Santa Barbara’s Airline Terminal Marks a Decade of Service

Aug. 18, 2021
Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) is celebrating the month of August, which marks the airline terminal’s 10 years of service to the greater Santa Barbara region.

Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) is celebrating the month of August, which marks the airline terminal’s 10 years of service to the greater Santa Barbara region. The 72,000-square-foot, Spanish Colonial Revival-style terminal has been providing air service to points around the United States and beyond since its completion in 2011.

Currently, the terminal provides space for four major airlines and handles more than two dozen departures every day. With four distinctive glass boarding bridges and four outdoor ground boarding positions, the facility serves aircraft as small as a 50-seat CRJ-200 and as large as the 172-passenger 737-7 MAX. In 2019, SBA handled nearly 1 million passengers, and is on track toward a swift recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of the terminal project, which began construction in 2008, included the restoration of the original passenger terminal, the Earle Ovington terminal, named after Santa Barbara’s pioneering air mail aviator. Today, the Ovington terminal sits beside the new terminal and provides space for meetings and administrative offices.

The airport originated commercial air service in 1936 in the terminal originally built by United Airlines under a 50-year lease. The terminal resumed commercial service after the second World War and the site of the Airport was deeded to the City of Santa Barbara by the federal government. Over the decades, the original building was expanded by way of various add-ons and a conglomeration of outdoor tented facilities, possible due to Santa Barbara’s favorable weather. Numerous initiatives to build a new terminal were attempted over the years without coming to fruition. Ultimately, it was impossible to stave off the need for a modern facility indefinitely.

After the changes in aviation security following the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Ovington terminal became increasingly antiquated and ill-equipped to meet the demands of modern aviation. Long-time residents may recall that there was no food service or restrooms past the security checkpoint. Flight operations required new, modern IT infrastructure to assure passenger and aircraft safety – and later to meet the expectation of free Wi-Fi service.

“We have learned a lot in the last 10 years, and we are thrilled that the community has come to embrace SBA as the region’s closest and most convenient airport,” said Airport Director Henry Thompson. “We are here to serve the travel needs of the community, while we also warmly welcome visitors to our beautiful area.”

To commemorate the milestone month, SBA will share historical highlights and trivia questions via social media on its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter platforms. The official opening day of Aug. 18 will feature many surprises for passengers who happen to be traveling that day, including snacks, giveaways and festive décor to celebrate together as a community.

Highlights to honor the past decade:

• In 2011, The airport averaged 1,000 passengers boarding per day. On busy days in July 2021 there were over 2,000 passengers boarding.

• SBA’s Terminal building is certified “Gold” by U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

• United Airlines is the longest standing airline partner since 1936, and the newest, Southwest Airlines, was welcomed this year.

• SBA’s Terminal features numerous works of local artistry including “Fiesta,” a bright, 60-foot mural by local painter Channing Peake near the security checkpoint.