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.