How hard is it to launch a new airline? Ask California Pacific.

California Pacific Airlines made a splash in 2012 as then announced their intentions to launch service from Carlsbad Airport in Southern California to several regional destinations. Alas, reality quickly set in and things did not progress so well as the company navigated regulatory filings and other requirements to introduce service. This week saw another major hit, thanks to delays from the FAA, such that they are furloughing most of their employees and returning their Embraer E170 jet to the manufacturer while they try to gain regulatory approval.


The FAA has received the regulatory filings of California Pacific three times so far. The first application was rejected. The reconsideration of that application was delayed by the government sequestration and then ultimately rejected as well. The third filing is now in the hands of the FAA but the agency has indicated that they are not going to be able to touch it until 2014 at the earliest. Oops. In a letter from Keith Ballenger, assistant division manager for the FAA’s Western Pacific region to the company the FAA’s position was made clear:

he recent government shutdown, along with personnel changes and other resource losses within FAA Flight Standards has unfortunately resulted in further delay of the California Pacific Airlines air carrier certification. The FAA will review our staffing situation in early 2014 to determine whether we can resume the California Pacific Airlines certification project. We will certainly inform you immediately if we can start certification work for CP Air any sooner.

The other startup, PeoplExpress, has seen similar challenges. They bought another airline to gain access to an operating certificate and even then have been unable to launch their scheduled service. It seems that the old adage about becoming a millionaire just might be true. Lots of money going in to these operations with very little to show so far.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.