With the AA partnership and AS cuts around Bay Area, here is my thoughts on why a SFO focus city makes sense for JetBlue.
The first part is to show that AA has a decent sized ff base in the Bay Area by looking at SFO/SJC local market share. It's important to note that while UA does dominate SFO, it's dominance does not extend across the Bay Area as a whole. So there are a lot of ff who are free agents or OneWorld ff that B6 would appeal to.
SJC market share
AA 10 to 15% 2019, 20% at end of 2020
AS about 25% 2019, 10 to 15% at end of 2020
SFO market share
UA 65% 2019, 50% at end of 2020
AA 10% 2019, 20 to 25% at end of 2020
AS 10 to15% 2019, about 7% at end of 2020
WN and B6 both about 2 to 3% in 2019 and end of 2020
Here, we see a huge decline in AS's SFO market share from over 15% in early 2018 to 7% by the end of 2020. This decline is more noticeable if we examine how much airlines are operating out of SFO during the summer month. You will see that B6 has grown quite a bit since 2020. It's local market share should be a bit higher now. Here are the number of flights operated by B6/AA/AS/WN on July 19th
B6 22 mainline
AA 29 mainline 5 RJ
AS 16 mainline 41 RJ (really heavily regional, even LAS just 3 RJs, PSP just 2 RJs)
WN 20 mainline
The first surprising thing here is that B6 will be operating more flights than WN. Who could've guessed that? Aside from that, AA is only operating 7 more mainline flights than B6 and those flights are on average at shorter stage length. The most surprising one is AS. They've really cut SFO into a RJ hub with the downsizing of their airbus fleet. Aside from transcon, Hawaii and Mexico, they only have mainline flights to SEA/PDX. Based on some rough calculation, those 57 AS flights actually have less ASM than B6's 22 flights. That would've been unthinkable even a year ago.
The other interesting part is to look at gate allocation. When B6 and WN moved into the first 9 gates at the new Harvey Milk terminal, B6 only had access to 2 gates + a shared gate with WN. The fact that B6 will now have more flights than WN just shows how both airlines have moved in opposite directions. AA got 6 gates + 3 CUTE gates on its side of boarding area B to run just 34 flights. I don't see either WN or AA adding a lot more flights. On top of that, 7 more gates just got added recently with no obvious airlines targeted. https://airport-world.com/seven-new-gat ... erminal-1/
On a recent look at SFO departures, I saw them using 4 gates by themselves in that terminal. There are still quite a few unused gates in that terminal that they can expand to.
The other important part is how B6 can grow. How can it grab a larger portion of the local market? I think AS has moved away from the old VX strategy after failing to attract the old VX crowd. That's how they went from 15 to 20% market share in 2017 to 7% just 3 years later. There is very little ULCC competition at SFO or even in the Bay Area. VX served a niche back in 2016 when it had a strategy of serving top transcon and leisure markets along with obligatory service to large west coast airports. I think there is an obvious hole in SFO for a leisure carrier with a solid product (that VX used to occupy). That's a group turned off by UA and AS with no obvious alternatives to turn to. B6's path to growth at SFO would be with that crowd + AA ff + unaligned customers. To capture AA ff, they should target non-AA hubs where AS is showing weakness. That would point to a strategy of serving popular leisure markets.
The obvious markets for them to add would be LAS, PSP, SJD and PVR. Over the next 2 years, they can add a couple of them along with additional services to its focus cities. That would get them to close to 30 flights a day. Once they are ready to add to the west coast and start service to Hawaii, they can add HNL and OGG along with a couple of more leisure markets + other west coast markets like SNA, SAN and SLC.
B6 has somehow found itself to be tied for the 2nd largest carrier in SFO (by ASM) by simply adding a few new routes and restoring capacity while other airlines have been busy cutting things. It's struggling to be the 5th largest carrier in LAX despite starting many new markets. Even if B6 builds an operation of 70 to 75 flights a day at LAX, it would be battling with AS and WN as the 4th largest carrier by ASM. From 2023 onward, focusing on both LAX and SFO will probably give them the best chance of having a sustainable west coast strategy and a national network. Just like what VX did in the early 2010s, I'm hoping B6 can capitalize on SFO having less competition than usual.