US start-up carrier New Pacific Airlines is pivoting to focus mostly on charter flights after struggling to catch on with its scheduled passenger service out of Southern California. 

”Rule number one is stay in business,” chief executive Rob McKinney tells FlightGlobal on 22 March. ”We’ve got to go where the business and where the money is, and right now we see [charters] as the lowest-hanging fruit, and our best efforts can be put in the charter market in the short run.”

Anchorage, Alaska-based New Pacific – formerly known as Northern Pacific Airways – has operated a mix of scheduled passenger flights and charters since launching in July 2023.

But its trio of older Boeing 757s will increasingly be used for charters in the months ahead, while scheduled flying is being reduced. On 22 March, the carrier cut flights between Reno and Ontario International airport – a secondary airport outside of Los Angeles – leaving twice-weekly flights between Ontario and Nashville as its lone scheduled route available for booking. 

McKinney says the airline has needed to ”be nimble and pivot” in order to stay afloat. “To maximise profitability and continue to grow and add to the fleet, we’ll probably be focusing more on charter than we will on scheduled operations.” 

new pacific II

Source: New Pacific Airlines

New Pacific is reorienting its strategy around charter contracts rather than scheduled passenger service 

To that end, New Pacific reached a deal with Florida-based Elevate Aviation Group, a charter company that caters to sports teams, concert goers and government agencies. Elevate will feed charter contracts to New Pacific through the arrangement. 

”I think there will be several major sports teams involved as a result of this relationship,” McKinney says. ”In the past, Elevate has even done presidential campaigns, and that might be a possibility in the election year we’re in.” 

McKinney maintains that the company’s long-term vision remains to the same – to launch transpacific flights from the West Coast of the USA to markets in Asia, using Anchorage as a stopover. The carrier has instead been operating its 757s out of Ontario International on short- and medium-haul routes. 

In January, New Pacific cut flights to Las Vegas due to consistent ground delays related to air traffic control issues and runway closures. 

”Las Vegas was actually performing OK – it was more of a service issue where we were getting consistent multi-hour-long ground stops,” he says. 

If the charter operation is a success and New Pacific’s fleet starts growing, McKinney says, it will take a “hard look at potential scheduled destinations”. 

New Pacific is on the lookout to add more 757s to its fleet, and has a long-term interest in the long-range capabilities of Airbus’s A321XLR. But for now it is entirely geared toward 757 maintenance and pilot training. 

”It was the right airplane for our original transpacific model because it is the only narrowbody with the stage length needed to get from Anchorage to Japan and Anchorage to the East Coast,” McKinney says. “It was also available as other airlines were exiting the platform, and they were more affordable than a new airplane.”

McKinney admits 757s are not an ideal platform for short-haul flights from Southern California to Reno or Las Vegas. But he is determined to eventually launch long-haul flights with the type. 

Speaking to the difficulty of starting a new airline in the US, McKinney says the business comes with high costs and low margins. “You also have to get the word out – people have to know the service exists and that takes time. Flying emptier airplanes around for a period of time before it catches on is a challenge.” 

This story has been edited to reflect New Pacific Airlines ceasing scheduled passenger service between Ontario, California and Reno, Nevada.