An airline carrying passengers between Santa Maria and Southern California plans to land at a different airport in hopes of boosting ridership.
Mokulele Airlines will drop flights between Santa Maria Public Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, and instead will fly to and from Hollywood Burbank Airport, reportedly as soon as September.
“We approved them to switch to Burbank. They’re still working out the details,” said Chris Hastert, general manager of the Santa Maria airport.
A smaller airport, Burbank still has multiple connections to other airlines, Hastert said.
However, the Burbank airport is expected to have fewer postponements than those encountered at the extremely busy LAX, which deals with delays blamed on a heavy air traffic.
“Hopefully it’s going to drastically improve reliability,” Hastert said.
Low passenger numbers have prompted the push to switch airports, he added.
The airport board recently approved extending an agreement with Mokulele Airlines to guarantee revenue up to $250,000.
That will push the total approved, not handed over, to Mokulele to $925,000. On June 23, the airport’s revenue subsidy amounted to a payment of $50,000.
While an announcement about the switch is pending final approvals, the new destination appears on Mokulele’s online schedules through outside vendors such as Expedia and Travelocity.
The airline’s own website does not allow any reservations between SMX and LAX beyond Aug. 31, but it has not yet listed Burbank.
As part of its expansion to the mainland, Hawaii-based Mokulele Airlines began flights at the Santa Maria airport in October, starting up as United Airlines stopped serving the northern Santa Barbara County community.
Mokulele employs 9-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan single-engine airplanes, much smaller than the regional jets used by United Express or the 19-passenger turboprop planes it previously used.
In May, Mokulele airline reported 55 flights, with a passenger load factor of 47 percent for actual flights, according to Santa Maria. For scheduled flights, the load factor was lower or 39 percent.
Load factor refers to available seats that are filled with paying passengers.
Allegiant, which provided 14 flights between Santa Maria and Las Vegas, had a load factor of 73 percent.