American Airlines drops Santa Barbara-Los Angeles route

American will no longer fly to Santa Barbara. Handout photo by Lawrence Anderson.

American will no longer fly to Santa Barbara. Handout photo by Lawrence Anderson.

American Airlines will cease flying between Los Angeles International Airport and Santa Barbara, effective April 1, the airline said Thursday.

I had read rumors this was happening and in December contacted Santa Barbara Airport. At the time, airport spokeswoman Lynn Houston told me that the rumor was not true. But unfortunately for the airport, it was.

“We continually evaluate our network to ensure we’re maximizing our fleet and profitability while matching customer demand. As part of this ongoing process, beginning April 1, American will no longer offer service between Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX),” American spokesman Matt Miller said in an email. “US Airways will continue to offer customers access to SBA from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).”

As most travelers know, American and US Airways are now both operated by American Airlines Group. Eventually, probably mid-2015, they’ll have a single operating certificate and be run as one airline.

This move makes a lot of sense. American was never in this market to fly passengers between L.A. and Santa Barbara. It was about making sure travelers in Santa Barbara had access to the airline’s network — that they could get to New York or Hawaii or London with one stop. Phoenix, which has been a US Airways hub, mostly serves the same purpose, though with one major drawback. For now, US Airways does not offer any long-haul international flights from Phoenix. So until that changes, Santa Barbara customers flying American/US Airways will have limited international connection options. The same problem goes with American’s OneWorld partners. There are a few OneWorld international flights from Phoenix, but not many. LAX has a lot more — flights to Asia, South America and Europe on American’s partners.

Of course, loyal American customers always have the opportunity to drive to LAX.

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