The company’s first Boeing 757 full of Central Coast travelers left Santa Maria Public Airport and headed into the setting sun for the island paradise in the first of weekly flights scheduled by the company.
Nipomo resident Kirsten Atkison was among the group of first passengers flying to Hawaii.
“The Santa Maria airport went all out with traditional Hawaiian music, dancers and a barbecue meal before we left,” she said. “People were very excited and cheered both take-off and landing.”
Atkison departed with her family for the flight while rain was falling on the Central Coast, arriving six hours later to sunshine and sand.
“The flight was very simple – there wasn’t anything free from water to food for six hours – but you can’t beat free parking, minutes from home and direct flights.”
Allegiant Air began service to Hawaii from its Las Vegas headquarters and Fresno in June. Service from Bellingham, Wash., began Nov. 15. Flights from Santa Maria and Eugene, Ore., began Saturday, and service from Stockton started today.
“Everything is looking good. We’ve seen great demand for Hawaii as we thought there would be,” said Allegiant Air spokesperson Jessica Wheeler. “It’s been really popular. In fact, Fresno was so popular after the first month we added a second flight each week.”
Wheeler said the company plans to begin flights to Hawaii from Phoenix, Spokane, Wash., and Boise, Idaho, in February.
The first Allegiant Air Boeing 757 touched down in Santa Maria on Oct. 18 as the company tested its ground crew. The new loading ramp wasn’t quite up to the task and passengers had to exit the jet at the hatch near the tail.
A few more visits by the jet allowed the ground crew to work out all of its bugs and the ramp is working now, said airport General Manager Chris Hastert.
Hastert recently visited United Airlines headquarters in Chicago and met with company representatives in hopes of landing air service to Denver.
“Went well,” Hastert said. “Met with United planners to check into Denver services. It was just an initial meeting. A few of the questions they asked led us to think they may be looking at companies who head to the east.”
Hastert said he would be checking with local companies and contractors who work at Vandenberg Air Force Base to see how much demand there is for steady eastward travel.
He will be traveling to St. George, Utah, to Skywest’s headquarters on a similar mission.