Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: News (page 1 of 4)

Santa Rosa Airport Expands to Meet Crushing Demand

Unlike our local Arcata-Eureka Airport, passenger demand at Charles M. Schulz Airport has seen an huge increase over the past several years. Which has been met by a noticeable increase in both flights and airlines serving the small airport.

What hasn’t changed much is the size of the airport. And it needs to. Badly.

Expansion plans have to be altered

Currently, Santa Rosa/Sonoma County Airport is way too small for the number of passenger passing through on a daily basis. Contrary to the loss of service that has been experienced by many airports, Sonoma County has seen strong and steady growth. Numbers jumped this year as more airlines added service after the airport’s $55 million runway expansion project was completed. The airport is poised to see at least a 20% jump in passenger numbers in 2017.

This unprecedented increase has prompted changes to the plans that were initially proposed for the STS expansion. The plans had to be redrawn to deal with both the influx of new service and more passengers. A temporary tent structure will accommodate the crush of passengers until the terminal expansion is completed. Financing for the new expansion project was approved by the County supervisors in September.

STS is a great option for Humboldt travelers

Santa Rosa isn’t all that far away in the scheme of things. Given that the Willits bypass is now in place, you can typically make it nonstop from the Eel Valley to Sonoma County Airport in about 3.5 hours. Sure, it’s a lot longer than the 45 minute trek to ACV. But there are definitely benefits.

First, fares are *much* cheaper. If you’re a family of 4 looking to travel to D.C., you could save upwards of $300 per ticket versus flying out of ACV. Sure, you might save even more flying out of SFO, but you’d be adding another 90 minutes to your drive and more in parking fees. Not to mention generally more in hotel if you’re planning to stay the night.

Second, you have options. Charles M. Shulz Airport is served by Alaska, American, Sun Country, and United. It used to be served by Allegiant on a couple routes. Now that United flies the shortest flight in the U.S. to SFO, a huge United hub, Santa Rosa Airport really is a gateway to the world. You can connect to many destinations across the country and across the globe with only one stop.


I’ll definitely admit that I didn’t like my last experience flying out of STS, and things may be painful in the interim as the airport goes through it’s planned expansion. But looking ahead, I’d say that Sonoma County is an great option for people flying out of northern California.

The Shortest Flight in the U.S. is at Our Doorstep

Did you know that the shortest flight in the U.S. is in northern California? I didn’t either until I saw the headline in a news piece recently.

United is connecting to Santa Rosa?!

When I first read about United adding the SFO-STS hop to their schedule, I thought they were insane. Are you really going to fly a route that people can drive in 90 minutes?

But then I sat back and thought about the market they are attacking. Sure, it is a super short flight. But it lets you avoid the hassle of driving (often in bad traffic) and paying for parking. Plus, if you’re local to Sonoma County, it’s an easy Uber ride to the airport. I can definitely see the appeal.

Not to mention Sonoma County is growing and demand for air service is increasing. The Charles M. Shulz Airport is looking at a desperately-needed expansion coming in 2019.

The flight time of the shortest flight in the United States? A mere 16 minutes in the air. United blocks it at 51 minutes. You spend more time taxiing than actually flying.

The shortest flight in the U.S. offers some great deals!

In contrast to flying out of Arcata, something that requires taking out a second mortgage on your house, there are actually some good deals out of STS. Not directly to SFO, but you can connect to a number of destinations cheaply. Examples, all one-way:

  • STS to LAX for $74
  • STS to SAN for $74
  • STS to SNA for $74
  • STS to PDX for $87

Most of those aren’t even United basic economy!

I’ve also looked at international flights that have either an outbound or return leg to STS rather than SFO. Generally, the price doesn’t jump too much if you decide to touch down among the vineyards instead of alongside the Bay. I’m hoping this holds out long enough for us to take advantage of it a couple times.

The flight above to Beijing is currently $489 flying nonstop from SFO. Adding the outbound from Santa Rosa only brings the price up to $538. Pretty sweet deal!

Next time you want to get out of Humboldt, consider taking the shortest flight in the U.S. out of Santa Rosa!

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.


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.

News roundup: Harrison Ford lands plane on taxiway, Mid East electronics ban, and more

I like following travel news, both for writing ideas and simply because I enjoy keeping up with the airline and hotel industries. Here’s a recap of some of the best news stories from the past couple weeks:

News bits:

Airline news:

Credit cards:

Remember to follow me on Facebook or Twitter. You can also follow Points with a Crew, who I write for as well. You may notice a bunch of the articles are from that blog. 😉

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