San Diego celebrates stellar 2017 passenger growth, sets its sights on more Asia flights 

Although it can sometimes be overshadowed by hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Diego International airport logged impressive passenger growth in 2017, handling more than 22 million passengers.  The airport’s prospects for continued high growth in 2018 look promising, since San Diego International posted double digit passenger growth during the first five months of 2018.


Summary:

  • San Diego International airport logged impressive passenger growth in 2017, handling more than 22 million passengers;
  • The airport – often overshadowed by major hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco – has had a strong start to 2018 with traffic up +12.1% across the first five months of 2018;
  • A major development this year has seen the arrival of flights to Europe from Lufthansa, adding flights from its Frankfurt hub;
  • San Diego already has nonstop flights to Tokyo, but is turning its attention to securing additional service to Asia.

So far this year, the airport has welcomed Lufthansa with flights to Frankfurt, and now appears to be turning its attention to securing additional service to Asia. San Diego also has nonstop service to London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita, as well as seasonal service to Zurich.

With service to two of Europe’s main transiting hubs, London and Frankfurt, San Diego appears to be turning its attention to expanding its routes to Asia. The San Diego Union Tribune has quoted airport officials stating that San Diego would take a pause in working towards additional European markets to ensure the success of Lufthansa’s flights.

CHART – Strong demand over the past couple of years could see San Diego International Airport exceed the 25 million passenger milestone in 2018Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG

The airport continues to target other regions (including Asia). But San Diego International airport officials told the publication that securing service to China was a challenge due, in part, to the US and China having reached the available capacity for flight allotments for China’s largest cities included in the current bilateral agreement between the two countries.

Airport officials explained to the publication that the Philippines and South Korea were possible additional Asian destinations.

Data from CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG for early Aug-2018 show that operators offer flights from 11 US destinations to Seoul – Atlanta (Korean, Delta) Chicago O’Hare (Korean, Asiana),  Dallas/Fort Worth (Korean, American), Detroit (Delta), Honolulu (Asiana, Jin Air, Korean and Hawaiian), Las Vegas (Korean), New York JFK (Korean, Asiana), San Francisco (Asiana, Korean and United) Seattle (Asiana, Delta and Korean) and Washington Dulles (Korean).

CHART – Korean Air and Asiana Airlines dominate the market between Seoul and USA with over 70% of the current departing frequenciesSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG

It could be tough to secure service to South Korea, given the existing footprint of flights from Seoul to the US. However, JAL has been serving San Diego since 2012, also operating flights to Tokyo Narita from Los Angeles, and Haneda from San Francisco. Philippine Airlines serves Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco from Manila, and JFK from Vancouver.

San Diego obviously has enough passengers connecting to Asia through other markets, so if there is enough demand for a nonstop flight, additional service to the region could materialise. Airport officials told the Union Tribune that San Diego was close to securing another route to Asia within a two-year time frame.