Flights From Bay Area to Hawaii Changing

Credit: Jun Seita / Flickr
Credit: Jun Seita / Flickr

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)- Despite its fancy new digs at SFO's Terminal 2, American Airlines continues to reduce the number of cities it serves from San Francisco.On September 7, the Texas-based carrier will eliminate its nonstop flights between San Francisco and Honolulu. This follows a decision to cut out nonstops between SFO and Boston last November.

After Sept 7, American will have 31 daily round trips into and out of SFO: 11 to Dallas/Ft Worth; six to Chicago O'Hare; five (four on off-peak days) to New York-JFK; three to Miami; and six to LAX.

American spokesman Tim Smith said that the move is not directly related to any particular issue in San Francisco. "It remains a key city for us or we obviously would not have become involved in the new terminal and built a new, state-of-the-art Admirals Club that just opened. 31 flights a day makes it an important destination/departure city in terms of being a non-hub."

The move is a result of American's 2009 decision to concentrate domestic flying at what it calls its hub or "cornerstone cities:" Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Nearly all its domestic now flying touches those cities in some way.

"As to the SFO-HNL flight itself, since it is a point-to-point flight between two non-hub cities, there is generally not enough traffic on both ends to fully support the flight," said Smith. "That means we have had to find ways to feed traffic bound for Honolulu into SFO. Under the cornerstone plan it is much more efficient and cost effective to feed traffic to HNL from our cornerstone hubs where we have lots of daily feed [from other cities]. So, as of Sept. 7, we will fly to Honolulu from Chicago (3 daily), Dallas (2 daily), and Los Angeles (1 daily). We feel those five round trips will serve the HNL market well for our customers," he said.

What's happening with American's flights at SFO is happening throughout the airline industry as airlines grapple with higher fuel costs. "We're past the point of airlines flying routes out of a sense of vanity or pride. If a route doesn't make money, it shouldn't be flown," said San Francisco-based Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt.

Some of Alaska Air's Eskimos now wear leis.Despite the loss of American, Bay area residents won't have much difficulty finding flights from here to Hawaii. Alaska Airlines has added a slew of new Boeing 737 non-stops from Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento to several Hawaiian cities over the last year.

And there are still plenty of seats to Honolulu from SFO. "While disappointed by American's decision, the airport recognizes that our partner airlines need to make tough economic decisions on where to deploy their aircraft. After September 7 the non-stop SFO-Honolulu market will be served by United, Hawaiian, and Delta; collectively offering over 9,000 seats a week," said airport spokesman Charles Schuler. (Fares for October SFO-HNL flights are currently in the $400-$500 range, but dip closer to $350 during periodic sales.)

American's partnership with Hawaiian on its nonstops between SFO and HNL helps ease the pain a little for AAdvantage members. Currently, they can still redeem AAdvantage miles for Hawaiian flights between SFO and HNL. However, they can only earn AAdvantage miles on Hawaiian's interisland flights.

Does the loss of American flights provide an opening for Virgin America to enter the market? "It doesn't really impact our immediate plans," said Virgin's Abby Lunardini. "That said, Hawaii remains on our prospective destination list [but] our ability to fly there in the short-term is dependent on our aircraft, as we need the extended range capability of our new on-order A320s to fly those routes."

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