United Airlines scraps plans to add a new pin to its route map

Jun 30, 2021

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There’s a regional airport that won’t be happy about United’s latest cut.

During the past the weekend, the Chicago-based carrier filed a sweeping schedule update that included bad news for Santa Maria, California: United is dropping its plan to serve the Santa Maria Public Airport (SMX) airport, per Cirium schedules and later confirmed by the carrier.

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Santa Maria would’ve been a new route-map pin for United, connecting the city to mainline service for the first time since October 2016, when United last served the airport.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United had originally planned to launch nonstop service from Santa Maria to three of its largest hubs — Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) — in June 2020. The carrier then delayed the start of service and adjusted schedules due to the pandemic. The latest plan was for flights to take off in October 2021.

In confirming the move to TPG, United cited the pandemic and market dynamics as the reason that SMX flights won’t take off.

Throughout the pandemic, United has continued to evaluate and adapt its network to respond to the changing travel landscape. Due to the pandemic and changes in market conditions since our initial announcement, United has made the difficult decision to suspend its plan to operate nonstop service to Santa Maria, Calif. (SMX) from Denver and San Francisco. We will continue to serve the region and greater Central Coast community with service to Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) and San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP).

Going forward, if residents of the Santa Maria area want to connect to mainline service, they’ll need to drive nearly an hour or more to reach either Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo.

Santa Maria remains connected by just one airline, Allegiant, whose ultra-low-cost strategy might not appeal to everyone. The Summerlin, Nevada-based airline flies to three destinations from the California city, none of which are operated daily:

  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Phoenix/Mesa (AZA)
  • Portland (PDX)

The move to drop plans to serve Santa Maria comes just a week after United announced new service to two brand-new destinations, including Eastern Sierra Regional Airport near Bishop, California (BIH), and Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport in Lewiston, Idaho (LWS).

Related: United bets big on winter travel in 39-route boost to the mountains

Along with tweaking its regional airport strategy, United also is beefing up service in anticipation of a busy winter travel season.

The carrier recently boosted 39 routes to the mountains just in time for the ski season. Additionally, just this week, the carrier upgauged eight Hawaii routes with its top-notch Polaris and Premium Plus products, to deliver an upgraded experience for those traveling to the Aloha State.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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