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.
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.
— Cal Jet by Elite Air (@CalJetElite) September 29, 2017
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.
— Cal Jet by Elite Air (@CalJetElite) September 14, 2017
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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