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Company > Santa Barbara Airbus - Bus Companies - History

The 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. 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, and upon returning to Goleta, Eric, Kelly and good friend Mark Klopstein wrote a business plan, saved what they could, and prepared to start a business. After a year of waiting, Airbus was granted a license to operate. The three pooled resources and bought two vans. (Pictured above) 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. They knew they had to be reliable to earn the trust of their customers. With just two vans, and Eric’s VW Rabbit, they operated the first year out of their own condominiums. 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 2015 and there is no denying the impact the Airbus has on its community. With a fleet of 20 tour coaches and several deluxe mini coaches, the 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. Airbus employees volunteer throughout the community, and last year alone the Airbus donated tens of thousands of dollars to local schools, charities and non-profit organizations.

It is perhaps best summed up by Daniel Butters, the Airbus Business Manager: “It is such an honor to be a part of a business that cares so much about its people and community. The support Airbus receives from our community is incredible. How is it that so many people LOVE a bus company?” “It’s wonderful.”

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