With 20 people onboard, Carlsbad’s only airline took off on its maiden flight on June 18 for the 25-minute ride to LAX. Biz Air’s owner, Dan Cretsinger, along with head flight attendant Robin Rossi, welcomed the group aboard to smiles and cheers.
Nick Deninno of Carlsbad was the first passenger through the gate at 6:00 a.m., walking onto the tarmac at McClellan-Palomar Airport and up the steps into the 30-passenger jet.
“I go to L.A. a lot on business, but I usually drive,” Deninno said. After landing at LAX, he described the experience: “In one word — peaceful. I felt like I was the only car on the road.”
Cretsinger has been involved in aviation for 40 years, beginning with a stint in the Air Force in the 1970s. “Owning an airline is something he’s wanted to do his entire life,” said his wife Marcie. The Cretsingers said they invested their own money to fund the start-up.
Upon landing in L.A, the group was greeted on the tarmac by more smiling faces from LAX employees and hand-shaking big-wigs from the baggage handlers’ union.
On the flight back, we found out that flight attendant Robin Rossi was married to the captain, Bob Rossi. The San Diego couple are both retired from United Airlines.
“After 9/11, it stopped being fun to fly,” said Robin. She barely had time to serve beverages before the plane began its descent.
Cretsinger said it costs his company about $6500 per flight, covering fuel, airport fees, employees, and other expenses. The airline is advertising one-way fares for $139.
Although only offering two round-trip flights daily to LAX, the airline has been approved by the Department of Transportation for up to five daily flights, which would match United/SkyWest’s service when it pulled out of Carlsbad in April.
The airline has also been approved for expansion into Las Vegas and Phoenix by the end of summer. “As we grow, Carlsbad will always be our hub,” said Cretsinger. Biz Air currently has eight employees. The two planes, pilots, flight attendants, and maintenance crews are provided by Ultimate Air Charters, the owner of the planes.
Most of the passengers on the inaugural flight were employees, Palomar Airport Authority boardmembers, or media. The plane returned to Carlsbad with a few more passengers and was greeted by Carlsbad mayor Matt Hall and chamber of commerce president John Osborne.
There was one snafu: founder Dan Cretsinger couldn’t get a seat aboard his company’s first flight. It took his son, Michael Martin, the company’s chief information officer, to “hack” into the computer reservation system and get his dad a seat. Cretsinger laughed it off, saying, “We’re a family company.”
(corrected 6/21, 10:00 a.m.)