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.
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 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.
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.
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)