ExpressJet Airlines will be halting all of its commercial passenger flight operations nationwide on September 2, including two trips daily to and from Santa Barbara Airport to Sacramento and San Diego. The move also means a loss of revenue for the airport, from a rental fee for counter space to the cost per pound landing fees that the airport receives.
With the departure of ExpressJet, Santa Barbara will have no non-stop flights to or from San Diego or Sacramento. Since Skywest halted its non-stop service to Sacramento 10 years ago, the airport had been looking for a carrier to offer the flight, which ExpressJet – a start-up airline which just opened in May 2007 – added in November 2007. “We’re extremely saddened by it,” Terri Gibson, a spokesperson for the airport, said of the loss. “It’s very distressing.” The Sacramento flight was one of the most popular out of Santa Barbara, with an 86 percent ridership in the month of June. It was used often by Santa Barbara’s top policy-makers, and a recent return flight on a Thursday afternoon in June was shared by Assemblymember Pedro Nava, Santa Barbara Citycouncilmembers Das Williams, Helene Schneider, and Iya Falcone, Goleta City Councilmember Jean Blois, attorney Michael Cooney, and staffers of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and the regional Community Action Commission. “They were just getting their foothold in the community,” said Gibson.
But high gas prices, impacting carriers across the nation, have doomed ExpressJet and made this the toughest time in the airline industry. “If we had any other choice, we would not take this difficult action,” said Jim Ream, ExpressJet’s president and chief executive officer. “However, rising fuel prices has made the operation impossible to sustain.”
Travel before September 2 won’t be affected, and tickets are still available for flights prior to that date. Those who have purchased tickets for a flight after September 1 should call (888) 958-9538 to request a refund.
The airport did have some good news to report, however, as its June ridership grew 5.6 percent from last June. Overall ridership is also up 3.5 percent over last year for the first six months.