Although the airline industry is still registering solid returns in the US, rising fuel prices have begun to chip away at the earnings of leading air carriers, such as Southwest Airlines. That hasn’t stopped a new California start-up from throwing their hat into the ring. California Pacific Airlines will debut on November 1, hoping to cater to California business travelers.
California Pacific Airlines had planned to launch in 2010, but problems, including delays in FAA certification and funding setbacks, as well as lack of authorization to fly from its home base at California's McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, kept the airline from taking flight.
In 2014, California Pacific Airlines expected to fly from Carlsbad to six destinations: Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Cabo San Lucas. Now, however, the airline will offer flights from Carlsbad to San Jose and Reno on November 1 and to Las Vegas on November 15.
The flight schedule includes two round trips a day to San Jose during the week and one roundtrip a day on weekends. California Pacific will also travel to Reno on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, and to Las Vegas on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
The carrier expects its San Jose and Reno routes to cater mostly to business travelers, while the Las Vegas flights will unsurprisingly appeal to vacation travelers. All flights will be serviced by 50-seat E145 regional jets.
California Pacific Airlines hopes that as the only carrier operating at McClellan-Palomar Airport, which is 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, they will attract frequent travelers. The airport offers affordable parking at $5 a day and short security lines.
The carrier will charge $99 one-way for nonrefundable tickets on the San Jose route, while Southwest ticket prices start at $59 one-way for most San Diego-San Jose flights. California Pacific is hoping the McClellan-Palomar Airport will be enough of a draw for passengers.
Southwest Airlines operates up to 12 times a day from San Diego to San Jose and up to 10 times a day from San Diego to Las Vegas. It also flies two daily nonstops between San Diego and Reno. For many travelers, the convenience of frequent flights may outweigh the advantage of a quick trip to the airport.
At the other end of the spectrum, OneJet, which offered business travelers nonstop service between midsize cities on small planes with no direct competition, unexpectedly suspended service last week.
OneJet says it hopes to start taking reservations again by October 1, but things don’t look good. OneJet has a federal tax lien for $622,000 and a lawsuit from the local airport authority in Pittsburgh, which wants to recoup $763,000 in incentives that the airline was given for routes it isn't servicing.
It remains to be seen if California Pacific Airlines can avoid the pitfalls of OneJet, or if we will be discussing the airline in a few months as they struggle to stay afloat.