Why Is Lufthansa’s New Flight To San Jose Delayed?

Last October I wrote about Lufthansa adding a new flight between Frankfurt and San Jose, which was scheduled to launch on April 29, 2016. Long term the flight is to be operated by a Lufthansa Cityline A340-300, which is the same plane that Lufthansa flies to leisure destinations, like Tampa. That plane features 18 business class seats, 19 premium economy seats, and 261 economy class seats.

Lufthansa-A340

Personally San Jose strikes me as more of a business destination than leisure destination, which is why I found the plane type curious. But this might also simply have to do with Lufthansa’s fleet limitations. For example, Lufthansa doesn’t fly any Boeing 787-8 aircraft, which would be able to efficiently serve a market like this (interestingly San Jose’s flights to Asia are all operated by 787s).

Hainan-787
Hainan Airlines flies 787s from San Jose to Beijing

While Lufthansa’s flight was supposed to launch on April 29, the Lufthansa Frankfurt to San Jose inaugural flight has been pushed back to July 1, 2016, which is a delay of roughly two months.

Via the San Jose Mercury News:

Lufthansa spokeswoman Claudia Lange said the San Jose route is not being canceled and that the delay gives the airline more time to market the flights and sell tickets.

The inaugural flight will be moved to the summer season, Lange said in an email. “With higher demand in bookings, Lufthansa expects to extend the time for ticket sales, allow for more marketing opportunities as well as for stable operations in the introduction phase of the flight.”

Lange would not disclose how many passengers are affected by the canceled flights. It appears some of the passengers booked on the first Lufthansa flights out of San Jose are being rerouted to San Francisco International Airport — one of San Jose’s biggest local competitors.

Reading between the lines, it seems like the airline’s load factors were abysmal for the first couple of months and it’s not worthwhile for them to operate the route yet.

That sounds awfully familiar, given that Emirates also recently delayed their new Dubai to Panama City flight by two months due to abysmal load factors. They apparently hadn’t done any marketing or developed any relationships with local travel agents upfront, and in the end canceled the flight just a couple of weeks before launch, which is very bad planning.

In the case of Lufthansa, it seems they’re giving passengers the option of either canceling or being routed out of San Francisco instead. That’s not much of an alternative — they should at least be covering the cost of ground transportation.

For what it’s worth, British Airways’ new nonstop flight between London and San Jose is still on schedule to launch May 4, 2016.

Bottom line

I’m a bit puzzled by these route delays on the parts of very experienced airlines. Load factors will typically be low when a route first launches no matter what, though based on what the Lufthansa spokesperson is saying, it seems they didn’t put much effort into marketing upfront. Furthermore, May and early June aren’t exactly peak periods for travel to/from Europe, so perhaps they should have just launched the route as of July to begin with, which is a time of year where you can fill just about any transatlantic flight.

All along it seemed like Lufthansa’s launch date was centered around beating British Airways to San Jose, given that they announced their flight roughly two months after British Airways, but decided to launch the flight a week before them. That may have been a bit rash.

(Tip of the hat to Andrew)

Comments

  1. The largest no of visitors to San Jose are from Korea,Britain,Germany,China and Japan. With ANA,Hainan,BA,Lufthansa now all flying out of San Jose can a Korean airline be far behind. I did not count Mexico as that is more of a leisure destination and there are already flights to Mexico out of San Jose

  2. I feel they should be offering rebooked guests comp’d ground transportation for their screwup/reschedule.

    I also think the market in SJ/Silicon Valley is showing early signs of softening and the market for FRA-SJC may not be there.

  3. It sounds like opportunism combines badly with fleet limitations. Opportunism in that they wanted to “beat” BA. Fleet limitations in that BA can start a route with a 787 (look at Austin) and substitute a larger plane when necessary. LH cannot do that.

  4. It may be related to the dramas at Eurowings long haul. By all accounts, reliability of their own aircraft has been so piss poor us that LH has been lending aircraft for Eurowings operation in Cologne- and even then they have been wet leasing aircraft to cover the operation.. This has got major traction in the German papers that it wouldn’t shock me if lufty is keeping an extra 340 spare to cover the Eurowings dramas over the next few months

  5. I’m surprised airlines haven’t been trying to sell their terribly inefficient A340s to replace them with A350s or other, more efficient planes. Especially with low load factors that make an A340 very costly.

  6. Lufthansa just started up a new route to Nairobi. At the last minute they changed to a much smaller and older plane. They said it would only be temporary until April when they plan to start using the newer, bigger plane again. Pretty lame. I’m flying with them next week and look forward to reviewing the private, refitted 737 business jet they are using for that route.

  7. The super worse start of Eurowings longhaul flights with the fantastic delays like the Varadeo flight could be a reason. The launch of Eurowings new destinations Vegas and Miami are delayed as well. Maybe Lufthansa wanna use the A340 (the old A340 of Cityline are part of the Lufthansa budget-leisure-concept “Jump” ex Frankfurt) to help Eurowings out instead of leasing Arke-/TUIfly as happened at the Eurowings start.

    Anyhow I don´t get the point for Lufthansa to fly to San Jose with Jump because it´s not a super popular destination for Germans to spend holidays.

  8. Took LH489 from SJC to FRA two weeks ago and the flight was pretty empty especially the bottom half of the economy class. People were lying down on those seats in the middle. Glad I didn’t book the award ticket in C as I got pretty big space in Y already.

  9. I just found out that LH seams to start this route next year, due to I see awards to SJO in the end of mars

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