Succession For Poor People: The Pilot Calls Passengers At Home Before Flying LA’s Tiniest Airline

What’s it like to fly the smallest commercial plane out of Los Angeles? Eli McCann bought his $100 ticket and boarded a plane with just a few other people – cramped, but cozy, “Succession, but for poor people.” The pilot gave the safety briefing, asking passengers not to leave barf bags on the plane. And he ran an icebreaker for everyone on board to get to know each other.

I’m strangely fascinated by this journey, because it doesn’t appear to be the flight I thought that it was.

Everyone was there for an early departure. With only three passengers on board, the pilot called everyone two hours before the flight to ask their weight and see if they could leave early so that he could make it home in time for dinner. Everyone made it happen, and the plane left 45 minutes early.

While the flight was terrifying to the passenger, because of the turbulence (a “Tower of Terror” ride), he texted his uncle as he overflew the man’s house so he could leave his home and head to the airport for pickup.

Everyone landed safely, because that’s what usually happens and because this flight happens every day. The pilot left them with this parting thought, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,”

We learn that the departure was from Los Angeles in a later reply, but not the destination, airline or aircraft type. My first guess was this is a flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Imperial County (IPL) on Southern Airways Express on board a Pilatus PC-12. Southern’s 3 peak day departures on that 1 hour 15 minute, 180-mile journey uses the smallest commercial aircraft I know of flying out of LAX. But the aircraft interior doesn’t match. So I’m curious if any of you can identify the plane?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. works for me. I have no problem when the driver and his side kick, is younger than my kids.
    Lets, go, Love the ride.

  2. Advanced Air, maybe? They do EAS flights out of Hawthorne to Merced. And this sounds like something Advanced Air would do. Southern (formerly Mokulele)’s California operations are pretty set in the schedule and not a lot of downtime on the plane.

  3. I remember a flight on Rio Airways from DFW to ACT where thre pilot walked us out onto the tarmac to the airplane with everyone holding hands.

  4. Many years ago (1978) I was flying a small plane on a short hop and it was about a 10-12 seater puddle jumper with 1 pilot and no FA (unsure about rules in 1978 but I swear that was the case. The pilot left the door to the cockpit open and even offered to have people sit in the co-pilot’s seat.

    Strangest flight I ever took

  5. Browsing, I don’t see any other possible route/carrier it could be other than LAX-IPL on Southern. I guess you need to book this to do a flight review, Gary.

  6. Back in the day, booked through United from Elizabeth City NC to RIC to DCA.I got to be co- pilot because of my weight on a six seater. Pilot was so professional. And I loved it on that beautiful morning. Good times.

  7. My first thought was Boutique Air. I flew them LAX-Modesto once. The interior looks like a dead ringer. But they don’t appear to operate that route any more.

  8. Smallest I ever flew was from Dallas to Lawton. But it was a contract flight in the military and not commercial. There were 6 of us going to Ft. Sill. Pilot walked us out to the plane. Looked like he was at the tail end of a 3 day bender. Had a cooler of canned drinks and told us to take one. I remember one of the engines smoked horribly when he started it up. I was too young to be scared but beat the C-130 flights in the web seats.

  9. Come to Western Australia and tour the more remote parts and you might also see a commercial PC-12. Though hopefully you would not need to get a seat or bed on one of them.
    The Royal Flying Doctor Service has an aeromedical fleet of 17 Pilatus PC-12 turbo prop aircraft which are very well utilized.

  10. The night time shots in the photos first the last LAX-IMP departure of 8:30. The inbound gets in at 7:30 which also fits the early departure story.

    Surprised this runs 3x a day!

    They should run LAX-CLD

  11. At least the plane has an aisle.

    The Britten Norman Trislander, flown by airlines including Aurigney Airways, has no aisle. It has 2 across seating accessed by a door that resembles a car door.

  12. I’ve flown in a few small planes, both commercial and private (open cockpit biplane anyone?), but one of more unique commercial flights was a six seat Kenmore Air de Havilland Beaver float plane. Video of landing on Seattle’s Lake Union, sitting right seat, next to the pilot:

  13. This makes me think of the small plane that I flew from Ceiba to Culebra on Vieques Air Link. I think that our plane was even smaller than this one.

  14. Had a tiny plane like that years ago on some kahului maui to kona big island flight, where the boarding did not involve any security check and pilot spent time figuring out where everyone should sit and considered weight factors based on bags for awhile! And pilot was wearing shorts 🙂

  15. Cape Air on MV flies Cessna 402’s to Boston and back. I always grab the FA seat if I can. Not as good a $ deal as this guys trip though…

  16. Probably Advanced Airlines.

    I’ve flown on Southern’s PC-12 a few times out of PHX as recently as two months ago and it looks nothing like that inside.

  17. Try the Loganair islander from westray to papa westray – a few minutes hop flight – worlds shortest scheduled service.

    One of the shortest international flights I ever did was late 80d Bellingham to Vancouver. We had flown into Bellingham on PSA from SFO via SEA…
    It’s a long time ago but think it was San Juan airlines

  18. Weird… I didn’t realize that Southern was based in LA? Coulda sworn it was Palm Beach, Florida.

    Yet, more inaccurate blabbering by @gary.

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