Santa Barbara Municipal Airport – My favorite small airport

While I haven’t been to every small airport in the US, I wanted to share my favorite small airport. It’s not my hometown airport, unfortunately. For that, I need to drive to Washington Reagan, Dulles, or if I’m really in the mood, BWI.

When I say small, I mean an airport traditionally served by regional airlines, and doesn’t have the amenities or capabilities of larger facilities – like airline lounge clubs, shopping, etc.

Santa Barbara Municipal Airport has to be one of my most favorite smaller cities in the US, and it’s nickname of the American Riviera is certainly fitting.

The Santa Barbara airport is actually located in Goleta (well, technically it is the City of Santa Barbara via an annexation), and is about a 15-20 minute drive from the city center. While there’s no public transportation from Santa Barbara to the airport itself, an Uber is cheap enough for under $15.

The outside of the airport is set in Spanish architecture

The outside of the airport is set in Spanish architecture

Last year, the airport saw more than 700,000 passengers filing through, and three airlines currently serve the small city:

  • Alaska Airlines to Seattle and Portland
  • United Express to Denver, Los Angeles and San Fransisco
  • US Airways Express to Phoenix

The airport used to have much more extensive service, with the most recent cuts being from Frontier in January (they served Denver with a A319) and American in March 2014 with regional service to LAX. That said, I suspect the airport will pick traffic back up over time, though it’s worth noting that Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is only a 2 hour drive to the south.

The airport grounds are small, though house parking, rental car stations and a full-time police force

The airport grounds are small, though house parking, rental car stations and a full-time police force

Once inside, you’ll find check-in facilities for the three airlines, which are all staffed by sub-contractors.

Santa Barbara airport airline check-in

Santa Barbara airport airline check-in

To go to the departure gates, you’ll proceed up an escalator with a beautiful Spanish painting on the wall.

Santa Barbara airport painting

Santa Barbara airport painting

Security is a breeze because it is such a small airport, and there is a TSA Pre-Check option, if you’re eligible.

Beyond security by a few feet are the gates. The closest gates belong to American/US, then Alaska, then United at the far end. Gates are served by true jet-bridges, so you won’t have to take a bus or go outside. There is a small, full-service restaurant, as well as a magazine/snack stand, and plenty of seating for the few departures each day.

Santa Barbara airport gates

Santa Barbara airport gates

I really love this airport, though since my preferred carrier is American and they have since eliminated the LAX non-stop flight, it does make it quite inconvenient to go to PHX. If you live in Santa Barbara though, it’s a great option to be able to fly directly out of that city, and since I am hoping to one day call Santa Barbara home, I am quite pleased of the small airport facility that will be on hand.

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Comments

  1. Chris Hewes says

    YES! I’ve taken the bus to and from the airport a few times now and know of friends who do the same. It comes pretty often and is very close to UCSB, Goleta, and is pretty easy to get to downtown SB, too.

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