SFO welcomes new airlines to support growth

San Francisco
Southwest: coming soon to SFO.

San Francisco International airport (SFO) is this year celebrating its 80th anniversary. In May 1927, a modest dirt strip and small wooden building helped create what was then known as Mills Field Municipal Airport of San Francisco. Last year, despite growth in traffic of 0.5% to 33.5 million passengers, SFO fell four places in the world league of airports from 21st to 25th. Among US airports it now ranks only 14th.

In pre-‘9/11′ days the airport catered for more than 40 million passengers, but this fell to under 30 million in 2003 before recovery began.

Chart: San Francisco Traffic 1998 - 2006
Source: www.flysfo.com

Asia leads international expansion

Unlike at many other major US airports, international traffic plays an important role at SFO representing around one-quarter of all traffic. Whereas domestic traffic is still around 25% below pre-‘9/11′ levels, international traffic in 2006 surpassed the previous high of eight million in 2000. Traffic to Asia is particularly strong with nearly four million passengers flown to nine destinations on 12 different carriers in 2006.

Region Share
Asia 46.8%
Europe 26.1%
Canada 12.7%
Mexico/Caribbean/Central America 9.2%
Australia/Oceania 5.2%
Source: www.flysfo.com

The top five international destinations in 2006 were:

Destination Passengers Carriers
London Heathrow 497,822 United, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic
Tokyo Narita 391,576 United, Northwest, JAL, ANA
Taipei 299,310 United, China Airlines, EVA
Vancouver 293,898 United, Air Canada, Alaska
Hong Kong 251,381 United, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines
Source: BTS

United is by far the largest carrier of international passengers at SFO with 34% of the market. Air Canada (7.4%) is the second largest with Lufthansa, British Airways and Alaska Airlines each having just over 5% of the market.

United dominates domestic routes

Analysis of domestic passenger data for 2006 shows that United Airlines continues to be the dominant carrier at SFO.

Chart: Domestic market share at SFO in 2006
Source: BTS (T-100 segment data)

United is more than three times larger than its nearest rival, American Airlines, at SFO. SkyWest, which has nearly 10% of the market, operates on behalf of United as United Express, giving United well over 50% of the domestic market at SFO. The major LCCs are conspicuous by their absence, with only Frontier just scraping into the Top 10.

Coming soon: Virgin America and Southwest

Logos: Virgin America and SouthwestAugust is going to be a landmark month for SFO with the launch of services from two high-profile carriers. Virgin America finally gets airborne from SFO on 8 August with flights to Los Angeles and New York JFK. Just over two weeks later, on 26 August, Southwest commences operations with 18 flights per day – to Las Vegas (seven flights per day), San Diego (eight per day) and Chicago Midway (three per day).

As previously noted on anna.aero, when Virgin America starts flying to Las Vegas on 10 October customers will be spoilt for choice.

The Bay Area Airport System

Map: San FranciscoAlthough SFO is the biggest airport in the San Francisco Bay Area there are two other major airports in the region – Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC).

Oakland, with 14.4 million passengers in 2006, ranks 91st in the world, though traffic was becalmed last year following modest 2.3% growth in 2005. This is Southwest’s fifth largest operating base with 142 daily departures to 20 cities. This gives it 62% of all domestic traffic at the airport in 2006. The second largest carrier is jetBlue with just over 10%, with Alaska and United each having just over 5%.

Logo: San Jose AirportSan Jose, or Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport to give it its full rather grandiose title, served just under 11 million passengers in 2006. Southwest is also the number one carrier here with just over 42% of traffic, around 4.5 million passengers. Its top destinations are to Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas on which it carries over half a million passengers each year. Other high volume routes are to other secondary Californian airports at Burbank, Santa Ana and Ontario.


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