San Jose to ramp up air service

Officials at Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport are planning for more nonstop service to some of the world’s most popular destinations, but likely won’t be able to break San Francisco International Airport’s hold on the international market, according to aviation experts.

San Jose airport officials this month initiated a Web survey asking travelers to pick cities they would most like to see nonstop service with at the South Bay hub. Preliminary results show the top picks as New York, London, Maui, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo — all routes that are available at SFO.

Airport spokesman David Vossbrink said San Jose is not attempting to compete with SFO, but rather retain the customers who are deciding to head north instead.

“We’re two very different airports,” Vossbrink said of San Jose, which sees more domestic business travelers than international jetsetters. “But we need to provide the best service at our facility for the business community and residents in the South Bay.”

The survey comes at a time when both international and domestic service is ramping up at SFO. Discount airlines JetBlue Airways, Virgin America and Southwest Airlines — all of which are planning service to New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. — have started or will soon start service at SFO this year. Also, Irish airline Aer Lingus has promised to start running nonstop flights between SFO and Dublin this year.

San Jose airport has added nonstop service to Guadalajara and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico over the last several years, but runs only a couple of flights daily to New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., Vossbrink said. Though they were identified as high priorities on the Web survey, the airport has no direct service to London, Maui or Tokyo, Vossbrink said.

Colorado-based aviation consultant Michael Boyd said that while the San Jose airport may be able to retain its local customers on the domestic front, travelers will still likely head to SFO for their international journeys.

“Internationally, there’s no question SFO will still be on top,” Boyd said. “If you’re going on a 14-hour flight, you’re much more likely to drive the 40 minutes to San Francisco for it.”

Conversely, if cheaper domestic flights are available at San Jose, South Bay residents will be much more likely to stay at their home airport for these destinations, Boyd said.

tramroop@examiner.com


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