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sargester
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Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:46 am

Food for thought here, so recently I saw a post about AAs old hub in San Juan and made me reminisce about the old days, but also made me think about operationally what could have changed to make the hub profitable, at the time when they closed the hub, AA was retiring A306s, and were flying 752s and other various types, AE was flying the ATR and when they opted to get rid of them they cut all those routes out of SJU, to my point here, if AA had more 737-800s and even the 737-Max 8, if more fuel-efficient airplanes were available at the time, would have the hub survived and allowed to compete with JetBlue effectively? I mean just food for thought everyone would like to hear some thoughts...
 
Italianflyer
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:31 am

From what I understand, MIA killed SJU...not aircraft. Chasing inter-island traffic with any US based airline cost structure is a fool's errand. B6 makes it work because they dont have the premium pricing leverage of an MIA.
 
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SCFlyer
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:31 am

Per above, I agree that MIA likely started the slow demise of SJU. When AA grabbed the slots and route authorities from a declining EA, there wasn't really the need for SJU. B6's lower cost base (than AA) was able to make their SJU base work to some extent.
 
Bobloblaw
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:13 am

What year did AA open a SJU hub?
 
ScottB
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:30 am

Italianflyer wrote:
B6 makes it work because they dont have the premium pricing leverage of an MIA.


It isn't even much of a hub for B6. They serve a whopping three island markets from SJU with about a half-dozen daily flights. The flights to PUJ have to be operated to prop up loads on the SJU-mainland U.S. flying because the O&D has to be practically nil.

sargester wrote:
at the time when they closed the hub, AA was retiring A306s, and were flying 752s and other various types, AE was flying the ATR and when they opted to get rid of them they cut all those routes out of SJU, to my point here, if AA had more 737-800s and even the 737-Max 8, if more fuel-efficient airplanes were available at the time, would have the hub survived and allowed to compete with JetBlue effectively?


The 737-800 was one of the reasons why AA was able to close the SJU hub. It can easily reach all the markets in the Eastern Caribbean, and with airfield upgrades (or new airports) on a number of islands, there was no longer the need to fly props from SJU. They lose out on some of the intra-Caribbean traffic (although I suspect quite a few people do the circuitous routing via MIA) but that market in reality is very small as distant islands either have direct service to each other on small local carriers or have negligible local markets.

SJU was also problematic in that the island has been in a long economic decline which has seen much of the population move to the mainland U.S. even prior to Maria. The Commonwealth's bankruptcy was a symptom of that and the slow restoration of the island's power grid was related to the poor economy as well; the territory's publicly-owned electric utility had filed for bankruptcy a couple of months prior to Maria. With a poor local business climate it was tough for AA to make a hub work.
 
303dk
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:19 am

A few comments:

For a true hub to work at SJU, connections would have to be possible without going through US Customs.

JetBlue picks up a lot of traffic from Seaborne and Cape Air. They don’t have the right aircraft for most of the short hops from SJU.

The general state of the Puerto Rican economy hasn’t slowed tourism. Traffic at SJU is growing.
 
MIflyer12
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:57 am

303dk wrote:
A few comments:

For a true hub to work at SJU, connections would have to be possible without going through US Customs.


Nah. The SJU hub didn't rely on international to international connections.

IMHO what killed the SJU hub was neither B6 nor MIA - it was non-stop flights to many Caribbean destinations from major U.S. airports. B6 is a small overall part of that.
 
303dk
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:48 pm

MIflyer12 wrote:
303dk wrote:
A few comments:

For a true hub to work at SJU, connections would have to be possible without going through US Customs.


Nah. The SJU hub didn't rely on international to international connections.

IMHO what killed the SJU hub was neither B6 nor MIA - it was non-stop flights to many Caribbean destinations from major U.S. airports. B6 is a small overall part of that.
that’s my point. To work today, it would have to rely on international connections
 
Janj
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:32 pm

ScottB wrote:
Italianflyer wrote:
It isn't even much of a hub for B6. They serve a whopping three island markets from SJU with about a half-dozen daily flights. The flights to PUJ have to be operated to prop up loads on the SJU-mainland U.S. flying because the O&D has to be practically nil.


JetBlue hasn't been the type of carrier to fly SJU routes that don't do well. ORD, JAX, SXM have all been canceled. Some ULCCs fly to places that have surprisingly high demand when it seems like they wouldn't, so I'm sure that it's not an issue for B6. I doubt they need to rely on connections from New York, Florida, and elsewhere with large Puerto Rican populations. STX was only served from San Juan and they canceled it, it doesn't seem like that's there business in SJU.

Where are you getting "the O&D has to be practically nil" from? SJU has the highest demand from the Caribbean to many US airports.
 
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Davezilla69
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:02 pm

Bobloblaw wrote:
What year did AA open a SJU hub?

In 1986 with American Eagle to compete with Eastern Air Lines.
 
ScottB
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:13 pm

Janj wrote:
Where are you getting "the O&D has to be practically nil" from?


I'm talking about SJU-PUJ. Punta Cana is a town of maybe 50,000 and the airport is pretty much there just to bring vacationers to the all-inclusive resorts.
 
Brickell305
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:08 pm

ScottB wrote:
Janj wrote:
Where are you getting "the O&D has to be practically nil" from?


I'm talking about SJU-PUJ. Punta Cana is a town of maybe 50,000 and the airport is pretty much there just to bring vacationers to the all-inclusive resorts.

You might want to check actual data on that. Despite PUJ being a small town, there is quite a bit of demand from the DR (generally) and Puerto Rico. Despite its small size, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some decent traffic between PUJ & SJU.

Re the main points of the thread, SJU wouldn't have made sense for AA regardless of fuel efficiency of the aircraft there. It makes infinitely more sense to have one hub serving both Latam & the Caribbean instead of segregating the two regions into separate hubs. There's also more O&D from Miami to most places in the Caribbean than there is from San Juan or Puerto Rico as a whole. SJU as a hub only makes sense for the places that:

a) don't have an airport that can allow planes to fly to the mainland (e.g. EIS, DOM)
b) don't have enough demand to the mainland to warrant direct flights.

For the places like the USVI and Dom. Rep that have relatively strong demand to SJU, they remain for O&D and some overflow (from the mainland) purposes.
 
gregn21
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:16 pm

Here’s a pretty good summary of the SJU hub:
https://www.travelcodex.com/spotlight-on-american-airlines-in-san-juan-puerto-rico/

Some AA route maps from 2001:
Image
Image
 
sargester
Topic Author
Posts: 189
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:25 pm

gregn21 wrote:
Here’s a pretty good summary of the SJU hub:
https://www.travelcodex.com/spotlight-on-american-airlines-in-san-juan-puerto-rico/

Some AA route maps from 2001:
Image
Image


Equipment on LAX-SJU?
 
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jfklganyc
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:36 pm

SJU has been a loser for B6 beyond what it has now

It was originally set to be a major station for them...hence the terminal...but FLL took its place.

It was talked about as a major connecting point for “the Americas” for B6
 
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jfklganyc
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:46 pm

sargester wrote:
gregn21 wrote:
Here’s a pretty good summary of the SJU hub:
https://www.travelcodex.com/spotlight-on-american-airlines-in-san-juan-puerto-rico/

Some AA route maps from 2001:
Image
Image


Equipment on LAX-SJU?


I believe a 757.

TW started it first during their little SJU build up, AA took it during the merger.

Not sure if the two airlines ever flew it side by side as competitors

Left unsaid is how much PRs economy tanked since its high in the mid 90s.

30 years of decline

Furthermore, as newer resorts popped up in places like the DR and Turks and Caicos, PR has had its tourism split with other islands

Walk along the beach in Isla Verde. You see aging hotels. They cant compete with the modern resorts being built on other islands or in Cancun.

That is not to say PR doesnt have modern resorts...but there has been a shift over the last 20 years away from PR
 
ckfred
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:19 pm

Believe or not, SJU was a 727 haven until the early 90s and the build up of the 757 fleet. A friend of mine started out as a 727 F/E international, first flying to SJU out of New York before moving to ORD. If I remember correctly, often he would fly Antigua-San Juan, and then wait for an inbound flight from Washington before flying the leg to ORD.

But, as others have said, AA buying the MIA hub of Eastern started the slow death spiral for SJU. It also started the slow death spiral for BNA and RDU, at least for connecting traffic across the system for Florida destinations.

To some extent one problem with SJU is that it was a hub that was not a pilot base. If you have an ORD departure, and the crew has become illegal because of earlier delays, chances are that a new crew will be assembled with ORD pilots on reserve. But, if a crew goes illegal in SJU, AA would have to either do some juggling of pilot schedules or deadhead a crew in, probably from MIA.
 
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jesue310
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:25 pm

sargester wrote:
gregn21 wrote:
Here’s a pretty good summary of the SJU hub:
https://www.travelcodex.com/spotlight-on-american-airlines-in-san-juan-puerto-rico/

Some AA route maps from 2001:
Image
Image


Equipment on LAX-SJU?




757...
 
AAIL86
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:25 pm

I worked for AA from 2000 to 2011. Was there during the end of the SJU hub. Shocking how much capacity used to flow through there one example was x4 daily A300s on MCO > SJU.
One rumor I heard internally quite a bit is that the Puerto Rican government was playing hardball with landing fees, so AA decided to cut their loses and close the hub... this would have been about 2005ish.
" Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness ... Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. ” - Mark Twain, 1869
 
stxbohn
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:37 pm

sargester wrote:

Equipment on LAX-SJU?


Think they had a 763 for awhile too. Seem to recall it being the only AA 763 in SJU among the slew of A300s, 757s, a couple 738s, and ATRs.

I never made that flight, but definitely connected through SJU to STX to/from DFW, ORD, MIA, FLL, BOS, JFK between 2005-2012. Almost all on A300s or 757s until 2011-2012 time frame when the A300s were gone and more 738s backfilled. The A300s and ATRs were maintenance problems - especially if you were on the last flight of the day. Frequently they'd cancel one of the last flights out (STX), put the 20 connecting passengers up in the Best Western in the airport and ferry a plane over the next morning to run the first flight of the day from STX.

I know to use caution with photo captions, but my memory supports this one.

 
Gulfstream500
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:09 pm

303dk wrote:
A few comments:

For a true hub to work at SJU, connections would have to be possible without going through US Customs.

JetBlue picks up a lot of traffic from Seaborne and Cape Air. They don’t have the right aircraft for most of the short hops from SJU.

The general state of the Puerto Rican economy hasn’t slowed tourism. Traffic at SJU is growing.


If you think about it, AA did not operate much inter island traffic either, American Eagle did it for them. Same thing applies here, as Cape Air and Seaborne are basically “JetBlue Express” just without the branding.
So... when will the Northwest DC-9s be retired?
 
Miamiairport
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:46 pm

It was a combination of B6's entrance into the market and the build up of the MIA hub. I doubt newer a/c would have saved SJU from being de-hubbed. Also at the time AA had moved away from the smaller hub in favor of 5 big hubs in major cities-the 5 point star strategy. Direct flights to SJU could not have worked for many destinations although at one time there were a number of East Coast cities-PHL, IAD, BDL maybe BOS.
 
caribny
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Wed Apr 24, 2019 6:32 pm

Also with the development of the MIA hub fares between points in the Eastern Caribbean and the East Coast were lower via MIA than via SJU. SJU also severely dropped as a shopping destination for outbound travel from the Eastern Caribbean. MIA/FLL has replaced it and now with online shopping there is even less of this kind of traffic. The days of the "informal commercial importers" has gone and that used to sustain much of the travel into SJU from other points in the Eastern Caribbean.

PR still seems to periodically dream of SJU resuming its role as a hub but even Seaborne struggles now, and STT is the only island that B6 serves out of SJU, aside from routes to the DR, all of which have heavy O&D travel. And yes Cape/Seaborne now operate as de facto JetBlue Express (also with DL/AA on some routes) so there is no possibility of B6 building an SJU hub.
 
wernerga3
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Re: Could AAs San Juan (SJU) Survived with more fuel efficient aircraft?

Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:52 pm

I recall there was a bad hurricane one year in the 90s (1996?) when I was in SXM. Normally I took the AA 757 from SXM-JFK direct, but I remember AA called me and offered me an evacuation flight a few days earlier. They didn't have any direct flights available given the chaos, so they put me on an A300 and ATR via SJU. We flew the ATR SXM-SJU, and then the A300 SJU-JFK. It was the first time I was on a wide-body plane.

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