Carlsbad airline to start service in November
A North County airline that struggled for years to get off the ground is finally about to start operations.
California Pacific Airlines recently announced it will begin flights Nov.1 out of McClellan-Palomar Airport going to San Jose, Reno and, later in the month, to Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The startup airline was founded by Ted Vallas, now 97 years old, in 2010. The Federal Aviation Administration rejected its application in 2013, leading to back and forth negotiations with San Diego County — owners of the McClellan-Palomar Airport — and federal officials. The airline now has all the approvals to begin flying.
“There is a great deal of relief and joy,” said Mickey Bowman, chief operating officer of the airline, on Friday. “It’s obviously been a long time coming.”
California Pacific will offer non-stop flights to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, Reno-Tahoe International Airport, McCarran International Airport serving Las Vegas, and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Costs vary based on market and availability. A roundtrip to San Jose from Carlsbad on the airlines’ website, www.mycpair.com, for Nov. 12 was $99 each way for non-refundable tickets or $199 each way for refundable tickets. It offers two checked bags and a small carry-on for free.
Flights from from Carlsbad to San Jose will leave Monday to Saturday at 7 a.m. or 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday; To Reno at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday; to Las Vegas at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday or 2:30 p.m. on Sunday; and to Phoenix at 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or Saturday at 10:45 a.m.
Kickstarting the airline’s launch was California Pacific’s acquisition of Georgia-based airline Aerodynamics in March, which had been in operation for 58 years. The price was not disclosed.
Aerodynamics’ key officials, like Bowman, were absorbed into California Pacific and the four planes it leases became part of the new airline.
California Pacific will operate Embraer ERJ-145 jets with 50 seats each. The airline had originally wanted to fly 72-seat planes, even though the FAA expressed concerned the airline did not have required data showing that Palomar’s runways could handle planes that size.
The FAA eventually ruled that the 72-seat plane was compatible with the airport.
Vallas said in 2016 that he had spent $18 million to $20 million trying to get the airline operational. In April that year he announced at a press conference that the airline was ready to launch in four months.
The only problem, a county spokeswoman said at the event, was that the airline’s most-recent application had been denied because it lacked information. She said it could take another two years for the airline to launch once a new application was submitted.
Getting California Pacific off the ground means more local jobs. Bowman said the airline has 50 employees now but will expand to around 100 by Nov.1.
Bowman said the airline is looking to add more routes but is not ready to announce anything. He said they would like to add Sacramento and Cabo San Lucas.
“It’s really all about convenience,” he said about the airline. “San Diego County has a huge population base. You’ve got a great deal of the population living in the north of the county. We see an opportunity.”
Ted Owen, CEO of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, said employers in the area are thrilled to have an airport closer than San Diego International Airport. He used the example of Carlsbad-based Viasat that he said spends $15 million a year flying employees all over the world, but loses time and money traveling south.
“Just think of the savings. They pick up a whole day on the travel side,” he said. “You’re not having to drive to (San Diego International Airport), park your car, take a shuttle and flying away to wherever your going.”
Correction: California Pacific Airlines was given approval by the FAA to fly 72-seat planes at the McClellan-Palomar Airport.
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.