Cal Jet launches service in Carlsbad

A new airline quietly launched operations last week in the United States. Well, slightly new, anyways. Cal Jet Elite now flies twice daily between Carlsbad, California and Las Vegas. Its launch brings commercial service back to Carlsbad after more than two years and is the first commercial jet service scheduled at the airport.

Cal Jet is another effort by Elite Airways to establish scheduled service on its fleet of Bombardier CRJ aircraft. The company tried flights between Melbourne, Florida and Washington-Dulles back in 2014. Branson, Missouri; Fort Collins, CO; Naples, FL and Islip, NY are other destinations the company operated from as it seeks to find a niche that works for its operations.

The Carlsbad-Las Vegas service uses a CRJ700 in a 2-class configuration. Passengers in economy class receive one free checked bag and free sodas on board. Business class passengers get a second bag free as well as a snack and booze on board.

Sample prices and benefits for Cal Jet by Elite Airways flights between Carlsbad, CA and Las Vegas
Sample prices and benefits for Cal Jet by Elite Airways flights between Carlsbad, CA and Las Vegas

There are also no change fees (the company calls it “Flex Funds”) for the economy class tickets, akin to Southwest Airlines’ policy. That’s a generous stance to take for a startup carrier but it makes a lot of sense. Then again, considering the main competition for Cal Jet in and out of Vegas is Southwest it makes sense.

Southwest offers 11ish daily flights from San Diego to Las Vegas. Cal Jet offers two. Cal Jet is generally cheaper and for its target audience also tremendously more convenient.

The goal is to attract residents of the “North County” San Diego area, from Encinitas/Rancho Santa Fe north to Oceanside and Camp Pendleton. Lower fares help, as does a small airport that is ridiculously easy to get in and out of. Plus, passengers get to skip traffic on I-5. Indeed, that is the company’s slogan:

Say Goodbye to I-5!

One challenge the company may face is getting its home base airport code correct. This is awkward.

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

As for Carlsbad, this is not the first time a jet operation tried to spin up at McClellan-Palomar Airport, but it is the first to get off the ground. California Pacific had grand plans earlier in the decade. The company even secured an aircraft, but not licensing from the FAA for operations. Ultimately it folded. Cal Jet’s partnership with Elite Airways (and use of that operating certificate) gets the company off the ground, though just how strong the market is remains to be seen.

Read more: Saying goodbye to the Embraer E120

Historically Carlsbad was a feeder airport for onward flights via Los Angeles. It priced the same as San Diego on many United fares and the E120 trips were relatively easy. And beautiful, if you got the timing right.

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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.


    1. I considered it last week when I was out there. Couldn’t make the turn and still guarantee catching my SAN-JFK flight. They might carry the winter season as demand goes up a big.


    2. I’m guessing they run the schedule they way they do to get each day’s pair of flights with a single crew. If you go early/late that hits duty day limits pretty quickly.

  1. Why? To anyone familiar with the situation: What is the question to which this is the answer?

  2. I live in Carlsbad, and I really miss the feeder flights to LAX from CLD. I hope CalJet makes a go of it, and expands to flights to LAX and others like SNA (Orange County.) I hear that China Airlines will be launching a flight from Orange County to Taipei next spring.

    1. The feeder flights worked because, well, they fed stuff. No way that Cal Jet does that on CLD-LAX. And getting in to the LAX or SNA-LAS market would be suicide.

      The ONT-TPE route is interesting to me. I think it has a decent chance of success.

    1. Seth Miller I once named a bunch of routers and switches with “nuq” as part of their hostname, which completely blew the minds of the East Coasters I worked with. We also had a “q99” office…

  3. Here’s my question on slogan…as catchy as it rolls off the tongue, who uses the 5 to get to Vegas? Noone in their right mind in North County would willingly drive through LA to then cut to the 15 when you could just take the 78 or 56 to the 15.

  4. I was eyeing them for a trip to so cal, but wn let me change my cheaper lax trip to sna due to the travel waiver. While I find their business model difficult, their launch timing is also less than ideal through no fault of their own.

    1. And I was thinking the launch timing isn’t awful. Pick up on the winter season demand into Vegas and most folks don’t but domestic flights more than 2-3 months out anyways.

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