Mar. 16--CARLSBAD ---- North County travelers bound for Las Vegas will be able to catch a nonstop flight from McClellan-Palomar Airport later this spring, airport officials announced Wednesday.
When the new service, offered by Vision Airlines of Las Vegas, begins making flights in April or May, it will mark the first time a commuter line has offered nonstop flights from Palomar Airport to Las Vegas.
The service will transport up to 30 passengers between Carlsbad and Las Vegas four days a week ---- Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays ---- on turboprop Dornier 328 aircraft, according to Warren Kaplan, Vision Airlines' manager of business development.
One-way fares will begin at $89, with discounted rates for seniors, members of the military and students, Kaplan said.
"The advantage of (the new route) is that we're flying to the downtown Las Vegas airport, and it's extraordinarily convenient," he said, referring to the city's second airport, where most of the smaller aircraft operate. The secondary strip is less hectic than Las Vegas International Airport and is closer to the downtown hotels and casinos, he said.
The new flights, approved by county airport authorities, will offer North County residents a quicker way to get to Las Vegas, since Palomar Airport's other two commuter lines only offer routes to Las Vegas with stops in Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Kaplan said that under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, Vision Airlines' classification allows it to make just four round-trip flights per week out of Palomar Airport. But he said the company plans to change its status in June or July, which would then allow it to begin adding more destinations to its Palomar Airport service, as well as more flights to Las Vegas.
"Once we are allowed to fly more frequently, I see it building to upwards of two to four flights a day" to Las Vegas, said Kaplan. "We also have plans to offer nonstop service to Scottsdale, (Ariz.,) and maybe offer seasonal service to Lake Tahoe and other parts of Northern California from Carlsbad."
Ginna Reyes, general manager of Western Flight Inc., a company that provides support services for aircraft at Palomar Airport, said Wednesday that the new Las Vegas route should enhance the local airport's status as a commuter hub.
"Over the years, we have had many people ask us about service to Las Vegas," Reyes said. "It's very exciting to be able to offer nonstop service to Las Vegas from Palomar Airport."
Western Flight will be hosting a reception for Vision Airlines on April 5, when Kaplan said he plans to firm up the starting date for the new Las Vegas flights.
Vision Airlines was started in 1994 by brothers Bill and Steve Acor. With a fleet of 22 aircraft, the Las Vegas-based company makes 20 to 30 daily flights between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, transporting up to 30,000 whitewater rafters to the national park every summer.
In opening their new service at Palomar Airport, Vision Airlines officials said they're betting that the convenience of flying to one of the western United States' most popular getaways directly from Carlsbad will attract enough customers to support the route permanently.
Kaplan said the Dornier 328 is a larger version of a 19-seat aircraft that his company has had success using. While it is slower than larger commuter jets, he said the time saved by not having to drive to San Diego's Lindburgh Field and wait in two hours of lines at busy airports more than makes up for it.
"The aircraft has a flight attendant on board, a full-size restroom, beverage service, including cocktails and wine, and overhead compartments," he said.
Ted Owen, director of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday he considers the new route to be an important step toward increasing tourism and beefing up the passenger services at Palomar Airport, which has been mainly used for commercial operations.
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