins non-stop service to Chicago tonight and Southwest Airlines will start flights to Sacramento Sunday morning.

Santa Barbara Airport Information and Marketing official Angi Daus says demand has been increasing for flights to these destinations.

The trip to Chicago was on the schedule last year and flights were scheduled from June to September. That is the plan so far this year, but there are indicators the service could continue beyond that timeline in 2022.

"We're hoping that  for some great success to show United that the Santa Barbara  community wants to  travel and utilize the O'Hare hub to get anywhere in the world but that people from the Midwest  want to come to Santa Barbara too," said Daus.

The Chicago flight is a redeye. It will leave at 11:45 p.m. and arrive at 5 a.m. Chicago time.

The flight is available every day except Saturday.

The Sacramento will be a daily flight leaving at 10:00 a.m. for the trip that will last about one hour.

It's a permanent addition as Southwest has grown to four destinations from Santa Barbara now.

Daus said, "when they come and they set a route, they set a route and they're here to stay."

All of the passengers on the inaugural flights will receive some type of Santa Barbara gift or a treat, which, for the overnight flight will be cookies and milk.

For travelers we talked to at the waterfront,  the enthusiasm is back even with some lingering COVID concerns.

Eve Veronneu is a visitor from Quebec who came in through Los Angeles. "We bought our ticket in March and I didn't believe I would be able to travel, and  I was comfortable enough to do it ."

As much as people indicate they want to get out and hit the road for some they will have to make a budget. The price for a fill up now  is about $25 dollars higher than what we paid a year and a half ago. "

Artist Marilyn Simandle a former resident living in in Alabama now said, "actually I am traveling less by air and more car." Gas prices where she lives are about $2.50 less than what they are on her California trip. "In Alabama it's 3.94."

Travel and tourism analysts say the domestic numbers are up with a busy summer ahead and the international travel interest is also now rebounding
Donnie George said in addition to his California trip, he has other plans and doesn't want to wait any longer. "I want to get up and do something.  When we got married seven years go she introduced me to Europe," he said with his wife.

Veronneu traveled with COVID safety in mind. "We are being very careful with the masks and with the  hand sanitizers and the wipes," she said.

The increase in travelers means there will likely be issues including dealing with the shortage of staff on many levels from the hotels, to restaurants, to airports. Nearly every sector of travel and hospitality has reported a shortage of workers going into the summer.

Daus says the Santa Barbara airport is sometimes viewed as very easy to go in and out of and travelers don't need to allocate extra time. She says these days that is not true. Having an adequate ramp up time to park and go through TSA is essential to make your flights with the type of passenger surge taking place.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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