California Pacific Airlines: San Jose-San Diego for $99 each way
A small airline with gigantic dreams of becoming a major player in California has finally announced when and where it will launch flights in the state.
California Pacific Airlines said it will begin flying out of its home base at McClellan – Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California (about a 50-minute drive north of San Diego) on November 1 with non-stop flights to Mineta San Jose International Airport and Reno-Tahoe Airport. On November 15, the carrier said it would launch flights to Las Vegas-McCarran Airport.
The service between Carlsbad and San Jose will operate twice daily on weekdays, and once a day on weekends. The carrier says flights from Carlsbad to Reno will operate four times a week, and flights to Las Vegas will operate three times a week.
Fares on the Carlsbad-San Jose route are very consistent: $99 each way for non-refundable tickets or $199 each way for refundable ones. The airline offers a generous baggage allowance: two checked bags for free, and that's in addition to a small carry-on item. Tickets are on sale now on the airline's website.
For comparison, we checked Southwest's schedules and fares between San Jose (SJC) and San Diego (SAN) and found 12 nonstop flights per day with the cheapest fares running in the $60 to $115 range each way.
California Pacific says it will operate a fleet of four single-aisle Embraer ERJ-145 jets, each with 50 seats configured 3-abreast (double seats on the right side, single seats on the left).
"Our community will warmly welcome scheduled flights to the Carlsbad, Calif. area, an in-demand destination for both tech and tourism," said Mineta San Jose International Airport Director John Aitken. "We appreciate California Pacific's investment in offering convenience for our local business and leisure travelers."
The planned launch in the state has been in the making for nearly a decade. Many had doubts about whether California Pacific Airlines would ever take flight.
The airline is the brainchild of 97-year-old San Diego County resident and multi-millionaire Ted Vallas, who originally laid out plans to begin a California-based airline in 2009. But it endured years of FAA regulatory hurdles and setbacks. Planned inaugural flights kept getting delayed, and jets that were supposed to fly passengers were returned to air lessors.
In May, Vallas (who is also the airline CEO) bought charter airline Aerodynamics Inc. (also known as SkyValue Airlines), and acquired its fleet of ERJ-145s. The airline is keeping the number of seats onboard those jets at 50 after previously announcing plans to reduce the number to 44.
In the acquisition, CPA also inherited two federally subsidized air routes from Denver, Colo. to a couple small towns in South Dakota. From the beginning, Vallas's goal was to launch flights out of Carlsbad.
"Today's announcement marks the culmination of a multi-year effort that will bring significant convenience in air travel between San Diego's North County and the top Western-Region destinations our community wants to fly to nonstop," he said. "Passengers can spend less time fretting the drive to and from the airport, and spend more time enjoying their destination."
Carlsbad, California is located between San Diego and Los Angeles on the California coast.
CPA is entering the market at a unique time for small up-start airlines. Niche outfits like JetSuiteX, Blackbird and Surf Air have filled many voids at underserved airports airports in California — providing passengers with affordable and convenient alternatives to traditional commercial airline flights.
Last year, CPA planned a robust U.S. West Coast route map, with flights to Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. The carrier said it will announce other destinations "in the near future," offering competitive fares "on all flights."
Why Carlsbad? Here's what the airport's website says: "McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad is a gateway to and from San Diego's North County. It serves the general aviation community, corporate aircraft and commercial services. What makes this airport so popular is its proximity to business and recreation. Major corporations and world-class resorts are just minutes from McClellan-Palomar. Some of the finest beaches in San Diego County are close to the airport and offer surfers, swimmers and sun worshipers balmy weather and beautiful ocean waters most of the year. Oceanside Harbor, with its shops, yachts and fishing boats, is a pleasant place to spend time. Legoland is two miles west of the airport. La Costa Resort & Spa is just a short drive from McClellan-Palomar, and the Four Seasons Aviara Resort is also nearby."