Scott Ball / Rivard Report
San Antonio International Airport (SAT) officials confirmed Thursday that Air Canada will end its much-heralded nonstop service between San Antonio and Toronto that began in 2017. Frontier Airlines also is withdrawing a number of flights in several cities, including more than a dozen in San Antonio.
The news came just weeks after the aviation department celebrated at City Hall a run of 30 consecutive record-breaking months for passenger growth and achieving 10 million passengers served in 2018.
“Unfortunately, for all the many positive steps forward at SAT, we are reminded that airlines are profit-making enterprises which make decisions about routes based on the realities of the local market demand,” Aviation Director Russ Handy wrote in an email to the Rivard Report.
“Although we are disappointed in these decisions, we understand that the global and domestic airline industry remains a highly competitive environment and route adjustments such as these are not uncommon.”
Air Canada launched daily, nonstop air service between San Antonio and Toronto on May 1, 2017. Though the route performed well during peak travel periods, airport officials said Air Canada later reduced service to five times per week during non-peak travel periods from November to May. The nonstop flight will be discontinued April 28.
“Although we hate to see this service end, indications from Air Canada are that they hope to return services to San Antonio in the future,” Handy stated. “In the meantime, our air service division remains actively committed to obtaining nonstop service to Canada through other viable airlines.”
Frontier Airlines informed several airports, including Austin, that it will discontinue some routes in 2019, most of which operated two to three times per week. Frontier will continue to provide service to and from San Antonio to nine of its original 25 markets, including Denver; Las Vegas; Atlanta; San Diego; New Orleans;Washington-Dulles; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Ontario, California; and Orlando, Florida.
“Frontier’s aggressive increase in capacity across the country, combined with less than ideal timing for launching some of their seasonal flights, may have negatively impacted the profitability of these routes and prompted this corporate decision,” Handy stated. In October 2017, Frontier Airlines began six new nonstop flights out of San Antonio alone.
Air Canada has not yet publicly announced the reduction in service, nor has Frontier Airlines.
“Both airlines repeatedly emphasized the robust contributions of the entire San Antonio community to support and market these routes and how much they strongly value our enduring partnership,” Handy stated. “Their firm contention was we did everything in our power to make these routes work, but the demand just did not support the routes.”
The San Antonio International Airport Incentive Program, adopted by City Council in 2016, allows for marketing incentives, valued between $25,000 and $100,000, and facility fee and landing fee waivers for air carriers that start new service in San Antonio, especially those that provide service to targeted, unserved markets.
The reductions by Air Canada and Frontier will reduce total airline seat capacity serving SAT by 1.5 percent. However, Handy stated that recently launched air service and capacity increases to existing destinations, through Alaska Air and Sun Country, will increase seat capacity by 6.5 percent in 2019.
Air Canada currently provides nonstop service between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Toronto, and in May 2018 announced it would upgrade to a larger aircraft to increase capacity on that route.