CARLSBAD — Expressing a fondness and a desire to keep the BizAir Shuttle flights going out of McClellan-Palomar Airport, the shuttle airline’s Founder and CEO Dan Cretsinger said he just doesn’t have the capital to do so.
Cretsinger announced to city and county airport officials this week that it has suspended its operations out of Carlsbad to both Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Its final flight to Las Vegas was on Sunday.
The closure comes after the airline began its first flights just a little more than a month ago.
“The airline, as far as Carlsbad goes, has pulled out,” said Cretsinger on Friday. “It’s really quite simple. It’s pure business economics 101.”
Launching the airline with flights to LAX wasn’t a route they really wanted to start with, Cretsinger explained, even though their research indicated it wouldn’t be an issue.
He said the research indicated that United Express, which previously flew from Carlsbad to LAX before cutting its services in April of this year, averaged an 83 percent load, flying seven round trips a day, seven days a week.
BizAir Shuttle, Cretsinger said, would fly two round trips a day, seven days a week, anticipating a 50 percent load.
Instead, the airline averaged just one to two passengers per flight.
“We just hung in there too long,” he said. “We went through, literally about $1 million in two months.”
Olivier Brackett, airport manager of the Carlsbad airport said it was a shame the airline had to pull out.
“They spent broad capital with the LA route, which didn’t pan out, didn’t have the ridership they were hoping for,” Brackett said.
He added that their Carlsbad office receives calls from many people looking for flights to Las Vegas.
Since flights to Las Vegas began on July 30 the airline has averaged about seven or eight passengers.
But with cash going out nothing really coming back in, Cretsinger, who owns 100 percent of the airline with his wife, said there was just no way to see themselves falling into the same rut that they did at LAX.
“We didn’t have the capital to do that again,” he said.
As of now, the lease agreement with the airport is canceled, and two of three BizAir Shuttle employees, who operated the Carlsbad office, have been let go, according to Cretsinger.
Brackett said he doesn’t anticipate the loss of the airline to affect airport operations because the number of commercial operations at the airport is very small.
“We get many more operations from general aviation, corporate aviation. As far as number of operations, it won’t affect the airport,” he added.
BizAir Shuttle will now refocus its sights on the routes that it suspended prior to being on a Global Distribution System, which allows for an airline to be approved by flight search engines as Orbitz).
Cretsinger said they have since gotten on that system.
Cretsinger said he thought the airline was probably 90 days from cresting the hill.
“We aren’t an American or United, and we have to watch our capital carefully,” he said.
What he thought could’ve made a difference was putting up signage at the airport. But, Cretsinger said the city of San Diego wouldn’t allow signage to go up on airport property that would be facing city property.
Cretsinger said he did offer investment opportunities in the airline to local aviation business leaders, many of which had expressed interest, but ultimately he received no takers.
“If I had the capital to begin service again (in Carlsbad) I can. All I’ve done as far as the Department of Transportation goes is suspend that route. I still have the certification to operate, I’m just not flying out of Carlsbad,” Crestinger said.
All of the reservations for flights have been canceled, he said, and any of the future reservations that had been made were all refunded.
“No one has lost any money on it,” he said. “They’ve lost convenience.”
Cretsinger, whose wife is from Riverside and who also has family in Oceanside, said he loved the Carlsbad airport, the people and the city, and, if there were any form of a Hail Mary pass of a couple million dollars, said he’d be back in Carlsbad in a heartbeat.