California start-up airline to offer flights to Las Vegas


California Pacific Airlines, in the final stages of certification, would offer flights to Las Vegas.

Vegas Inc. coverage

A start-up airline to be based in northern San Diego County has identified McCarran International Airport as one of its initial destinations.

California Pacific Airlines, founded by 91-year-old tourism industry veteran Ted Vallas, a one-time World War II bomber pilot, looks to be flying by summer if it obtains its federal certifications on schedule.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Vallas said the airline is in the final stages of certification.

The airline plans to use Embraer E-170 twin-engine jets on its routes and initially would fly between Carlsbad, Calif., and Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland, Calif.; Phoenix; and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in addition to Las Vegas.

The airline’s planned usage of Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport is a big marketing point, with the airline’s web site noting that departures from the smaller facility would be easier than flying from San Diego’s dominant airport, San Diego International, also known as Lindbergh Field, near downtown San Diego.

McClellan-Palomar has shorter lines at its Transportation Security Administration check points, $5-a-day parking and rental car counters. The airport also has a U.S. Customs port-of-entry for planned flights from Mexico. The smaller airport, the airline says, makes it less expensive and more convenient for passengers to travel.

The airline, which company officials refer to as “CP Air,” plans to steal a page from the JetBlue and Southwest Airlines playbooks by transporting one suitcase per passenger at no charge like JetBlue and no flight change fees like Southwest.

The E-170 jet, built in Brazil, is relatively new to the market and feature wider seats than similar single-aisle planes. The seat configuration is four across so there are no middle seats, and California Pacific will offer assigned seating. A diagram on the airline’s website [] indicates the jets will be configured to hold 74 passengers.

Vallas told the Union-Tribune that he has put $13 million of his own resources into financing California Pacific and has raised $6 million, with a goal of $15 million, from local investors.

The airline hasn’t published flight schedules or ticket prices and hasn’t announced a start-up date.

Officials at McCarran on Friday said they have been in contact with California Pacific but have no additional information on when flights would begin or what gates the airline would use.