Frontier begins Los Angeles-San Francisco as JetBlue pulls out; the USA’s 7th largest market this summer

Frontier Airlines

The LA Basin to San Francisco Bay air market is enormous. According to the US DOT, it had 9.4 million two-way passengers in 2023, equivalent to passengers daily each way of 12,877. While most passengers were local, the number also includes those who transited to other flights.

If using a car, the drive between the two major cities takes six hours or more and eight hours or more by train or bus. As such, the number of air passengers is considerable, although traffic was down by a quarter versus 2019. It will be interesting to see how things change if/when the bullet train begins.

In Greater LA, Burbank, Los Angeles LAX, Long Beach, Ontario, Orange County and San Bernardino have flights. In the Bay area: San Francisco SFO, Oakland and San Jose. There were 15 airport pairs last year, of which LAX-SFO was, of course, by far the single largest market by passengers. It had about 2.7 million, albeit ‘only’ 28% of the total, down from the highs of a third or more.

LA Basin to San Francisco Bar 2000-2023

LAX-SFO: Frontiers enters as JetBlue pulls out

Narrowing the time focus to S24 and using Cirium schedules information shows that LAX-SFO is the USA’s seventh-largest airport pair by available capacity. It has 912,000 one-way seats (double for two ways). Capacity is down by 35% versus S19 and – unusually – 6% less than S23.

United has a third of the seats, Delta a quarter, Alaska Airlines 15% (it returned to the route in 2018), Southwest 13% (it began the route in 2007), American 9%, Frontier 4% and JetBlue just 1%. JetBlue’s share is so low because its daily flight ends on 12 June as part of the airline’s attempt to improve overall performance. JetBlue began LAX-SFO in 2020 having ceased Long Beach-SFO, an airport pair that no longer exists.

Shannon AIrport

Frontier began a daily flight on the 540-kilometre route on 10 April 2024 one of 20+ routes introduced by the carrier on 10 and 11 April. It now has three routes at the metro level, with LAX-SFO joining Ontario-SFO (daily) and Orange County-SFO (begins July 11; 4-weekly).

Frontier is the only ULCC on LAX-SFO. According to Cirium, there has been no other, with neither Spirit nor – unsurprisingly – Allegiant ever serving it. Frontier previously flew LAX-SFO between 2006 and 2007, but that was years before it changed to a ULCC.

LAX-SFO airlines S24

Few other airline changes in the past 20+ years

Aside from the above-mentioned developments, little else has changed airline-wise in the past two decades or so. The main thing was Virgin America, which served the airport pair between 2007 and 2018. The airline was acquired by Alaska Airlines in 2016 and was fully subsumed into its operations two years later, hence Alaska Airlines entering the market in 2018.

In the full year of 2016, for example, Cirium shows that Virgin had 516,000 departing seats on LAX-SFO, with the airport pair its most-served route on a 40-strong network that year. It was the second-largest operator after United.

Athens International Airport