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HVNandrew
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California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:24 am

Hello all,

PSP has experienced a surge of growth as of late, which is exciting for the airport and area. This winter PSP is scheduled to have service to what may be the broadest range of destinations it has ever had. This got me thinking about some other airports out in the desert of Southern California which have limited or no air service.

I had searched the forum but not found much information on past commercial service at Borrego Springs. I know that in the 80s and through the early 90s there was prop service to LA and other areas in Southern California, last provided by OO sometime in the early 90s (?). Does anyone know exactly when service ended, and why? Does anyone think there is a potential for future service there? Borrego Springs is not very large, but it is quite isolated and has somewhat of a tourist draw; that combined with the fact that it's not an easy drive from PSP or SAN, I would think there could be a market for some air service there?

Further south, IPL offers EAS subsidized service to LAX. El Centro/the Imperial Valley isn't that small, and it is relatively isolated. Is there a reason why the airport can't sustain more substantial service? I'm surprised service to a hub like PHX would not be sustainable given the size of the population and location.

Just looking for some insight or thoughts for discussion. Thanks in advance!
 
MIflyer12
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 1:54 am

HVNandrew wrote:
El Centro/the Imperial Valley isn't that small, and it is relatively isolated. Is there a reason why the airport can't sustain more substantial service?


First among reasons I would put that as proximity to SAN, which has good carrier competition and a decent non-stop destination count. After that I would look at business mix and perhaps a low propensity for travel.
 
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janders
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 6:22 am

El Centro area is not very populous, and its largely lower income agricultural driven, with significant Mexican migrant population.

If anything I would say much if any air travel demand is Southbound and can be accessed via car to Mexicali or Tijuana airports.

Also Imperial County is in many ways connected to San Diego County with government and infrastructure so driving to San Diego would be a pretty natural direction for many to head toward.
"We make war that we may live in peace." -- Aristotle
 
chrisair
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 7:42 am

janders wrote:
El Centro area is not very populous, and its largely lower income agricultural driven, with significant Mexican migrant population.

If anything I would say much if any air travel demand is Southbound and can be accessed via car to Mexicali or Tijuana airports.

Also Imperial County is in many ways connected to San Diego County with government and infrastructure so driving to San Diego would be a pretty natural direction for many to head toward.


Anyone in El Centro isn’t going to drive to Tijuana for flights. They’ll go to San Diego or (more likely) Yuma.
 
MO11
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:07 pm

HVNandrew wrote:
I know that in the 80s and through the early 90s there was prop service to LA and other areas in Southern California, last provided by OO sometime in the early 90s (?). Does anyone know exactly when service ended, and why? Does anyone think there is a potential for future service there? Borrego Springs is not very large, but it is quite isolated and has somewhat of a tourist draw; that combined with the fact that it's not an easy drive from PSP or SAN, I would think there could be a market for some air service there?


Remember that Sun Aire used to be Borrego Springs Airlines (and was based there), which began with service between Borrego Springs and San Diego. After merger with SkyWest, service continued there until the 3rd quarter of 1989. Data shows that there were roughly 40 enplanements per month, so it's not difficult to see why service ended (when did SkyWest open its PSP maintenance?). Although a somewhat circuitous route, Borrego Springs is a 90 minute drive to PSP, so will probably not see service.

HVNandrew wrote:
Further south, IPL offers EAS subsidized service to LAX. El Centro/the Imperial Valley isn't that small, and it is relatively isolated. Is there a reason why the airport can't sustain more substantial service? I'm surprised service to a hub like PHX would not be sustainable given the size of the population and location.


But probably not good enough for the fare premium that you would pay for such service. You can pay a subsidized $47 add-on fare to LAX and get anywhere.

If you want to see what the service used to look like in the deserts, look at this: http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/bo1/bo68/bo68-4.jpg. Believe me, these airplanes weren't nearly full.
 
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lightsaber
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:24 pm

These desert airports have it tough as there are alternatives within reasonable driving distance. It is a chicken and egg scenario, businesses that need air travel will naturally congregate around airports with their needed service levels.

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janders
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:48 pm

chrisair wrote:

Anyone in El Centro isn’t going to drive to Tijuana for flights. They’ll go to San Diego or (more likely) Yuma.


Sure they do.

When you have a large ethnic Mexican population base, they are not looking to travel to NYC, but instead to former home towns in Mexico.

Quite similar to California central valley with its large Mexican agricultural population.
"We make war that we may live in peace." -- Aristotle
 
whatusaid
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 6:00 pm

janders wrote:
chrisair wrote:

Anyone in El Centro isn’t going to drive to Tijuana for flights. They’ll go to San Diego or (more likely) Yuma.


Sure they do.

When you have a large ethnic Mexican population base, they are not looking to travel to NYC, but instead to former home towns in Mexico.

Quite similar to California central valley with its large Mexican agricultural population.


I've a workforce of about 300 in the area and they use Mexicali as their airport of choice to head south.
 
drdisque
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 6:20 pm

Most of the Imperial/El Centro Valley is an hour to YUM, 90 minutes to SAN, 90 minutes to PSP, and 60 minutes to MXL.

That doesn't leave much traffic or attractiveness for service out of IPL. Honestly I think serving LAS would probably do the best since there would be some O&D and because domestic connectivity roughly is on-par with that at LAX.
 
enplaned
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 6:31 pm

MIflyer12 wrote:
HVNandrew wrote:
El Centro/the Imperial Valley isn't that small, and it is relatively isolated. Is there a reason why the airport can't sustain more substantial service?


First among reasons I would put that as proximity to SAN, which has good carrier competition and a decent non-stop destination count. After that I would look at business mix and perhaps a low propensity for travel.


IPL has a short-ish runway and the local demographics aren't great - it's a low-income part of CA and the total population of Imperial County is less than 200K. So, not a lot of people and those that are there are not doing all that well.

Proximity to SAN is actually probably not one of the bigger reasons. El Centro to SAN is 116 miles, which, is going to take the better part of 2 hours. While there are definitely people doing that drive on a regular basis, when you get up to that distance there's a decent impetus to prefer a local option. Except in this case the demographics don't support air travel. Palm Springs (PSP) is also about 2 hours away.

If air service at Yuma (about an hour away) was better, I'd guess the Imperial Valley dwellers would use that in preference to SAN or PSP. But it's not a great option either.

My guess is they do use SAN for a lot of their travel, but not because SAN is a great option, but because it's the least worst.
 
USTraveler
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Re: California Desert Airports

Wed Dec 09, 2020 8:47 pm

It's a low-income area where ground transportation supersedes air travel by price to the hubs.
 
HVNandrew
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Re: California Desert Airports

Thu Dec 10, 2020 1:14 am

MO11 wrote:
HVNandrew wrote:
I know that in the 80s and through the early 90s there was prop service to LA and other areas in Southern California, last provided by OO sometime in the early 90s (?). Does anyone know exactly when service ended, and why? Does anyone think there is a potential for future service there? Borrego Springs is not very large, but it is quite isolated and has somewhat of a tourist draw; that combined with the fact that it's not an easy drive from PSP or SAN, I would think there could be a market for some air service there?


Remember that Sun Aire used to be Borrego Springs Airlines (and was based there), which began with service between Borrego Springs and San Diego. After merger with SkyWest, service continued there until the 3rd quarter of 1989. Data shows that there were roughly 40 enplanements per month, so it's not difficult to see why service ended (when did SkyWest open its PSP maintenance?). Although a somewhat circuitous route, Borrego Springs is a 90 minute drive to PSP, so will probably not see service.

HVNandrew wrote:
Further south, IPL offers EAS subsidized service to LAX. El Centro/the Imperial Valley isn't that small, and it is relatively isolated. Is there a reason why the airport can't sustain more substantial service? I'm surprised service to a hub like PHX would not be sustainable given the size of the population and location.


But probably not good enough for the fare premium that you would pay for such service. You can pay a subsidized $47 add-on fare to LAX and get anywhere.

If you want to see what the service used to look like in the deserts, look at this: http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/bo1/bo68/bo68-4.jpg. Believe me, these airplanes weren't nearly full.

Thanks for the information! 40 enplanements per month...? Wow, that is extremely low. I am surprised, but as you say understandable why service ended.

enplaned wrote:
MIflyer12 wrote:
HVNandrew wrote:
El Centro/the Imperial Valley isn't that small, and it is relatively isolated. Is there a reason why the airport can't sustain more substantial service?


First among reasons I would put that as proximity to SAN, which has good carrier competition and a decent non-stop destination count. After that I would look at business mix and perhaps a low propensity for travel.


IPL has a short-ish runway and the local demographics aren't great - it's a low-income part of CA and the total population of Imperial County is less than 200K. So, not a lot of people and those that are there are not doing all that well.

Proximity to SAN is actually probably not one of the bigger reasons. El Centro to SAN is 116 miles, which, is going to take the better part of 2 hours. While there are definitely people doing that drive on a regular basis, when you get up to that distance there's a decent impetus to prefer a local option. Except in this case the demographics don't support air travel. Palm Springs (PSP) is also about 2 hours away.

If air service at Yuma (about an hour away) was better, I'd guess the Imperial Valley dwellers would use that in preference to SAN or PSP. But it's not a great option either.

My guess is they do use SAN for a lot of their travel, but not because SAN is a great option, but because it's the least worst.

I agree about proximity to SAN. One of the reasons I am surprised about the lack of service at IPL is that it really is a haul from other options; whether you go to SAN or PSP from El Centro, it's going to probably take about 2 hours. As you and others suggest, I guess the market demographics really play a role.
 
MO11
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Re: California Desert Airports

Thu Dec 10, 2020 2:19 am

HVNandrew wrote:
I agree about proximity to SAN. One of the reasons I am surprised about the lack of service at IPL is that it really is a haul from other options; whether you go to SAN or PSP from El Centro, it's going to probably take about 2 hours. As you and others suggest, I guess the market demographics really play a role.


I checked the data for 2012, the last full year that SkyWest flew as United Express from IPL to LAX. It averaged roughly 15 enplanements/day, operating two daily roundtrips.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: California Desert Airports

Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:37 am

As 50-seaters recede, towns that are within 2-3 hour drives of major cities will lose service, unless there’s a major business market there.
 
Chemist
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Re: California Desert Airports

Thu Dec 10, 2020 9:51 am

Back in the '80s my job took me to the IPL area and I flew round trips a number of times on Metroliners from LAX-IPL. Don't remember the airline. Imperial is pretty quiet.
 
TW870
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Re: California Desert Airports

Fri Dec 11, 2020 1:59 am

Don't forget Cochise Airlines, that in addition to other routes flew PHX-YUM-IPL-LAX and PHX-BLH-LAX in the late-1970s and early-1980s. According to wikipedia - and in this case its probably right because a real airline fan must have made the Cochise entry - the CV440 operated route through Imperial. Not sure about Blythe, as it may have been on the Metroliner.

For those of us 1990s Airliners International participants, some of us at the 1992 show got to take a ride in the Cochise CV440 - which was still in full colors - from SNA-Palmdale. By that time, Air Resorts was the operator as Cochise had collapsed in 1982.
 
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ua900
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Re: California Desert Airports

Fri Dec 11, 2020 4:03 am

HVNandrew wrote:
Hello all,

PSP has experienced a surge of growth as of late, which is exciting for the airport and area. This winter PSP is scheduled to have service to what may be the broadest range of destinations it has ever had. This got me thinking about some other airports out in the desert of Southern California which have limited or no air service.

...

Further south, IPL offers EAS subsidized service to LAX. El Centro/the Imperial Valley isn't that small, and it is relatively isolated. Is there a reason why the airport can't sustain more substantial service? I'm surprised service to a hub like PHX would not be sustainable given the size of the population and location.

Just looking for some insight or thoughts for discussion. Thanks in advance!


Thanks for asking. As some who has flown this route many times when it was UAX from LAX and SeaPort from BUR, I just have to chime in :-)

Like any other destination, what brings you to town? IPL isn't PSP, not even in the winter.

Purely anecdotal from dozens of conversations with fellow passengers on that route over the years, for people from LA, it's either that they're trying to go to Mexicali (mostly VFR) or have a business in the IPL area (say a dental practice that's open 2-3 times a week). People don't venture there for tourism like they do at SAN or even PHX. People who live in the LA area but have relatives on the US side will tend to drive. Same with SAN or PHX.

For people from the IPL area, where do they tend to *fly*? The area is relatively poor in economic terms, so they tend to drive, and most relatives likely live south of the border, in which case flying from MXL is the way to go, much like you won't see many people fly southbound from SAN but rather from TIJ for lots of relatively cheap nonstops to all over Mexico.

Neither group is evidently large enough to sustain even EAS service on a 9 seater. Not enough Angelenos with deep enough pockets to value saving maybe two hours by flying vs. driving, and not enough local folks at IPL with deep enough pockets to spend a day shopping on Rodeo Drive or enjoy the beaches in Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades. If they have relatives in LA, they likely already live there too, or are about to move. It's not like there is regular demand from them to fly that route once a week or even once a month flight to a singular destination, and few airports in the world that only offer flights to one other place would be sustainable.
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