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Santa Barbara Airport continues necessary flight operations, sees 96% passenger loss since mid-March

Posted at 5:34 AM, Apr 30, 2020

The Santa Barbara Airport is still up and running for all necessary travel, despite seeing a 96% loss of its passengers since mid-March.

This loss is a heavy impact from to the state's shelter-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic. The recent CARES Act assures that both airlines and airports remain operational, both during and after the pandemic.

Airport officials say all of their revenues have dried up; however, the airport has been awarded a federal $9.5 million grant to sustain operations until passengers return thanks to the CARES Act.

"The money we make from airlines and passengers assures that we can do everything from keeping the airfield lights on, mowing the grass around the runways, to making sure that every person who comes or goes from SBA does so safely," explains the airport's director, Henry Thompson. "We are grateful for the grant, because unlike the number of passengers, our costs to operate do not fluctuate much."

Congress recognized that leaving airports without any means of keeping the system going was not a reasonable option. The Act contained nearly $10 billion in funding for the nation's hundreds of commercial airports.

Congress was clear that the purpose of the funding is to save essential airport jobs and prevent airports from defaulting on their facility loans. Santa Barbara Airport plans to use the $9.5 million grant for that purpose.

Air travel is not anticipated to fully rebound from the pandemic for as much as a year or more, so nearly $5 million will be earmarked to pay for the airport's facility loans. The remainder will assure continued airport maintenance and secure at least 90% of essential airport jobs.