Since anna.aero last looked at Puerto Rico’s main airport in July 2008, traffic figures for San Juan have continued to fall as the economic situation in the US, of which Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory, has deteriorated. By 2009, passenger numbers were down by almost 25% on the record year of 2005. The situation marginally improved in 2010, but another slump in traffic followed the next year. 2012 data so far made available by the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics suggest that passenger numbers are unlikely to improve this year as well.
Traffic loss corresponds with capacity reductions
Since 2007, San Juan Airport has seen significant traffic reductions across the board. The domestic US market has shrunk by 22%, a number that corresponds with the capacity cuts undertaken by airlines. Notably, in the last five years, American Airlines has dropped 21 routes from San Juan and reduced capacity on further 13 routes. However, JetBlue has been quick to address the opportunity and has developed its network to San Juan from two to 14 destinations across the US and the Caribbean, with the latest destination being Washington National, which launched last week.
In addition, San Juan Airport saw 40% of its international traffic vanish over the same period. Only a limited number of international destinations outside of the Caribbean are now offered non-stop from Puerto Rico, including Iberia’s twice-weekly service to Madrid, Condor’s weekly flights to Frankfurt, and WestJet’s also single weekly operation to Toronto Pearson.
Notably, as domestic capacity was reduced, load factors have continued to climb through 2010 and, despite a small decrease last year, the average remains above 85%. In the international market, average load factors have proved fairly steady, failing to pass the 70% mark in more than a decade.
American Airlines dethroned; JetBlue grows 60% year-on-year
As American Airlines reduced its presence in San Juan Airport by 16%, down to 196 weekly departures in September 2012 from 250 in the corresponding period last year, JetBlue took over as the airport’s main airline in terms of capacity. The carrier now accounts for 35% of seat capacity, which is spread across a network of 14 destinations. Half of those routes were launched since September 2011, operating with at least daily frequencies. The only service launched between Puerto Rico and the rest of the US last year by any airline other than JetBlue was by Southwest, which now offers 12 weekly flights to Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Both Cape Air and Air Sunshine, which make up for 30% of weekly departures in San Juan Airport, operate a mix of small turboprop aircraft on intra-Caribbean services. Notably, both operators have launched services to Vance Amory Airport in St. Kitts and Nevis last year (seven and four weekly frequencies respectively). In addition, Air Sunshine launched four-weekly flights to the island of Dominica.
Four Florida destinations make Top 10 list
Only three international destinations make it onto the list of 10 largest routes from San Juan as measured by weekly seat capacity. Santo Domingo is served by competitors JetBlue and American Airlines, while both the US and the British Virgin Islands are also served by a combination of regional airlines, including Cape Air, Air Sunshine and the Antigua-based, pan-Caribbean LIAT.
Florida’s Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa all make it into top 10, as the Sunshine State remains a significant source of Porto Rico-bound traffic. Notably, as JetBlue and Delta increased their seat offerings to New York JFK by 20% and 150% respectively, the mega city that has a large Puerto Rican community is now the largest destination from San Juan with more than 12,000 weekly seats and 76 weekly frequencies on offer.