|Ceased operations||1987 (integrated into American Airlines)|
|Hubs||John Wayne Airport|
|Parent company||American Airlines|
|Headquarters||Newport Beach, California|
Air California, later AirCal, began as an intrastate regional airline operating mainline turboprop and then jet aircraft. The air carrier served points in the state of California and in later years a number of destinations in neighboring U.S. states. The system eventually included service to Chicago, Seattle, Anchorage, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia. It was founded by a partnership of Orange County businessmen as an alternative to other airlines and what was left of the state's passenger railroad system. The airline's initial route as of their January 1967 debut was between Orange County Airport (SNA) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO), a previously unserved route, using Lockheed L-188 Electra four engine turboprop airliners. Air California was headquartered in Newport Beach, California. The airline's "home" airport over the years was Orange County Airport which is now known as John Wayne Airport. The importance of the Orange County Airport to the airline was perhaps reflected in the air carrier's two letter code, being "OC", for its flight numbers.
Air California was perhaps the last airline in the U.S. using the Electra on scheduled passenger flights (to Lake Tahoe). One of the airline's early promotional campaigns included an illustration of an Electra dressed in the airline's gold "sunburst" tail emblem, with the slogan, "Our Electras Are Easy To Take". In later years after the airline had changed its name to AirCal, this slogan was changed to "Our 737s Are Easy To Take".
In the late 1970s Air California's fleet was primarily Boeing 737-200 jets. Boeing 737-100 models were operated as well. It flew a pair of Douglas DC-9-10 twinjets during the late 1960s, leased while Air California was awaiting delivery of new Boeing 737s. Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprops were needed for flights to Lake Tahoe Airport as this airfield did not allow airline jets until the 1980s. The Electras were finally retired after the airline dropped Lake Tahoe. AirCal returned to Lake Tahoe some years later with the first scheduled jet flights to this high elevation airport in the Sierra Nevada. AirCal initially served Lake Tahoe with McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and later with Boeing 737-300s.
One program used by Air California in the early to mid-1970s was to offer school field trips to Sacramento at $25 a head, where school children would be taken on a tour of the California State Capitol, Governor's Mansion, and Sutter's Fort.
Another marketing program took place in 1980 when the airline began upgrading its fleet with the new McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jetliner. For a short span of several hours at Burbank Airport, one could purchase deeply discounted one-way passes good for up to one year for flights to either of the two San Francisco Bay Area airports it served at that time, San Jose or Oakland. The price was $9.80 one way/$19.60 round trip, with a limit of four round trips. Later that year when the carrier began service to San Francisco International Airport the passes were valid for that destination as well.
It was a fierce competitor of Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), another intrastate carrier. Following the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, Air California initiated new service to Las Vegas and Reno in Nevada. These were the first routes undertaken by Air California outside of the state. Service to Portland, Oregon was then added followed by new service to Seattle, Washington and Phoenix, Arizona. However, this expansion also resulted in the airline becoming a takeover target for larger, national air carriers.
In 1981 the airline changed its name to AirCal and adopted a bright new logo and image, including a new wardrobe for its employees by noted fashion designer Mary McFadden. During the 1980s it operated a small fleet of Boeing 737 jets (series -100, series -200 and series -300 aircraft) as well as seven McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jetliners and six British Aerospace BAe 146-200 jets. The latter two types were also operated at the time by rival Pacific Southwest Airlines on several of the same routes. Acquisition of the BAe 146 jet enabled AirCal to increase flights at noise-sensitive Orange County Airport as this British-manufactured aircraft was quieter than other jetliners. PSA also acquired BAe 146 aircraft which were then used from Orange County Airport in competition with AirCal. By May 1987 AirCal had expanded with flights to Chicago, Anchorage, Alaska and its only international destination, Vancouver, British Columbia.
AirCal, along with its equipment, routes, and facilities, was eventually acquired piecemeal by AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, in 1987. American continued to fly many of the former AirCal aircraft from a new hub at San Jose International Airport (SJC) until American transferred the bulk of its San Jose operations to Reno Air in the mid-1990s. American also continued to operate former AirCal Boeing 737-300 aircraft into the Lake Tahoe Airport before turning over all Lake Tahoe service to their regional affiliate, American Eagle. American would later acquire Reno Air in 1999, and San Jose was an American Airlines hub until the early 2000s (and a downturn in the economy).
All eight former AirCal Boeing 737-3A4s were later operated by Southwest Airlines. AirCal also had ordered a ninth 737-3A4, but it was never delivered. Eventually, this aircraft found its way into the Southwest Airlines' fleet as well. As of August 2010, Southwest retired most of the former AirCal fleet, with N679AA being the only remaining Boeing 737-300 series aircraft still in service.
Destinations in May of 1987
AirCal's timetable includes the following cities in May of 1987 shortly before it was acquired by American Airlines:
- Anchorage, Alaska (ANC)
- Burbank, California (BUR) (Now Bob Hope Airport)
- Chicago, Illinois (ORD)
- Lake Tahoe, California (TVL)
- Long Beach, California (LGB)
- Los Angeles, California (LAX)
- Oakland, California (OAK)
- Ontario, California (ONT)
- Orange County, California (SNA) (Now John Wayne Airport)
- Portland, Oregon (PDX)
- Reno, Nevada (RNO)
- Sacramento, California (SMF)
- San Diego, California (SAN)
- San Francisco, California (SFO)
- San Jose, California (SJC)
- Seattle, Washington (SEA)
- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (YVR)
Other Past Destinations
Prior to 1987, the airline also served the following destinations with jet flights during its existence. Service to all of these cities had been discontinued by May of 1983 according to the air carrier's system timetable at that time:
- Fresno, California (FAT)
- Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS)
- Monterey, California (MRY)
- Palm Springs, California (PSP)
- Phoenix, Arizona (PHX)
- Boeing 737-100
- Boeing 737-200
- Boeing 737-300
- British Aerospace BAe 146-200
- Douglas DC-9-10
- Lockheed L-188 Electra
- McDonnell Douglas MD-80
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Air California.|
- Orange County Memories, AirCal Airlines
-  has an AirCal timetable from March, 1987, including an American Airlines Chicago O'Hare connection supplement.