Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Humboldt (page 1 of 2)

Au Revoir, Pen Air: Humboldt is Again Stuck with ONE Airline

In a depressing move, PenAir notified our local Arcata-Eureka Airport that they will no longer be flying the ACV-PDX route. And they are dropping it fast. The last flight will be this coming Monday.

This leave us with just United Airlines as our only commercial option (yet again). Getting out from behind the redwood curtain just got a bit harder.

PenAir’s reason for leaving

It seems to be impossible for our area to keep a reasonable amount of commercial air service. My first guess when hearing the news was that the route wasn’t particularly profitable due to the rural nature of our area. The single flight I took on PenAir to Portland didn’t have that high of a load factor (SEE: The Pacific Northwest Stopover “Trick”). However, the United flights I’ve been on are almost always very full (and very expensive).

Turns out that the economics of the route had nothing to do with PenAir’s decision to axe it. The program director for the Humboldt County Aviation Division called the route “very successful”. So what is the problem?

Airlines need pilots

PenAir, like other regional airlines, is suffering from a pilot shortage. Horizon Air (another regional airline that flies under Alaska’s wing) had to cut some flights due to their pilot shortage in June. Pilots are retiring by the hundreds per week, and we can’t seem to fill the ranks with new talent fast enough.

PenAir actually cut all non-essential air service routes in the lower 48 states. This means you can still fly to Portland from Crescent City (an EAS airport) on PenAir, although for most of Humboldt County this is roughly a 2 hour drive north. Hardly ideal. Might as well drive to SFO.

Conclusion

This is sad news for Humboldt. I really liked the new little airline we acquired last year, and had hoped to fly them again. I’ll continue to hold out hope that we will pick up a new option. Three flights per day on United is hardly much of an option (plus they break guitars).

I want to add that if you’re young and considering a career, consider becoming a pilot. The investment isn’t all that much different than a moderately expensive university, but the demand for your skills will not be going away anytime soon. The world will need 637,000 new pilots by 2036 to fill the projected increase in air travel. North America will need 117,000 of those. Airline pilots make good wages, so the multi-year investment should be entirely worth it.

So close, yet so far

Last week my wife and I were returning from a wonderful 5 night getaway in Banff and Calgary, Alberta. Banff National Park is spectacular, even in shoulder season when there is lingering snow and cool temperatures (SEE: Banff, Alberta in 14 photos).

Our travel plans home included a midday non-stop flight to SFO out of Calgary on United, and then a 5.5 hour drive home back up the coast.

Flying 1,000 miles? No problem

Our flight was uneventful, and we landed in San Francisco just in time to catch the rush hour traffic headed north.

After fighting our way through Santa Rosa, the road finally opened up. We started counting down the final 3 hours of our drive, anticipating being home in our lovely apartment around 10:00 p.m.

Driving 270 miles? A bit more difficult

We got as far as Leggett, only to be stopped by a “Road Closed” sign. A CalTrans worker soon informed us that a problematic hillside had decided to fall into the road again, and 101 was completely closed. The road had just opened from the previous slide the day before. Shoulda figured it would slip again. *Sigh.* Back to Willits we’ll go.

Willits, the closest town to where we got turned around, is only about 100 miles from where we live. Because the road was closed at the worst pinch point possible, there was no easy to way to just drive around.

Many of you who are locals understand the major issues we’ve had this winter, as 101 has seen multiple closures. When 101 is closed at Leggett, you only have 2 options:

  1. Take a local dirt and gravel road that is not intended for a large amount of traffic (and by all accounts has been brutalized this winter)
  2. Drive 7 hours around, which is over 3 times what the drive *should* take!

Because we drive a minivan and not a 4×4 pickup, the only reasonable option was the latter.

The long way home

We spent the night at the Super Duper Pooper 8 in Willits, basically just sleeping and showering.  The next morning we hit the road at 7:00, headed south to take Highway 20 over to I5. By a little after 9:00 we had reached the valley. An hour later we made a pit stop in Red Bluff before heading back over the mountains.

The last few hours were the worst, as we drove winding highway 36. The road has taken a beating this year, as so many people have had to drive around the closures on highway 101.

Finally, we arrived home a little after 1:00. I literally headed straight to the office and into a meeting, arriving at 1:30 on the dot.

Will this ever get better?

Honestly, this sort of thing has become par for the course when we travel. Some situation *always* seems to present itself that we have to work around.

I just have to resign myself to the fact that getting in and out of Humboldt will never be an easy proposition. Yet I still seem to convince myself that one of these times things will be different.

Header image courtesy of CalTrans. 

Tour and/or ride in vintage WWII planes in Humboldt this June!

Do you love aviation? Would you enjoy getting up close and personal with vintage aircraft? Then this event is for you.

The Collings Foundation is bringing the Wings of Freedom Tour to the Arcata-Eureka Airport over June 12 through 14, 2017. The tour features vintage aircraft, including a B24 Liberator and the renowned B17 “Flying Fortress” of World War II. A P-51C Mustang was also recently added to the lineup.

Tickets for the event cost $15 for adults and $5 for children (12 and under). Walk through tour times are as follows:

  • 6/12/2017 – 1:00 PM till 5:00 PM
  • 6/13/2017 – 9:00 AM till 5:00 PM
  • 6/14/2017 – 9:00 AM till 12:00 PM

No reservations are needed. The address of the event location puts it across the road from the airport.

You can also book a short flight in some the aircraft, but it is very pricey. A 30-minute flight in one of the bombers starts at $450 per person. A training flight in the Mustang will run you $2,200 to $3,200. But if you’re made of cash, you can reserve a flight spot by calling (978) 562-9182.

Info about the Sponsor

The Collings Foundation specializes in providing “living history” events that allow Americans to learn about our nation’s history through direct interaction with historical artifacts. To find out more about the Wings of Freedom Tour and the Collings Foundation, head to their website.

If I’m in town (and not in Costa Rica with my wife to adopt our kids), I definitely plan to go to this event.

H/T: Fly Humboldt

A Successful Travel Hacking Intro Presentation

On Monday I gave a presentation to 15 friends and family on the basics of travel hacking through credit cards. It was a fun time, although I did run much longer than I anticipated. I should have blocked out a bit more time.

Public speaking isn’t really my thing, but this seemed different. I was only mildly nervous before we started, and that quickly dissipated once we got rolling. Attendees asked some great questions, and I was happy that there are people interested in this topic. It was fun for me more than anything. I love sharing the knowledge I’ve gained over these past 5 years.

We covered the basics of loyalty programs, how to use credit cards to earn serious amounts of points and miles in said programs, and some of the specifics about credit card offers and how to use credit cards wisely. We finished off with an introduction to airline and hotel loyalty programs, as well as flexible bank rewards programs. The last few minutes were spent speeding through some specific loyalty programs that I find highly lucrative.

Finally, I need to say thanks to my in-laws for the venue and easel (to hold the flip chart), and to my wife and mother-in-law for making cookies. I wasn’t planning on doing anything more than water, so y’all got lucky.

Should we do this again?

Considering that my flip chart (a.k.a poor man’s power point) took a me few hours to put together and is still completely usable, I am considering offering a second session if there is enough interest. More than likely it will be in a couple months at the same venue. It will cover the same material, so if you came this time, there won’t be anything new.  You’re welcome to attend again, though.

In light of that, if anyone is interested in a second session, please send me a note on the contact me page, by phone or text (if you have my number), or through Facebook message with my webpage. I’ll be eyeing a Monday in early May.

Also, I was missing a few who RSVP’ed for the first session, so I will certainly send out a reminder email a couple days in advance for any future sessions.

United cuts an Arcata flight, but switches to larger planes

United airlines has cut service to Arcata airport by one flight per day.  But don’t be too worried about the change. United is switching to operating larger aircraft between here and SFO and will be able to accommodate the same number of passengers per day.

The Star Alliance carrier has been in the process of retiring many of it’s small Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets. This small plane has been one of the primary aircraft United has used on the ACV-SFO route. The carrier is switching to the larger Embraer E175, which seats 76 passengers, compared to 50 on a CRJ-200. United is effectively replacing 3 of its CRJ-200 flights with 2 flights serviced by E-175 aircraft, keeping the number of daily departures the same.

The departure times for afternoon flights has adjusted slightly. Instead of a mid-afternoon departure and a second in the early evening, there will be one departure around 4:00 p.m. moving forward. Most afternoon flights starting in May have a scheduled departure time of 4:20. I want to know if this is a fluke, or some clever person making a gentle nod to the Humboldt subculture.

The two other United flights typically take off around 6:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.

Downsides of the change

One negative impact from this change is that there are now only a total of 5 flights in or out of Humboldt County each day. If any of these are delayed or cancelled, more passengers will be affected, and rebooking options will be more limited. Both United and PenAir have very poor on time performances in and out of Arcata Airport, so let’s hope they can improve this moving forward.

It’s a bummer to lose some schedule flexibility, too, with only 3 United flight options now. Hopefully the aircraft swap will mean better operations for the remaining flights. This news also comes on the heels of PenAir cutting a flight per day to Portland.

Personally, my feelings are mixed on the change. My last flight back to Humboldt with United was on an E-175. The plane was much newer and nicer. I was also in shock that we actually boarded via a jetway at SFO. Most of the time you have to walk outside at good ol’ gate 84 to a parked CRJ-200. I happily welcome the new aircraft, but I wish it wasn’t at the cost of a flight per day.

Older posts