San Diego looks south and east for new flights

San Diego International airport wants to build on its recent growth with new nonstop service to destinations mostly to the south and east, in the second instalment of Flightglobal’s two-part series on the airfield.

Yesterday, we looked at Japan Airlines’ new nonstop service to Tokyo Narita on the Boeing 787 and Alaska Airlines’ growing focus city at the airport.

“A lot of our [US] hub markets are running at over 90% annualised seat factor, so we need to make sure that we have enough capacity to maintain our convention business,” says Hampton Brown, director of air service development at the airport. “That kind of business is very important for our region.”

Many of the routes that his team is targeting include nonstops to cities with existing traffic to San Diego but without a flight. Brown says that south Florida is an example of such a market the airport is working on developing. Others include smaller western cities.

San Diego domestic routes, January 2013


Innovata FlightMaps Analytics

Alaska Airlines would likely be well placed to offer some of these domestic flights as they expand from the city. Brown says that he sees “opportunities” for the Seattle-based carrier to further strengthen its network from San Diego.

International targets include cities in Central and South America. Brown says that the airport would like a nonstop to a “geographically strategic hub” in the region.

San Diego is also considering seeking additional service to Europe, likely to either a SkyTeam Alliance or a Star Alliance hub, and would like a flight to the Philippines to serve the large visiting friends and relatives market between the city and the country.

San Diego international routes, January 2013


Innovata FlightMaps Analytics

But San Diego’s capacity constraints could limit future growth. Located in a bowl between two hills and surrounded by city and water on all sides, Keith Wilschetz, director of airport planning at the airport, says that they anticipate that the runway will reach its operational capacity of 260,000 annual take-offs and landings by 2040 but that the terminal and landside facilities will reach capacity before that.

Projects to address these landside issues include a 10-gate expansion to terminal 2, an overnight aircraft apron and a two-level roadway that are slated to open in the third quarter. A consolidated rental car facility, new cargo buildings and a new fixed base operator are expected to open in the second half of 2015.

San Diego is also studying options for the future of terminal 1, which is nearly 50 years old, says Wilschetz. 

Beyond these projects, the physical presence of the San Diego airport will change little in the foreseeable future as there are no plans to expand the boundaries of the airfield. This means that spotters will continue to be able to watch planes land over a cocktail at Mister A’s and runners can continue to jog from the gate to the nearby Harbor Avenue bike path if they so please.

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