Santa Maria Public Airport has long desired to be able to offer a home to an airline with passenger service to a Midwest hub.
Armed with a new sweeter support package and information gathered from a new survey being compiled by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission, airport General Manager Chris Hastert is hoping the latest effort will pay off.
“We’re trying to schedule a headquarters meeting with United in November,” Hastert said last week. “We want to go back to them with our increased airline support program along with some additional information on our community and our travel habits.”
Last year, the airport got a Small Community Air Service Development Program grant from the Federal Aviation Administration that will allow it to seek better service from commercial carriers.
In July, the airport district’s Board of Directors approved a request to increase the incentives it’s offering to airlines. Santa Maria can now offer roughly $1.1 million in what Hastert calls “support” to an airlines that would provide service to a Midwest hub, which would open routes to the East Coast.
The revenue guarantee includes $490,000 from the air services grant, $510,000 from the airport district, $100,000 in marketing and an additional contribution in in-kind marketing through the Chamber of Commerce.
The incentives package includes waivers for landing fees, terminal space rental and fuel flowage.
The chamber and Economic Development Commission is boosting the effort by rallying local businesses with a business travel survey.
“We want to continue to add support especially from the business community to show airlines that we have businesses and companies that would use additional flights regularly, especially to Denver and other destinations,” said Dave Cross, director of the Economic Development Commission.
Airport district representatives have had several meetings with United, Skywest and Frontier airlines over the past year. Hastert said United Airlines is the main target because it operates out of Denver. United Air Express already operates commuter flights between Santa Maria and Los Angeles.