With demand rising for flights to leisure destinations, Southwest Airlines is starting daily flights from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara, Calif., where visitors can enjoy beaches, hiking and shopping.
Starting Monday, flights will leave McCarran International Airport every day at 9:45 a.m., 3:10 p.m. and 8:40 p.m., according to the airline.
Customers are looking for places to vacation as the country continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, which all but killed air travel last spring, said Dan Landson, a spokesman for Southwest.
“What we’ve seen over the last year is that demand for leisure destinations, especially those with outdoor access, is rapidly increasing,” Landson said. “We found opportunities to add routes that our customers are looking for, giving them more access to places like Santa Barbara.”
In the coming weeks, Southwest plans to add two more California destinations from McCarran — Fresno and Palm Springs.
Flights to Fresno, a hub for travelers to nearby attractions like Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, start April 25. Service to Palm Springs is slated to begin May 9.
While leisure travel is leading the airline recovery, “there’s also some uptick recently in business travel as restrictions get lifted,” Landson said.
By this summer, Southwest expects to have nearly 190 daily departures from McCarran International Airport, which would be the most since the onset of the pandemic.
During the summer of 2019, Southwest had between 200 and 220 daily departures from McCarran, Landson said.
In February, passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport was up slightly from January, though still down significantly from pre-pandemic levels.
About 1.6 million travelers passed through the airport in February compared 3.9 million in February 2020, just before the pandemic temporarily shut down the Las Vegas Strip, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation.