H-SANTA MARIA

Nov 14, 2013 7:08 PM by April Hansen, KSBY

Central Coast airports hope to add Denver as a flight option

Santa Maria and San Luis Airport officials have been actively campaigning for months to make Denver an option for Central Coast travelers.

They want the stop so it can be a gateway for flyers heading to the East Coast.

Santa Maria Airport's General Manager and his team plan to meet with United Airlines executives next week. They will be presenting a $1 million incentive package, which could add Denver to the airport's list of flights and give passengers access to more than 200 destinations.

Denver has been on the minds of Santa Maria Airport officials for years.

"With Vandenberg Air Force being here we have a tie to Colorado and Colorado Springs and then eastbound service to Florida for Vandenberg and just the other destinations for other companies here in Santa Maria," said Santa Maria General Manager Chris Hastert.

The decision will now come down to one meeting.

"We hope the more information we provide for them, the more we make our case for Denver service, and the more they will pay attention to Santa Maria," said Hastert.

He says competition for more air services is tough.

"Just locally here we compete with San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, but that's a small portion of the competition. We are really competing with the nation," said Hastert.

The San Luis Obispo Airport just recently got the rest of its funding for its $1.5 million package to also look into flights to the Mile High City.

Supervisor Adam Hill says the funding is a combination of federal grants, county money and private donations by local businesses.

Some Central Coast travelers say they welcome flight options.

"To be able to fly out of the smaller airport would be really nice," said Lisa Young.

"For me it was more convenient with where I live. It just seemed like an easier place to get access from than Santa Barbara," said Alaina Young.

Hastert says right now, to get to east coast cities, many travelers in this area drive to major airports like LAX and San Francisco because there are fewer connections. He says they hope a Denver flight would attract more people to travel out of their local airport.

The Santa Maria Airport also hopes to bring back Allegiant's Hawaii flights. Direct service to the Aloha State started last year, but the flights took a hiatus when the peak summer season was over.

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