SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - More than 100 passengers on Sun Country Airlines Flight 415 were greeted with balloons and gifts as the carrier arrived, on time, in Santa Barbara Thursday, beginning new non-stop service from Minneapolis.
The carrier is one of two airlines bringing new or restored service to the Santa Barbara airport in August.
Sun Country's flights between Santa Barbara and Minneapolis will run Thursday and Sunday. The carrier uses 126-seat 737-700 jets with a bold blue and orange logo design.
One of the first passengers to get off the inaugural flight was Chris Gibson who was here for the weekend to see a friend.
"Oh, I Iove the fact they have a direct flight here from Minneapolis. It's easy and love the efficiency and it's great," said Gibson.
All arriving passengers received gift bags with passes and discounts to local attractions.
Kelli Carlson deplaned the first flight as a return visitor to Santa Barbara. She said the new flight made a girls getaway weekend with a friend an easy decision.
"Why wouldn't I come to Santa Barbara. The mountains, ocean, wine, should I go on? I have been here before but now that it is a direct flight it is even easier," said Carlson.
"It was very affordable," said passenger Heather Knutson. "Sun Country is always a great option as they offer a lot of direct flights that some of the bigger airlines don't. "
Flights are beginning with a $196 dollar roundtrip fare.
"We have a low cost, we offer low fares when you get on the airline we have a premium cabin and going through a retrofit right now. We are not charging for drinks right now so we like to find a little bit of a middle ground so we can still provide a low fare to our customer and they still feel like they are getting a lot of value out of it," said Sun Country executive Ben Brookman.
106 people arrived on the first flight. 81 passengers boarded the plane for the return flight to Minnesota, including one dog. Boarding began just minutes after arriving passengers emptied out.
Minneapolis-bound passenger Jeff Hawxhurst from Buellton said this was the most convenient plane he could have ever imagined.
"I honestly couldn't even believe it -- I could get a flight to Minneapolis that was non-stop from anywhere near here. Even if I were to go to LA I would have to stop in Phoenix or San Francisco," he said.
Airline executives said if business picks up more flights will be added.
"We started twice a week and we hope we can build out from there as customers gain more awareness of how great the destination is and we can expand it over time," Brookman said.
Santa Barbara Airport is also preparing for the return of Frontier Airlines with non-stop service to Denver which begins next week. Starting August 21, Frontier will fly to and from Santa Barbara and Denver on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. United Airlines offers daily flights between the cities.