Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Flight Options to Loreto!

One of the significant factors affecting many aspects of life here in this relatively remote and isolated part of the Baja Peninsula is the access to air transportation.  Although I routinely drive south from Canada in the Fall and north again in the late Spring/early Summer, shorter trips - like my recent visit back to Canada, are only practical by air.  As well, I know of many Homeowners, whether they are here for the whole winter season or a shorter visit, who have only ever flown in and out of Loreto and would not consider driving here an option.  Thder these circumstancesat the  not surprising that e whole winter season, or on a shorter visit nsula is the erefore it is understandable that we as a community are very conscious about the schedule and capacity of our air service.

Previously I wrote about the Aereo Calafia regional service from the Airport in San Jose del Cabo to Loreto (“Flying to Loreto from San Jose – Up Up and Away”, January 2012) and that continues to provide a limited number of passengers with an option to connect to Loreto through one of the numerous International flights serving the larger tourist center of Los Cabos.  But the new development is that after weeks of rumors circulating, we heard this week that starting April 21st there is going to be another scheduled service from Los Angeles to Loreto launched by Cal Jet Air ( ).  This new service will be a weekly direct flight on Saturdays, leaving LAX around 2:00 pm (local time) and returning from Loreto about 7:15 pm using a Boeing 737-400 jet with a capacity of 150 passengers.

To put this additional airlift capacity into perspective, the current Alaska/Horizon service uses Bombardier Q400 Turbo Props with a capacity of 76 seats on four round trip flights a week: Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  So the new Cal Jet Air flight will add almost 50% to the existing number of seats available.  However, by comparison, during the winter season last year, Alaska was flying into Loreto daily with a combination of Turbo Props and 737s with a total of about 600 seats a week, so even with the addition of these 150 new seats by Cal Jet Air, we are only going to have 75% of the available seats we had a year ago.

I should also point out that this new scheduled service would not have come about without the involvement and support of the Villa del Palmar resort (see “Internet Access – and a visit to the future of Loreto”, January 2011), whose branding is dominant on the Cal Jet Air website and who, no doubt, are counting on a reasonable percentage of these additional seats being occupied by visitors to their beautiful resort.  And while I hope that this venture is successful for the resort and they see a significant increase in their number of guests, I do know that any increase in the number of visitors to the Loreto area will mean an improvement in the local economy which depends, to a large extent, on tourism. 

Needless to say, the combination of a number of factors that have contributed to the general downturn in tourism here (and in many other places in Mexico and other sun destinations) have had a substantial impact, over the past several years, on local employment and most businesses.  Therefore, while we are encouraged by the introduction of this new air service, looking forward, we are optimistic that there will be sufficient demand for seats that this initial weekly flight schedule will be extended beyond the end of the year and ideally expanded with additional flights so that Loreto will become accessible to larger and larger numbers of people.

But realistically a shift like that takes some time to develop, particularly given the fact that for much of this winter season almost all of the Alaska flights have been booked solid months in advance, with few, if any, empty seats available on shorter notice.  While it is worth noting that the Airport here in Loreto serves a much larger area than the immediate surroundings, any increase in the availability of seats will have its biggest impact locally.  

I think that it is a fair assumption to make that the majority of passengers travelling to and from Loreto by air mainly fall into two categories: short term visitors and long term residents.  Because residents tend to plan at least some of their travel further in advance, with a limited number of seats available during this season, flights have booked up further in advance with the result that there have been few, if any, seats available closer to a travel date for the more “spontaneous” short term visitors.

 And it is also true that these short term visitors that have the biggest impact on the local economy; renting accommodations, eating in restaurants, hiring services like taxis, fishing guides etc.  Personally, I know many Homeowners here in Loreto Bay who have been unable to host visits from friends and family this winter due to the lack of available Airline seats and I am also very conscious of the fact that in my own Real Estate business I am seeing fewer visitors than were here at this time last year.  Of course, we will never know how many “lost” visits from tourists there have been, those who wanted to come to this beautiful place (perhaps because of reading about it on a Blog?) but when they looked into booking a ticket they were unable to find seats when they wanted to travel.            

In fact my only regret, in light of the good word of this new flight, is that it is launching so late in the season.  By the time they start flying later this month there will only be about another month before the number of visitor’s drops off significantly for the summer months.  That is not to say that tourism stops altogether, in fact June and July are the “high season” for sport fishing in the Sea of Cortez, but it will probably be this Fall before we will feel the full impact of the additional capacity.  To that point I am encouraged that the Cal Jet Air website shows this flight being scheduled from now through to the end of the year – hopefully, they have realistic expectations of the number of passengers over the summer months and are willing to “hang in” through to the Fall when bookings will increase.  We can also hope that strong demand for seats, particularly starting again this Fall, will at some point justify additional flights and possibly cause Alaska, or other Airlines to consider increasing competitive services to Loreto.

Coincidentally, this announcement comes within a month of more good news that will no doubt have a positive impact on tourism, as quoted from the Mexico Report ( ), a tourism oriented Blog: “In a significant move that recognizes the safety of La Paz and Baja California Sur, the U.S. State Department’s latest 2012 travel update states no security concerns for the region. For the first time, the regular update includes “no advisory” in effect for La Paz and the entire South Baja region.” (see the rest of the article at:

To conclude on another positive note I wonder how many of my readers outside of Mexico realize how popular Mexico continues to be as a tourist destination, in spite of whatever negative publicity has come from North American news media?   Last year Mexico was the most visited country in the world for U.S.-originating travelers, and over 1.6 million Canadians visited Mexico – more than double the number from four years ago.  I am confident that these trends will continue to grow in the future and the significance of a small change like the addition of a new flight here once a week will eventually lead to more arrivals from more airlines and a growing popularity for what is in my opinion a most deserving destination.  Opening up the skies to more flights and allowing more people to discover and share this magical place is an important part of “Living Loreto”.