Flights from Santa Maria Public Airport are about to get easier with more options as United Airlines begins flying to and from San Francisco International Airport instead of Los Angeles International Airport on May 6.

With the change, travelers will have access to 35 unique one-stop destinations that are not offered at LAX and access to new international destinations, including Paris, France; Chengdu, China; Frankfurt, Germany; Taipei, Taiwan; and Osaka, Japan.

Chris Hastert, airport general manager, said the change was prompted by the announcement that Skywest was retiring the turboprop aircraft it has been using. That’s when airport officials thought it would be a good time to take a look at other ways to best address more of the airport’s needs.

The new United Express service, operated by Skywest, will replace the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 turboprop aircraft currently used on flights to L.A. with smoother, faster 50-passenger Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft. The aircraft will give the Santa Maria Airport a 67-percent increase in its available seating for travelers.

But Hastert said the airport didn’t want to add that capacity and not add more connections.

“Both San Francisco and Los Angeles are big hubs but United’s presence is a lot bigger at San Francisco than at Los Angeles,” Hastert said.

In May alone at the San Francisco Airport, there are 82 percent more flights on United and 85 percent more available seats on United than at LAX. That should give travelers more scheduling options.

Of course, along with enhanced flights travelers will notice a quieter, smoother ride as well, Hastert said.

The airport continues to work on its overall vision of adding new markets including to places like Denver and Seattle, Hastert said. However in recent years the fuel prices, economy and airline mergers had an effect on those discussions. He added that the climate is now changing for the better for airlines.

United Express flights to San Francisco will leave Santa Maria at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Arrivals from San Francisco will be at 1:32 and 11:47 p.m.

Bookings on the new flights are now available at united.com.


3/25/15   Shelly Cone Contributing Writer – Santa Maria Times