Santa Barbara Airbus began in a rather modest fashion. Founded by three young entrepreneurs in 1983, it was the result of circumstances, a spark, and of course, a girl. Eric and Kelly Onnen were married in 1981 and were living in Goleta, California. Kelly, the girl in our story, was a flight attendant. Which meant that Eric would have to drive her to and from LAX Airport several times per month. The wheels of change would be set in motion that year during a trip to visit Kelly’s family. While visiting, Kelly’s father and Eric mused about how there should be a shuttle service between Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles International Airport.
That was all the spark they needed. Upon returning to Goleta, Eric, Kelly and their good friend, Mark Klopstein, wrote a business plan, saved as much money they could, and prepared to start this business. After a year of waiting, Santa Barbara Airbus was finally granted a license to operate. The three pooled their resources to purchase two vans. On April 4, 1983, they began operating a daily shuttle service between LAX and Santa Barbara.
The young business, while small, was committed to service. Eric, Kelly and Mark knew they had to be reliable to earn the trust of their customers. With only two vans, and Eric’s VW Rabbit, they operated the first year out of their own homes. The vehicle cleaning system was Mark’s garden hose thrown over the fence. There were times when Eric would hop in the Rabbit to make sure a passenger was delivered. After a year, they turned a profit, moved into an office on Fairview. They haven’t looked back since.
Fast forward to 2017, there is no denying the impact Santa Barbara Airbus has had on its community. With a fleet of 20 tour coaches and several deluxe mini coaches, the Santa Barbara Airbus has become the premier provider of transportation in Santa Barbara County. Eric has served on the Goleta City Council and Planning Commission, in addition to serving as the Mayor of Goleta in 2010. Our employees are enouraged to and actively volunteer throughout the community, and we continue to donate thousands of dollars to local schools, charities and non-profit organizations as a business and as employees.