Visitors to the Santa Maria Public Airport will be noticing a little more “island style” starting today after Allegiant Air announces it will begin flights to Hawaii on Nov. 17.

Santa Maria is one of four western cities Allegiant serves that will be getting flights to Honolulu. The others are Stockton, Eugene, Ore. and Bellingham, Wash. Flights from Bellingham will land at both Honolulu and Maui.

Andrew Levy, president of Allegiant Travel Co., said Santa Maria’s location and its already active service to Las Vegas played a big role in securing the Hawaiian service.  “There’s a lot of service in the Bay Area and there’s a lot of service in Los Angeles. It’s a fairly lengthy drive to the Los Angeles market. We feel that insulation will make it an attractive option for travelers,” Levy said. “We believe we’ll be able to pull people from all over the area. We think it will be a good route.”

The announcement caps a process that began two years ago when the airlines purchased six Boeing 757s with the intention of beginning service from its West Coast locations to Hawaii.

The airline announced last month it would fly to Hawaii from both Fresno and its Las Vegas hub beginning in June.

Levy said the service from Santa Maria will begin just in time for the holiday travel season.  Initial service from Santa Maria will be a single weekly flight. The airline currently offers four flights a week from Santa Maria to Las Vegas.

Allegiant Air Communications Director Brian Davis said bookings have already gone so well in Fresno that the airline will be adding a second weekly flight from that airport.

Levy said market demand will determine whether additional flights are eventually scheduled.

“We’ve always had Santa Maria targeted. We’ve been looking at Hawaii for a few years and Santa Maria was always one of those on the list,” Levy said. “Santa Maria has been a very good performing market since we started.”

This isn’t the first time the airline has offered something new to Santa Maria-based travelers. In 2007, the company began direct flights to Phoenix, but the service was discontinued after five months because of escalating costs and lack of demand.

The addition comes at a good time for the airport, which has just completed a 1,700-foot runway extension that lengthens the main runway to 8,004 feet.

Airport General Manager Chris Hastert said the announcement is good news for everyone at the airport and in the region.  “It’s exciting any time you can announce new air service, especially when it’s something out of the ordinary,” Hastert said. “It’s great timing. I think our (Board of Directors) has done a great job of preparing the airport with the runway extension, the terminal expansion and parking improvements to get ready for this.”

He said the airport’s convenience, with easy access and free parking, match up well with Allegiant’s philosophy of packaging airfare, lodging and transportation.

By Brian Bullock / Staff Writer / bbullock@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times | Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012