Santa Barbara Airport | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Southwest Airlines will add Santa Barbara Municipal Airport to its roster as of April 12, connecting direct flights to and from Las Vegas, Denver, and Oakland. The new service comes after years-long efforts by Visit Santa Barbara, the airport, and city officials to court Southwest at its headquarters in Dallas, during aviation trade shows, and through a visit by airline executives — on Visit S.B.’s dime — to show off South Coast attractions.

“Visit Santa Barbara is making a significant investment in this service because we are determined for it to be successful,” said Kathy Janega-Dykes, CEO of Visit Santa Barbara. “We want to give the new flights the best chance of remaining in the market, and by extension, support our local workforce so that they can recover.”

The tourism bureau committed $250,000 to support the new Southwest flights through marketing campaigns that feature the Santa Barbara area among the three new routes. Adding travel by flight improves spending in the region compared to automobile or train travelers, the group stated.

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As the market improves, more destinations may open up. “We know we’ve been an attractive market for Southwest, but it took the shake-up of the industry as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide the impetus to enter the market,” said Henry Thompson, airport director. “Whatever the reason, it’s our region that stands to benefit.”

Southwest is taking bookings now for the five new flights, three daily to Las Vegas, and one each to Oakland and Denver. From those airports, the airline offers 50 more destinations in its network aboard its Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 fleet.

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