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McClellan-Palomar Airport To Relaunch Commercial Flights To LA

Public Terminal at McClellan-Palomar Airport, Nov. 10, 2015.
Beverley Woodworth
Public Terminal at McClellan-Palomar Airport, Nov. 10, 2015.

McClellan Palomar Airport in Carlsbad is getting ready to relaunch commercial flights to Los Angeles. The airport has had trouble finding an airline that could offer commercial service, since United pulled its SkyWest commuter flights to Los Angeles in 2015.

An average of nearly 400 flights either land or take off from Palomar Airport every day, but they are almost all corporate or privately chartered jets.

San Diego County has invested millions in the terminal and other improvements. But the runway, which is less than 5,000 feet long, limits the aircraft that can land. A 20-year master plan could eventually extend the runway. Last year the County Board of Supervisors approved a "Preferred Alternative" which is currently being studied, and may come up for a vote next year.

Palomar Airport Manager Olivier Brackett said Great Lakes Airlines could start commercial flights to LA again as soon as June.

“Great Lakes operate aircraft that can fly in and out of the airport today,“ he said. “They don’t need a runway extension — and they’re getting the connecting agreements with the connecting airlines, which is key when you’re flying to LA.”

The president of Great Lakes Airlines, Chuck Howell, confirmed that his airline is completing negotiations with United Airlines over schedules and fares, and plans to start flying to LA sometime in June.

Howell said Great Lakes will have baggage agreements with other major airlines, so passengers flying on from LA can check in their luggage in Carlsbad and retrieve it at their destination.

Brackett said the new service may start with planes as small as a nine-seater turboprop, but Howell said he hopes to start operations right away with a larger 30-seater turboprop, equivalent in size to the aircraft previously used by SkyWest.

Residents living near Palomar Airport frequently register noise complaints. Brackett said the new commercial service will be less noisy than the corporate jets and will add just six extra landings and takeoffs every day.

“But the benefit is huge because it opens up the airport to the entire community,” Brackett said, “not just those that wish to charter a flight — so anybody could fly in or fly out to anywhere you want to go.”

Brackett said the initial service will be to connecting flights in LA, but Palomar airport hopes to offer flights from Carlsbad to wider destinations later this year.