SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Santa Barbara Airport will have a new airline providing flights in 2021.
On Wednesday morning, Santa Barbara Airport announced Southwest Airlines is coming to the airport, starting the second quarter of 2021.
Santa Barbara City Mayor Cathy Murillo calls this a "game changer for our entire region".
“This news couldn’t come at a better time,” said Murillo. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, and Southwest will come to Santa Barbara just as we all are eager to travel again.”
Southwest provides connecting service to more than 100 destinations in the U.S.
The Airport says the arrival of the airline is a result of many years of effort from members of the Santa Barbara community, city leaders, the hospitality industry, local businesses and the education sector.
This year, Santa Barbara Airport has had to suspend or delay service to multiple cities due to plummeting demand during the pandemic. But this could be a sign of a smoother year ahead.
Airport Director Henry Thompson says Southwest will drive carrier competition, creating a better environment for travelers.
“I think what this does is it gives us reason to be optimistic about 2021,” Thompson said. “More flight options, more frequency. Probably improved pricing on ticketing from the airport. So just very huge benefits all around… I think you’ll see a recovery begin to occur at a much faster pace than we’ve been seeing.”
Airport leaders hope demand will soar again once COVID-19 vaccines are widely available. But the airline could also inject life back into the local economy--bringing new travelers to the region, enhancing its claim as a premier business and tourism destination.
“Investment like this in our community definitely gives us a shot in the arm,” said South Coast Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kristen Miller, who says local leaders have been "wooing" Southwest for at least five years. “Particularly, business travelers appreciate the Southwest prices, their schedule and their regional approach to their flights.”
An independent analysis of a recent forecast by the University of California, Santa Barbara estimated that new service by Southwest may generate as many as 1,200 new jobs and more than $300 million in annual economic benefit for the South Coast.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled on behalf of our local businesses and higher education. The economic benefit is enormous, and it will give us the boost we need as business recovers in 2021,” Miller said.
Southwest will announce the number of daily flights and the destinations that will be served in the coming weeks.