CARLSBAD — It finally happened.
After 10 years of setbacks and oddly announced press conferences, California Pacific Airlines is operational.
The regional commercial airline took to the skies on Nov. 1 with an evening flight to San Jose. On Nov. 2, a number of VIPs, company executives and longtime supporters of owner Ted Vallas, 97, boarded flights bound for San Jose and Reno.
“I feel great and it’s going to be great,” he said. “It’s very much needed and very much wanted. It was very successful.”
Chief Financial Officer John Barkley said San Jose and Reno rolled out the red carpets for the airlines. Both used Legoland as a backdrop for service to and from Carlsbad and officials from Reno even presented CP Air with a Lego model airplane.
The airline will add two routes on Nov. 15 — to Las Vegas and Phoenix. On Nov. 1, though, there was one hiccup as the inaugural flight in the morning was cancelled due to a maintenance issue with a plane in Denver.
In addition, Vallas said the airline will soon commence service to Oakland, Sacramento, Tucson and perhaps a third flight to San Jose. Also, CP Air plans for charter service to Cabo San Lucas.
Nevertheless, the Nov. 2 ceremonies brought together numerous supporters of Vallas and CP Air.
“I really like the cities, the routes we’ve selected,” Barkley said. “They are great for this in terms of people coming in and business travelers going out.”
Last week, passengers bound for Reno were thrilled the airline was finally taking flight.
Michelle Slattery, owner of The Landings restaurant on the grounds of McClellan-Palomar Airport, said she has faith the airline will succeed where so many did not.
Among the big selling points, she said, are the commute, parking costs and long TSA lines at San Diego International Airport. One challenge, Slattery said, is the cost of operating the jets with those airlines, which is an obstacle because it takes people time to get used to a new player.
Still, excitement was in the air as dozens of passengers lined up to fly to Reno.
“It’s exciting … and there have been several that have come and gone,” Slattery said. “Everyone’s got faith that this is the one that’s going to stay. North County is very excited to have an airline here. We need people to buy tickets.”
As for tickets, Barkley said the airline is seeing a “dramatic uptick” after the airline finally took flight. Another bonus, he said, is holiday flights are starting to fill quickly.
It was coincidental timing, he added, that CP Air started service just weeks before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Regardless, the airline’s main competitive advantage is prices similar to San Diego with less travel and hassle to fly.
“It’s been a very long road to get started and we still have some things to get through, but the momentum has certainly shifted in a positive direction at this point,” Barkley added.
Disclosure: The Coast News owner Jim Kydd is an investor in CP Air