Wow, a lot of good things have happened since I last checked in for Sacramento International.
Best of all is that SMF continues to grow at a robust pace with new flights and markets as a result.
Where to start…
How about with one of SMF’s great under-told stories: International traffic.
SMF now serves five international airports: Vancouver, Guadalajara, Cabo, Leon, Morelia. Just a few years ago, it served one.
Highlights include new, 2x/week service to Morelia on Volaris and 2x/day seasonal to Vancouver on Air Canada.
The timing for AC’s new flight is vastly superior to the present schedule. Out early in the morning, then return in evening to RON for the next flight. Perfect for business travelers and takes advantage of many more international connections. I expect this schedule to spur more traffic than otherwise might be forecast. Don’t be too surprised if this flight gets extended past September. I wonder if this would have happened earlier, but AC needed for the gate refurbishment to get completed before there was room in the morning, when Terminal A is bursting at the seams.
Also of note is AeroMexico up nearly 25% in January... why? AM is running GDL 3x/week through June, when it returns to daily service. What accounts for the significant AeroMexico growth?
After last year’s spectacular international growth of 30%, January traffic tapered off to about 10% growth, but that’s only about 7% off January 2019. What does that mean for 2020? I would have thought about a 10-15% (from the 30%) decrease overall. But with the new Volaris and AC flights, maybe the hit’s not that hard. Regardless, even a 20% international growth rate would be outstanding and projects out to a total count of over 400,000 international pax (enplanements and deplanements) for SMF in 2020. Would that be enough to get SMF into the top 40 international gateways? It’s at #42 now. I’d say it looks good.
Domestically, have to start with today’s news that JetBlue is adding a daytime flight to JFK 3x/week starting in June. SMF has been waiting for, well, forever for a daytime flight to JFK. (Longtime airport followers will recall Delta had actually scheduled a daytime flight years ago, but it was cancelled before it ever flew due to 9/11.)
This is just fabulous news. Also, it departs within an hour of a presently scheduled B6 flight to LGB, so the LGB drawdown may be playing a role here as well.
By far though it’s the terrific performance of the present redeye that accounts for this add. As others have noted, the SMF-JFK flight is one of B6’s best performers.
Also note that the early afternoon departure is well-timed for the Boutique arrival from Merced. I know there is no agreement between the two, but to make the connection, a passenger with a carry-on literally just has to walk a few feet between gates to make the flight. It may very well be the easiest way for travelers from Merced to fly to the Big Apple. It is also pretty well-timed for a connection on Contour from Santa Barbara. Three hours is a bit long, but beats the reliability issues out of SFO. Maybe Contour sees the potential here and will adjust its schedule a bit.
Frontier must be doing well and extending/going daily with both Denver and Vegas.
Should the Max issues ever get resolved, Southwest will undoubtedly start service to BNA, MCI, SAT, and maybe go 2x/day to St. Louis, given that the LF here has rarely dropped below 90%.
Personally of course, I’m delighted that Alaska is returning to 4x/day to San Diego. I don’t know what bonehead in Alaska planning thought SMF-SAN, with no premium offered on the competition, was a good place to cut, but I’m glad they realized the error of their ways and got it back to a minimal acceptable level for the business traveler. Just a side note here, even when business takes me to Reno, I often still fly into SMF. Fares are often $300 cheaper, sometimes more. And, since Alaska no longer has a tenable connection for SAN-RNO, I fly AA/UA/SW when I must take a direct flight (often due to wx). I also know I am not the only passenger who does this itinerary for business travel to Reno as many of us have become acquaintances waiting (and waiting) for the rental car shuttle at SMF.
I am completely intrigued by the Alaska agreement with AA and with it joining OneWorld. I am actually on-board with those like smfyler who think it could result in American moving to Terminal B. I realize that there are lease and operational considerations, none of which I have any idea about. But on the surface, it makes a lot of sense.
Moving Spirit, Frontier and Sun Country frees at least one gate (B11) for American use. Moving American to Term B frees at least two gates in the stubby leg of Term A for the low-cost carriers’ more sporadic service. This move also makes B22 (presently used by Frontier) fully available to Southwest to better accommodate their goal of (for now) hitting 100 departures/day out of SMF.
Add the international gates (B10 & B8), which are most used for Mexico late-night, and you have six gates that Alaska/American could use to capitalize on their new agreement. Even B4 is only used for five flights a day between Hawaiian and Contour, so maybe you have seven gates. Work something out with JetBlue at B6 (I see what you did there SMF…), there’s eight gates with no additional build, and makes adding four gates on that side of the concourse a natural for the much-discussed and much-needed expansion.
This agreement could mean that American, and not Delta, starts a morning daily to JFK (Jetblue’s announcement notwithstanding) and could lead to even more intra-state flights from Boutique and Contour, especially given Boutique’s agreement with AA.
I also think that this OneWorld membership increases the opportunity for BA serving SMF to London in 2021/2022. Concourse B has the international gates and the heavy gates for a 787. SMF serves the only Top-30 metropolitan area without direct service to Europe. Plus, as noted, there are existing opportunities for additional feed in what for many, even with an early evening departure, would be the easiest connection to Europe available.
I know smflyer has his doubts, and I respect his opinion, but as noted on another thread, United looks to include SMF on its Max10 upgrades to EWR. These upgrades add more business and premium service, so maybe O&D demand for up-front seats is better than we might think.
Of course, the dark cloud hanging over all of this is the impact of the Corona Virus. Should this continue to impact business travel, all bets are off. Anecdotally, I’ve seen little impact. My travels so far this year are limited to domestic locations including my home airport of SAN, SMF, SFO, SJC, RNO, STS, MRY, SBP and, this week, FAT. Only real hot spot there is SFO, but even with that caveat, airports are all bustling and flights are full. It's a great time to be a flying fanatic!
As always, looking forward to all the comments on this thread. Thanks to all who participate...
In the land of lies, telling the truth is a crime...