The Santa Barbara Airport is bringing one of the most flown airlines in the world to its hangars. Southwest Airlines will begin offering flights in and out of Santa Barbara starting some time in the new year, giving the region an economic boost.
“It was like the Dodgers winning the World Series. I was like, ‘Woo!’” exclaimed Cathy Murillo, Santa Barbara’s mayor.
Murillo has lived in Santa Barbara her entire adult life and says the arrival of Southwest was perfect timing for great news.
“People are at home right now. I think they’re cooped up. When they’re able to catch an airplane to visit their sister, their friends, have fun, they’re looking forward to doing that,” said Murillo.
Kathy Janega-Dykes, Visit Santa Barbara President and CEO, says one of the main reasons Southwest chose Santa Barbara was a change in their business model; the airline is now looking at destinations and regions with a strong leisure and tourism base.
“This announcement really increases access to Santa Barbara. It drives down the cost of travel to get here,” said Janega-Dykes. “This certainly makes our destination more competitive for all types of travel; visiting friends and family, vacationers, meeting attendees when we’re able to start booking conferences, and business travel.”
The addition of Southwest to SBA is expected to bring an influx of travelers from more destinations, giving the local economy an estimated $300 million annual boost and around 1,200 jobs. That $300 million estimate includes direct airport spending, the added jobs, and supplementary leisure spending.
Kristen Miller, Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, says the forecast of the local economy, once a sense of normalcy is restored, isn’t all that bad.
“No one expects the first quarter of next year to be very robust, but after that, we feel like business can resume more normally,” said Miller. “We’re hoping by the summer, if we’re able to gather in person, that will add several of the layers we need to bring back our local jobs and the economy.”
Destinations and flight schedules have yet to be determined, but Southwest is expected to release those after the 1st of the year.