H-SANTA MARIA

Jul 15, 2013 7:32 PM by April Hansen, KSBY News

SM airport wants flights to Denver

How do you get from the Central Coast to the East Coast?

It often takes a couple connections, but the Santa Maria Airport is trying to change that.

It wants to add Denver to its list of destinations, making it a gateway to the East.

Airport officials are offering $1 million in incentives in hopes of attracting an airline to make that happen.

"We continue to see our city grow and see our businesses grow and we feel that the air service needs to build with that," said Christ Hastert, Santa Maria Airport General Manager.

Hastert says in order to support this growth, the airport needs a gateway to the east.

"A great portion of our passengers are flying east," said Hastert.

So, the airport wants to offer flights to Denver and is working with several carriers right now, but Hastert says it's a challenge because air travel has changed.

"There have been a lot of bankruptcies and mergers," said Hastert.

To attract airline interest, the Santa Maria Airport increased its so-called Airlines Support Program to $1 million.

It guarantees a new airline revenue if they provide service from Santa Maria to Denver.

"It got their attention, but didn't seem to get the reaction we were hoping for," said Hastert.

He says it may be a tough sell because it would be the first time the airport would offer a flight to Denver.

"It's an improvement and progress," said Kandance Korn, a local flier.

Korn says it's a great idea.

"Denver is a metropolitan area," said Korn.

Hastert says he hopes an airline will seize this opportunity and support the growth of air travel on the Central Coast.

Half of the $1 million incentive is from a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration and the rest is funds matched by the Santa Maria Airport.

Hastert says the airport will meet with airline officials again in the fall.

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