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San Diego International Airport: a leading transnational airport differentiates to compete

San Diego International Airport serves a large swathe of Southern California, its big catchment area spreading north towards Los Angeles and overlapping with that city’s main airport, as well as at least one other in the LA suburbs.  San Diego is the second most populous city in California; the airport serves its immediate population and also acts as a gateway to northern Mexico.

That catchment area also extends into northern Mexico and particularly the border city of Tijuana, with which San Diego combines to form an impressive transnational economic sub-region. But while the airport has historically offered air services for Mexicans as well as for US citizens, it is facing a new challenge. The smaller Tijuana Airport has built a cross-border terminal that could potentially attract passengers away from the San Diego airport.

This report looks at present and future growth trends at the airport, local airport statistics, how San Diego matches up to competing airports in the US and Mexico across a range of metrics, at future construction activities, and at ownership.

San Diego vies with two other main US airports for business

While Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is one of the two main gateways into California along with San Francisco to the north, San Diego International Airport (hereinafter SDIA) plays an important role in the Californian aviation landscape. San Diego is the second most populous city in California. The airport serves its immediate population and also acts as a gateway to northern Mexico.

The fact that Los Angeles is only 120 miles (195 km) distant, together with its airport being presently the world’s seventh busiest and just a very small margin behind London Heathrow at that, is a measure of the competition San Diego faces. It also has to contend with a number of smaller airports to the south of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, including Long Beach and, more importantly, the John Wayne Orange County airport at Santa Ana. This airport lies close to Interstate 5, the main Los Angeles-San Diego highway at the heart of a suburban swathe synonymous with heavily patronised tourism attractions (Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm etc).

There is another airport between San Diego and Los Angeles, the McClellan-Palomar Airport, located 35 miles north in the city of Carlsbad and owned by the County of San Diego. Commercial service by United Express to Los Angeles LAX did start up there but has since been ended. American Eagle and Mesa Airlines have also operated there in recent times, while a new start-up airline that was to have been based there, California Pacific Airlines, never got off the ground. This airport has now reverted to general aviation only, so it is not considered here.

Clearly there is a need for market differentiation in order for SDIA to attract passengers who are from outside the immediate area of California and have a choice of airports to both the north and south, with fast access to both.  

The population of San Diego is 1.3 million, with just short of three million in the metropolitan area. Situated on the Mexican border, it has only been part of the USA since 1850 following the Mexican-American War and the admission of California to the union.

It is the economic centre of the San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan area shared between the US and Mexico which – with a population of five million – is the largest bi-national conurbation, and is the fourth largest conurbation in the world. The metropolitan population of Tijuana is 1.8 million.

It is therefore important to view the airport as one that has to fulfill a multi-cultural cross-border role, one that is not shared by the vast majority of US airports.

(The largest airport to have a similar role is actually Detroit [Michigan]/Windsor [Ontario, Canada] to the north).

Vying for business, San Diego also contends with an aggressive Mexican neighbour

This is despite the fact that there is a Tijuana International Airport also. This airport moved just short of five million passengers in 2015, having a swathe of routes in Mexico, one route in the US (Oakland) and even a transcontinental route to Shanghai. It targets passengers as far away as Orange County, and has a complimentary shuttle service from San Diego.

Recently a privately funded ‘Cross Border Xpress’ bridge opened, creating one of the world’s only airports to extend across an international border.

A new terminal and bridge in San Diego connect to Tijuana’s decades-old existing airport, and thereby becomes essentially an extension of Mexico’s fifth busiest airport into the United States.

Cross Border Xpress terminal and bridge joining to the Tijuana airport


However, it is not believed that Tijuana will compete with SDIA, which is primarily a domestic airport as described below. At the same time, more than 99% of passengers at Tijuana International Airport travel within Mexico and Cross Border Xpress estimates that 60% of the airport’s passengers cross the border to the US.

Thus Cross Border Xpress, which has capacity for 2.5 million passengers a year, will initially target the Tijuana airport’s existing users. They include Mexican-American VFR travellers who visit family, business travellers with Mexican suppliers and customers, and American tourists.

In the longer term however, the existing Shanghai flight could be built on, opening up more Asian routes, with a shuttle bus operating between the Mexican and US airports for onward connections to and from US destinations.

San Diego: a military economy supplemented by manufacturing and tourism

San Diego’s economy is based around military and defence related activities. It is home to the US Navy, which has the largest naval fleet in the world there together with associated shipbuilding yards. In addition, the commercial port is claimed to be the fastest-growing in the US in terms of cruise ship dockings, and the second largest behind the Port of Los Angeles.

Manufacturing is located more so in Tijuana, which has one of the world’s largest, most concentrated and most diverse manufacturing areas, taking advantage of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association) agreements. Tijuana has reputedly overtaken the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul in Minnesota as the capital for the manufacturing of medical devices in North America, and has become a centre of research in biotechnology.

This degree of cooperation spreads over to other areas of technology. There is a kind of symbiotic relationship wherein ideas are fermented in the northern (US) segment and turned into reality by manufacturing moguls in the south (Mexico).

Finally, so far as tourism in the area, beside San Diego’s world-renowned attractions such as its Zoo and Sea World Tijuana is claimed to be the most visited city in the western hemisphere, second only to New York; the figure is 50 million people who visit it each year. Although, that said, many of them are young southern Californians taking advantage of liberalised alcohol consumption laws and its reputation for sex tourism.

A mid-ranking airport by enplanements and available seats

SDIA was the 28th busiest airport in the USA in 2014 (final 2015 figures not yet confirmed). As of the second week of Mar-2016 it occupied a place one higher according to the measurement of available seats rather than enplanements, with 467,000 or 1.2% of total available US airport seat capacity, comparing with Tampa International and Washington Reagan airports. 

Extract and ranking: top 100 US Airports (7-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016), total system traffic) by seats  

Rank

Airport

Total Seats

Percentage Market Share

1

ATL

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

2,229,629

5.7505%

2

LAX

Los Angeles International Airport

1,747,068

4.50591%

3

ORD

Chicago O'Hare International Airport

1,658,578

4.27769%

4

DFW

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

1,478,231

3.81255%

5

JFK

New York John F Kennedy International Airport

1,330,448

3.4314%

6

DEN

Denver International Airport

1,253,266

3.23233%

7

SFO

San Francisco International Airport

1,144,926

2.95291%

8

PHX

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

1,097,271

2.83%

9

CLT

Charlotte Douglas International Airport

1,078,944

2.78274%

10

LAS

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

1,023,558

2.63989%

11

MIA

Miami International Airport

1,011,000

2.6075%

12

MCO

Orlando International Airport

986,930

2.54542%

13

IAH

Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport

971,470

2.50555%

14

EWR

New York Newark Liberty International Airport

913,517

2.35608%

15

SEA

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

898,204

2.31658%

16

MSP

Minneapolis St Paul International Airport

844,323

2.17762%

17

BOS

Boston Logan International Airport

782,818

2.01899%

18

DTW

Detroit Metropolitan Airport

778,249

2.0072%

19

PHL

Philadelphia International Airport

763,078

1.96808%

20

LGA

New York LaGuardia Airport

748,367

1.93014%

21

FLL

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

740,322

1.90939%

22

DCA

Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport

588,906

1.51886%

23

BWI

Baltimore/Washington International Airport

553,404

1.4273%

24

SLC

Salt Lake City International Airport

509,705

1.31459%

25

MDW

Chicago Midway International Airport

502,205

1.29525%

26

TPA

Tampa International Airport

493,803

1.27358%

27

SAN

San Diego International Airport

466,957

1.20434%

28

IAD

Washington Dulles International Airport

464,197

1.19722%

29

HNL

Honolulu International Airport

435,152

1.12231%

30

DAL

Dallas Love Field

371,920

0.95923%

The table below compares San Diego International Airport with peer and neighbouring airports in Southern California, using a variety of metrics that include aviation and population statistics. (N.B. population figures in this instance are for metropolitan areas).

Airport rankings by assorted metrics, San Diego compared with neighbouring Californian airports:  

Airport/metric world ranking

ASKs

Seats

Frequencies

Cargo payload

Pax 2015 (million)

City population (million)

Ratio: pax to local population 2014

San Diego

93

102

91

134

20.1

2.9

6.9

Los Angeles LAX

  3

   6

  4

  13

74.9

13.1

5.7

John Wayne O.C. Santa Ana

184

181

186

216

10.2

3.1*

3.2

The table identifies SDIA as falling between the global gateway airport of LAX and the more local airport in Orange County – its two rivals. It has a higher local usage ratio than both those other airports, though usage of John Wayne OC Airport is influenced by the proximity of LAX and appropriate highway accessibility, which offsets the large population of the Santa Ana airport’s catchment area. 

Location map of San Diego in relation to Los Angeles and Anaheim/Orange County


SDIA Network Summary (at 07-Mar-2016)  

Total Airlines

17

    Domestic only

10

    International

7

Total nonstop passenger destinations

55

    Domestic

48

    Africa

0

    Asia Pacific

1

    Europe

1

    Latin America

3

    Middle East

0

    North America

2

Total nonstop freight destinations

0

    Domestic

0

    Africa

0

    Asia Pacific

0

    Europe

0

    Latin America

0

    Middle East

0

    North America

0

Comparison of airports by total airlines and nonstop destinations  

Airport

Total airlines

Pax traffic 2014 (million)

Airline to pax ratio

International airlines

Nonstop passenger destinations

Nonstop freight destinations

San Diego

17

20.1

1.2

7

55

0

Los Angeles LAX

65

74.9

1.1

53

151

37

John Wayne OC Santa Ana

7

10.2

1.4

3

26

0

International connectivity – Mexico predominates, followed by Europe

The route map below shows destinations that can be reached by direct (red) or connecting flights.

Flights are in the main domestic, with the exception of international services to Mexico, Japan, the UK and Spain. The latter destination is ostensibly a feature from the demands of Spanish speakers from Tijuana and beyond, to the south in Mexico.  

Direct and indirect (connecting) routes from San Diego International Airport

The ‘heat’ map below confirms the identity of the countries/regions with the greatest density of international seats.  

San Diego International Airport international capacity, seats by region heat map, 07-Mar to 13-Mar-2016


Nonstop connectivity – SDIA has a strong domestic base

Turning to nonstop connectivity, the chart below shows how San Diego compares with the same set of peer airports – again, those are a very large hub and a more local airport in a commuter suburb.

Nonstop connectivity values (passenger destinations). Comparison of San Diego, Los Angeles LAX and John Wayne OC Santa Ana airports


Apart from operations at LAX there are few flights to the Middle East, and in the case of Africa there is no service from these and other Californian airports at all, which was pointed out in a previous airport profile report. In context, that gap exists from the US’ largest state by population, with almost 40 million people and one that accounts for 13% of the nation’s GDP.

The relative strength of SDIA lies in its North America services, which are more than twice as numerous as those at the John Wayne airport, though SDIA is slightly behind that airport in services to Latin America. Migration from Mexico into southern California is widespread and hot spots of activity will occur in different regions at different times. 

Landing charges – lower than at competing airports  

At least as measured by landing charges, one advantage that SDIA offers prospective new airlines is lower charges than those of the two peer group airports. As the chart below demonstrates, SDIA has the lowest landing charges across a range of aircraft types from the CRJ200 to the B777, with LAX being the most expensive of the three.

Landing Charges for San Diego International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and John Wayne Orange County Airport for 2014  


There is an equal split between full service airlines and LCCs  

The contribution of full service and low cost airlines is split almost 50:50. There are no regional/commuter operations or charter airlines.  

San Diego International Airport capacity, seat share by airline type, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016


Again, it would be useful to compare this traffic split with the airport’s peers.  

Comparison of selected airports by airline type – seat availability, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016  

Airport

% of seats on FSCs

% of seats on LCCs

% of seats on other modes (e.g. regional, charter airlines)

Clarification of previous column

San Diego

49.8

50.2

-

-

Los Angeles LAX

75.6

24.4

-

-

John Wayne OC Santa Ana

45.3

54.7

-

-

In this small sample San Diego has the best balance between full service and low cost flights, the network planner's dream.

96.5% of seat capacity is on domestic routes, and that is a similar ratio to the one between the percentage of US airlines (97.9% of seats) versus foreign airlines.

The distribution of seat capacity by individual airline is detailed below.

The LCC impact at San Diego is driven by Southwest, which currently has over 40% of all seat capacity. Otherwise no other airline stands out, and of the national ‘big three’ of America, United and Delta each has a fairly equal split of capacity. There are three ULCCs in the mix - Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Airlines and Frontier Airlines – but only Spirit has any appreciable capacity (2.3%).  

San Diego International Airport capacity (seats per week) by all airlines, total system, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016


International capacity – led by Mexico but North America is growing  

Almost 45% of international seat capacity is on flights to/from Mexico; otherwise, there is an even apportioning of capacity between the UK, Canada and Japan.  

Air Canada rouge operates to Toronto and seasonally to Vancouver (Jun-2016), as does WestJet from the same date.  

In the case of Europe, routes are to London (a long-established one) and seasonally to Madrid.  

The service to Tokyo was inaugurated in Dec-2012, an early introduction of the B787.  

San Diego International Airport international capacity seats by country, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016


The busiest domestic routes are within the western USA

All but three of the cities below are in the western part of the US and the group includes five major hubs: San Francisco, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare and (despite being only 120 miles distant), Los Angeles LAX. Three of these airports are on the west coast of California.

Top 10 domestic passenger routes by passengers carried, in the period Dec-2014 to Nov-2015.

City

Passengers

airlines

San Francisco

796,000

Southwest, United, Virgin America

Phoenix

655,000

American/US Airways, Southwest

Denver

582,000

Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United

Seattle/Tacoma

532,000

Alaska, Delta, Southwest

Dallas/Fort Worth

516,000

American, Spirit

Las Vegas

495,000

Southwest, Spirit

Chicago O’Hare

421,000

American, Spirit, United

Atlanta

413,000

Delta, Southwest

Oakland

386,000

Southwest

Los Angeles LAX

354,000

American, Delta, United

First class seat availability is high

SDIA has a considerably higher proportion of First Class and Premium Economy seat availability than the global average but this is not so for Business Class. 

(N.B. Most US airlines offer Premium Economy on domestic routes. In competitive transcontinental markets the large airlines offer First Class, while JetBlue has Mint, technically a Business Class).

San Diego International Airport schedule by class of seat - one-way weekly departing seats (total system) 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016

Alliance penetration is limited  

The presence of airline alliances is around the 40% mark in terms of seating capacity with, therefore, almost two thirds of seats on unaligned airlines. That 40% is shared out fairly evenly between oneworld (the largest alliance), Star Alliance and SkyTeam, so that none can justifiably claim precedence.  

San Diego International Airport capacity, seat share by alliance/unaligned, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016


The question is how this compares with with peer airports. The same group as used as previously:  

Comparison of SDIA with selected peer group airports by alliance penetration – seat availability, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016 

Airport

% of seats on unaligned airlines

% of seats on aligned airlines

San Diego

60.5

39.5

Los Angeles LAX

33.0

67.0

John Wayne OC Santa Ana

63.9

36.1

San Diego is clearly bracketed with John Wayne airport by this measure, while major hub airport LAX has a far greater degree of alliance penetration.

Traffic growth is strong, steady and improving year-on-year  

Traffic has been growing steadily in each of the last four years, with annual growth rates also increasing, from +2.1% in 2012 to +7.1% in 2015. Statistics for the first two months of 2016 are not yet available.   

San Diego International Airport annual passenger numbers 


When a comparison is made with the peer airport group, passenger traffic growth at Los Angeles LAX was +6.0% in 2015 and at John Wayne Orange County Airport it was +8.5%, so SDIA remains within that range.

Stage lengths are short to mid-length

SDIA has a broader range of flight stage lengths than some of the other airports in the western part of the US, owing to its distance from some of the main US hubs.

Most of the seats (45.5%) are on flights of up to two hours in length, with 32.8% on flights of up to four hours, which embraces hubs such as Denver and Chicago O’Hare. In fact, more direct domestic and North American flights fall into the up to six hours category, with flights beyond that range being international ones of up to 12 hours; here, a very small proportion.

San Diego International Airport, seats by length of flight, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016 


The chart below presents the data in another manner, this time contrasting frequencies with stage lengths. The greatest number of weekly frequencies falls in the stage range 0-2.5 hours.

San Diego International Airport frequencies (07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016)


Another perspective on frequencies is represented below in the form of a bar chart of available seats (arriving and departing) by time of day, on a typical day, in this case Friday 11-Mar-2016.  

There are no obvious imbalances between arriving and departing passengers other than at the extreme ends of the day.  There is no 24/7 operation here, at least where departures are concerned. The airport is situated just three miles (4.8 km) northwest of the central business district, which identifies it as a downtown airport.  

To appease concerns regarding noise – and possible lawsuits - a curfew was put in place as long ago as 1979. Departures are allowed only between 0630 and 2330, whereas arrivals are permitted 24 hours a day.  

San Diego International Airport, seats per hour, typical day, Friday 11-Mar-2016 (all airlines, total system, all terminals, all origins and destinations)


Cargo – London is the largest single market by cargo volume availability  

The nature of business activity in the San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan area, as described earlier, requires the presence of parcels integrators, and at least three have a presence there, namely DHL Express, FedEx and UPS.

Otherwise there are no cargo airlines, and all freight is carried as passenger aircraft belly hold. 92.3% of freight space is on domestic routes. The largest airline by this volume measure again, as it was in the passenger segment, is Southwest Airlines (26.2%); American is second, at 19.6%.  

Of the international cargo volume, availability is split as follows:  

San Diego International Airport international capacity cargo payload, total system, by region, 07-Mar-2016 to 13-Mar-2016


All the Western European volume is in the UK and the Northeast Asia volume in Japan. London is the single biggest market route, with 0.27 kilotonnes of volume space available each week. By contrast, there is only 0.009 kilotonnes of volume space available to and from Mexico City per week.

Construction – building for capacity in 2035  

The airport has two terminals and there is equal passenger capacity in both of them, according to OAG/CAPA data.  

Aligned airlines are together in Terminal 2,  irrespective of their groups, while the largest airline Southwest is one of only three airlines in Terminal 1, which it shares with Frontier Airlines, a ULCC. The other two ULCCs, Allegiant and Spirit, are in T2. 

Airlines by Terminal  

Terminal

Airline

Alliance

Terminal 1

Alaska Airlines

unaligned

Terminal 1

Frontier Airlines

unaligned

Terminal 1

Southwest Airlines

unaligned

Terminal 2

Allegiant Air

unaligned

Terminal 2

American Airlines

oneworld

Terminal 2

Delta Air Lines

SkyTeam

Terminal 2

Spirit Airlines

unaligned

Terminal 2

United Airlines

Star Alliance

Terminal 2

WestJet

unaligned

Terminal 2

Air Canada

Star Alliance

Terminal 2

Volaris

unaligned

Terminal 2

Alaska Airlines

unaligned

Terminal 2

Japan Airlines

oneworld

Terminal 2

Sun Country

unaligned

Terminal 2

Virgin America

unaligned

Terminal 2

British Airways

oneworld

Terminal 2

JetBlue Airways

unaligned

Terminal 2

Hawaiian Airlines

unaligned

According to the CAPA Airport Construction Database, construction activities are scheduled to take place at both terminals subject to an environmental review, and also in respect of the FBO, which is operated by Landmark Aviation, to the collective value of USD2.2 billion. This work is targeted to end by Dec-2020. The airport is moving ahead with the environmental review, which is expected to take between 18 and 24 months and to cost USD2 million. The airport will continue in its current location for the foreseeable future.  

The construction activities were selected in Nov-2015 as ‘Alternative 5’ of several competing concepts. The project is mainly concerned with the future replacement of T1 and improvements that will enable the airport to meet demand through to 2035. This is approximately when projected passenger activity levels will reach capacity for the airport’s single 2,865 m runway. Alternative 5 can be built in the shortest period of time because it minimises and streamlines the work needed to prepare the site for construction. It also provides a unified terminal design, providing connectivity to all terminals and amenities. Further, it offers more room for infrastructure and parking, if it is required in the future.  

Separately, a consolidated car rental centre with room for over 5,000 cars opened in Jan-2016, while a new FBO facility for Landmark Aviation with a 19,000sqft terminal opened in Aug-2014.

Various studies have been undertaken to move to a new location but no political impetus

Looming over the airport and these construction activities is a proposal that first surfaced in 2006 but was rejected then by voters: to move the airport to Miramar, the site of a Marine Air Corps station.

Indeed, studies dating back to 1923 have been conducted to determine where best to place an airport.

Other, more recent, studies have included:  

  • One from professors at the University of California at San Diego, which proposed building a floating airport in deep water west of the end of Interstate 8 at Ocean Beach. Their plan would use existing airport terminals and parking facilities for passenger ticketing and security then passengers would be transported by tram to the floating airport via the I8 and an ‘Archimedes Bridge’ (which floats on water), a trip of perhaps 15 minutes at 60 mph. Several groups have approached the Airport’s Board for sponsorship to apply for federal funds to develop the plan, but the proposal has never been given serious consideration. New technologies, however, may make this proposal less expensive than building a new airport on land;
  • In 2013, graduate business students sponsored by Qualcomm, a semiconductor manufacturer, produced a study discussing the political implications of developing a new international airport at three different locations: Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Campo/Boulevard and Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton. The studies built upon the Ricondo & Associates Consulting Group 2006 report which evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of building an airport at each of these sites and concluded that the only feasible location would be on the southern edge of Camp Pendleton, at the existing Munn Field air strip. The location is on approximately 5000 acres, taking up 4% of the total land at Camp Pendleton;
  • In 2014 and 2015, Qualcomm sponsored further studies known as San Diego Airport Exploratory Study 2.0 and 2.1, which generated media attention in local newspapers and other media.

It must be stressed, though, that these are academic proposals only, and appear to have no substantial political backing, at least so far.

Ownership – no expectation of privatisation; ‘rival’ airport’s application was withdrawn

The airport is owned and operated by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA), which was created in 2003 as an independent agency.

SDCRAA is mandated to:

  • Operate San Diego Airport
  • Plan for the future air transportation needs of the region
  • Serve as the region's Airport Land Use Commission (which has an environmental requirement attached, i.e. to minimise the public’s exposure to excessive noise and safety hazards around SDIA and the other 15 airports in the county).

The Airport Authority is funded by user fees (airline, passenger) and not by local taxation.

As far as is known, there have been no serious proposals, let alone attempts, to privatise the airport.

There have been other examples of attempted privatisation in California. Indeed the very first proposal made under the 1996 Airport Privatisation Pilot Programme was for Brown Field Municipal Airport. This is in the Otay Mesa neighbourhood of San Diego, 13 miles/21 km southeast of downtown and just 1 mile north of Tijuana Airport over the Mexican border. With a similar alignment to that of Tijuana Airport and with Otay Mountain close by it is too dangerous for commercial operations (Country and Western singer Reba McEntire’s band and manager perished in a 1991 light aircraft crash on Otay Mountain). The application was withdrawn in 2001.

Latterly, at Ontario Airport in the' Inland Empire' region (to the east of Los Angeles) an agreed shift in ownership has taken place, which is away from Los Angeles World Airports to local municipalities, even hinting at the possibility of future privatisation.

On the other hand the Cross Border Xpress project linking Tijuana International Airport with San Diego must not be overlooked, because while it is not an airport per se, rather only a terminal, it is entirely privately owned and operated.

Summary and conclusions

  • SDIA is essentially a point-to-point airport serving a large cross-border metropolitan area of over five million people;
  • It also feeds larger hubs in California and elsewhere in the US;
  • There are two main competing airports in California: Los Angeles LAX and John Wayne Orange County airports;
  • The bigger threat could come from the expanded Tijuana Airport in Mexico, which now offers a cross-border terminal, although that is not the intention of the terminal’s private sector backers;
  • Air services at SDIA are in the main domestic, with the exception of international services to Mexico, Japan, the UK and Spain;
  • The relative strength of SDIA lies in its North America services, which are more than twice as numerous as those at the competing John Wayne airport;
  • Landing charges tend to be lower than at competing airports;
  • Full service and low cost airlines are finely balanced in terms of seat capacity. The biggest LCC (and airline) is Southwest, with over 40% of capacity;
  • The busiest domestic routes are within the western part of the US;
  • Airline operators collectively offer a high proportion of First and Premium Economy seats;
  • The presence of airline alliances is minimal and their seat capacity is shared evenly;
  • Traffic has been growing steadily in each of the last four years;
  • Stage lengths are mainly short to mid-range;
  • A departures curfew is in place between 0630 and 2330;
  • While most cargo space is available on domestic passenger flights, the biggest international market by volume capacity is the UK;
  • Subject to an environmental review, work will take place on both terminals in order to meet demand through to 2035, at a cost of USD2 billion;
  • Several investigations have been made into the potential to relocate the airport but they remain as proposals only;
  • There have been moves to privatise a nearby airport in the San Diego suburbs, and the Tijuana Airport cross-border terminal was privately financed by US interests, but there is no evident desire to privatise SDIA.

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