Tuesday, July 16, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 19
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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on July 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 19

Spotlight on: Santa Maria Public Airport, Chris Hastert, general manager

By KASEY BUBNASH

Hordes of Central Coast residents took to their social media pages on June 26 to cheer the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport’s announcement that it will soon offer direct flights to Las Vegas, a move that could impact the Santa Maria airport’s limited flight options. 

 


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Though the SLO airport recently announced plans to offer direct flights to Las Vegas, officials from the Santa Maria airport aren’t worried that its Allegiant Air service to Vegas will be impacted.
FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM

Santa Maria Public Airport General Manager Chris Hastert said that while the announcement came as a surprise, he’s not worried about any hits to Santa Maria’s longstanding flights to Vegas—which are offered several times a week at relatively low prices by Allegiant Air. 

“Allegiant will still be very competitive,” Hastert told the Sun

The SLO County Regional Airport announced in a press release on June 26 that Contour Airlines would begin offering nonstop service from San Luis Obispo to Las Vegas on Oct. 17. 

The flights will be offered on a 30-seat plane four times per week, on Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Monday, with flights departing Vegas in mid-morning and returning from SLO in early afternoon. Every flight will include complimentary snacks, beverages, and a free checked bag, according to the press release, and Contour plans to offer its initial fares at a lower than usual price, starting at $99 one way.

Until now, Santa Maria has been the go-to place on the Central Coast for inexpensive, easy, and direct flights to Vegas, and those flights have kept the Santa Maria airport’s commercial flight operations alive. 

The lack of commercial flight services for Santa Maria’s business and leisure travel communities has been a major concern for the Santa Maria Public Airport District board of directors for years. Both United and Mokulele airlines parted ways with the airport between 2016 and 2017, leaving it with a single airline, Allegiant, and the lowest ridership numbers in 2017 that it had seen since 2009.

Although Hastert said Santa Maria’s airport will likely see some impacts to its ridership numbers because of SLO’s deal with Contour, he expects those effects to be insignificant. 

Contour’s discounted, introductory prices of $99 one-way are more expensive than Allegiant’s usual prices, Hastert said, and while each Contour flight to Vegas will offer only 30 seats, Allegiant’s aircrafts hold up to 150. 

Allegiant is also having a great year in Santa Maria, according to Hastert. While the airline has offered three flights a week between Santa Maria and Vegas for years, it recently started offering four. Still, the Santa Maria airport has had almost the same number of passengers so far this year as it had at this point last year, according to ridership data collected by the Santa Maria Public Airport. 

Hastert said airport staff plan to monitor the situation closely, but he estimates that as long as people like to go for Vegas for fun, Santa Maria’s flights will do well. 

The airport’s highest priority, Hastert said, is re-establishing hub service to benefit the business and military community. He said that the board hopes to partner with a major airline that could provide eastbound flights to hub airports in Denver, Phoenix, or Salt Lake City. 

“We’re getting closer,” he said. 

Highlights: 

• The California Labor Market Information Division released its May 2019 market report data on June 21, which found that while Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate sits at about 3 percent, Santa Maria’s weighs in at a little more than 4 percent. Buellton has the lowest current rate of unemployment, with just 1 percent of its population identified as being jobless.

• The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce will host its annual awards gala on July 25 at the Marian Theater at 6 p.m. At the event, the Chamber honors local businesses and community members, and swears in its new board members. Tickets are now on sale. Visit santamaria.com/events/details/annual-awards-gala-35989 for more information. 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at spotlight@santamariasun.com. 




Weekly Poll
How should Lompoc respond to the lawsuit claiming its ordinance restricting where registered sex offenders can live is unconstitutional?

The city should fight the lawsuit in court.
The city needs to repeal the ordinance and settle the lawsuit.
Most cities in California have already repealed similar ordinances.
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