Starting Nov. 17, Central Coast travelers will be able to fly directly from Santa Maria to Honolulu International Airport.
Noting that its nonstop service to Las Vegas has been popular with area residents, Allegiant Travel Co. President Andrew C. Levy said the airline is pleased to add Hawaii “as another affordable convenient destination option” for area residents.
The new flights will operate once weekly between the two airports. Flight days and times can be found at allegiant.com.
Allegiant will also offer nonstop flights between Honolulu and Stockton, Bellingham, Wash., and Eugene, Ore.
The airline also announced introductory, $199 one-way fares — with limited seating available — for tickets bought by May 21 for travel by Jan. 15.
Those prices are per segment (one take-off and one landing) and exclude other costs such as baggage fees.
Airport officials said the $12.3 million runway extension project, completed this year at the Santa Maria Public Airport, played a big part in Allegiant’s decision to extend its services to Santa Maria.
The additional runway length allows airlines to carry more passengers and travel farther.
Over the course of several years, numerous improvements have been made to the airport’s infrastructure. Its runway was lengthened by 1,700 feet, taking it to 8,004 feet.
The additional length allows planes to carry more passengers and more fuel, and therefore travel farther while carrying more cargo. Airport officials hoped investing in the upgrades and extension of the runway would pay off.
“Service to Hawaii means quite a lot for the airport, but it also means a lot to the region as a whole,” said Chris Hastert, Santa Maria Public Airport general manager. “We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll have some success with the flights to Hawaii and that will lead to more flights to other destinations. It gets the attention of other airlines.”
Hastert said if the airport can prove there is a market for air travel out of Santa Maria, airlines will take note.
The additional services out of Santa Maria may mean more competition for San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport and Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
At the San Luis Obispo County airport, where the runway is 6,100 feet, officials say they are pleased Santa Maria landed the deal with Allegiant.
“It’s good for the Central Coast,” said Craig Piper, assistant general manager at the San Luis Obispo County airport. “I don’t believe it’s a situation where we’re going to see a noticeable drop in passengers.”
Piper said Hawaii is No. 17 on the list of destinations for passengers leaving San Luis Obispo.
Karen Ramsdell, director of the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, where the runway is 6,052 feet, agreed. In an interview this year, Ramsdell said it will take some time to see exactly how Santa Maria’s new service to Hawaii might impact Santa Barbara’s operations.
“Thinking ‘if we build it they will come’ doesn’t really work in the airline industry,” she said. “We’re always concerned about competition, but you have to have the market.”