Flying The Oakland California Corridor Challenge: 12 Flights in Three Days (Trip Report)

Delta, Southwest, Trip Reports

If you’ve been following along on Twitter, you know that Henry Harteveldt and I spent last week flying up and down California as part of Oakland’s California Corridor Challenge. This week is spring break, so instead of taking a break from posting, I figured I’d start off a trip report and regale you with our tales of travel.

Disclosure: Oakland International Airport paid for flights, hotel, and expenses. The airlines involved were also told in advance that we were flying, so it was definitely not your normal experience on the ground, especially with Southwest.

Oakland put together this idea of the CCC as a way to showcase just how much frequency has returned to the Oakland – SoCal market post-pandemic. For Oakland, SoCal is hugely important, generally worth about half its total revenue. This isn’t a surprise since for short-haul travel, people care the most about using an airport that’s closer to home. Frequencies really suffered during the pandemic, and it’s only now that they’re bouncing back in full force.

The challenge took on several forms, but in the end the idea was to fly all 4 airlines in the Oakland – SoCal market and touch each of the 6 airports — Burbank, LAX, Long Beach, Ontario, Orange County, and San Diego — at least once… preferably more. (If you’re wondering, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs were originally part of the plan, but those infrequent schedules just don’t work well for something like this.)

Probably my favorite part of the whole thing was the planning effort. I immediately went to Cirium and pulled all possible flights between Oakland and Southern California into a spreadsheet. (Sometimes, it’s good to be a huge nerd.) Then, well, it went something like this.

After some back and forth, we settled on this.

Ok, ok, we actually settled on more than this. We were going to fly back up to Oakland and then take Contour’s Essential Air Service route to Crescent City for the third night before coming back home. But I just ran out of gas.

We had hit all the SoCal cities in two days, and by mid-day on the third, we had hit all four airlines involved. When we landed in Orange County, I was completely exhausted. The temptation of just hopping in a Lyft and being home in 30 minutes was too much at that point. I really thought I’d have better stamina than this, having done crazy trips like this before, but it was those single overnights with the early mornings, packing and unpacking, moving on to the next hotel… it just dragged me down. I would be a terrible pilot or flight attendant. Henry, I should note, was ready to go. He put me to shame.

In the end, I took all those flights mapped above, plus Henry had one more back north to get home. I flew 9 flights on Southwest which is no surprise considering the airline’s dominance in the market. But we also had 1 flight each on Delta, JSX, and Spirit. You may be surprised which was my favorite of those three. But you’ll just have to wait to find out.

In the end, we flew just about 4,400 miles, further than going from LA to Lima, but we never left the state. All flights were on-time except for one. (Yes, it was Spirit that took a half hour delay.)

The airlines all approached this differently. Southwest took the opportunity to make this a big party for its employees and customers alike. Each flight was announced as a dedicated “fun flight” and they had games and treats. Delta’s station manager gave us little gift bags with a hat, etc before boarding but that was it. It was much more reserved. JSX and Spirit did nothing at all. It was just like being on a normal flight with those two.

I told Henry that if any of them had just ushered us into a silent room filled with fast-charging power outlets, they would have won my undying loyalty for ever and ever. (Maybe this is a good time to remind Southwest that people desperately need power outlets. You hear me, Southwest?) But that is just a pipe dream.

Instead, we were treated to great experiences all around. That’s not to say everything was perfect, but it never is. You’ll have to wait until future posts to get into those details. I’ll plan on having one post for each day of flying, so that’s:

  • Southwest LAX-OAK-SAN-OAK, Delta OAK-LAX
  • Southwest ONT-OAK-BUR-OAK-LGB-OAK-SNA
  • JSX SNA-OAK, Spirit OAK-SNA

Let the party begin.

15 comments on “Flying The Oakland California Corridor Challenge: 12 Flights in Three Days (Trip Report)

  1. I hadn’t heard of this challenge. It sounds like an adventure. And 4400 miles is not shabby staying in CA. I wish I could’ve joined you., It sounds like a fun challenge.

    I’m looking forward to reading the reports, and seeing how each airline added their own touch. Or not.

  2. I don’t know that I’ve intentionally done a flight marathon like you’ve done a few times, Cranky (thinking of not only this, but also of the Southwest California flight marathon you did a few years ago), but I imagine that they are similar to staying up all night…

    When you’re young, the idea sounds fun, and the experience often is, but as you get older, the concept just sounds tiring, and you want to either avoid it all together or just get it over with, find the nearest horizontal surface, and sleep for a really long time.

  3. I finally opened a Twitter account just so I could follow your trips. And I’m exhausted simply from reading about it.

  4. Cranky – on your trip map, did you accidentally mark your initial trip out of LGB instead of LAX? It’s a little confusing.

  5. Cranky,

    When are the Boston Logan / Cape Air and Detroit Wayne / Delta airports & airlines going to invite you to do similar (mostly) intrastate “challenges” for their routes?

    I’m only half kidding. ;-)

    I was wondering if (outside of Hawaii), Massachusetts might be the smallest state (by land area) with regularly scheduled intrastate commercial flights, but I checked the list of states by land area, and it looks like NJ has less land than Mass, though I’m not sure if ACY-EWR (or other intrastate NJ routes) are being flown much these days.

    1. Kilroy – Those all sound really challenging with weather and airspace delays, but then again, that might make it more sporty.

    2. Rhode Island has had scheduled intrastate airline service for decades, operating Westerly to Block Island. It’s all of 17 miles, and a twelve minute flight (per their website). And, it’s a chance to fly an Islander or a Cherokee Six.

  6. I love Southwest but their lack of onboard power outlets in this day and age is maddening. Are any of the new 737 MAX planes they are getting have onboard power ?

      1. Grrr. I get not retrofitting old planes, but new ones….ugh. Besides relying on loyal customers to ignore it , perhaps the fact that most individual segments are not that long makes them feel it is not a huge need ? If they were doing a lot of nonstop transcon or overseas maybe it’d be different.

        1. Martin – Those MAXs spend a lot of time going to Hawai’i. I wonder if now that Gary Kelly has stepped aside if we might finally see some movement on this.

    1. I suspect that “I love Southwest but …” is exactly the reason they don’t bother installing them. They figure that they have enough differentiation from their competitors that installing power won’t sway enough customers at the margin to make it worth it.

    1. Bill – Alaska hasn’t done intracal flying from OAK since 2008 when it dropped Orange County. Then during the pandemic, it decided to walk away from Hawai’i too so now it’s down to just Portland and Seattle.

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