About the Flights

My airport is San Diego International Airport. It is a SMALLER airport, compared to LAX, which we use for international flights or to Hawaii. Here is what is different:
- 5 Flights between SAN and JFK, 20 flights between LAX and JFK
- Only one non-stop to Europe to London- Heathrow, beginning on June 2010. Also, I have to often connect in LAS, PHX, ORD, LAX, or SFO, just because SAN DIEGO HAS NO NONSTOPS TO FLORIDA!!!
- Really close to Downtown San Diego (Saw Chula Vista from seat 26A once on Northwest 757 from DTW.
- Uses Small Planes (eg: A320, 737-200, A319, A318) instead of (757, 767, 777, A330, 747, A380), which also have AVODS on some planes.
- This leads to the exception of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 15 to Honolulu, but many airports use their A330, which have AVODS!!!, and the 767 to Atlanta, but all the flights from LAX use 747 and 777 aircraft
- Very small Terminals. Not much to see at the Terminal, just a couple bars and gates.
Why is San Diego International So Small?
Why do they have such small commercial airplanes?
When are they going to plan to remodel their terminals?

P.S. Please don’t say anything negative to my comments. This is my opinion, and i often do have questions relating to airports and airplanes.

San Diego small? Think about it this way… It is the only major international airport (read: Class B airspace) that has a single runway. No other international airport in congested airspace has that.

For your second question, let’s have a look at the configuration of the airport. As you mentioned, it is very close to downtown San Diego. In fact, an aircraft on final to runway 27 there passes over I-5 at less than 500ft AGL. It barely misses the tallest buildings in downtown San Diego. Because of that, in a westerly flow, there is no ILS approach to the runway (there is from the opposite direction, coming from the ocean).

Now, the runway is less than 10000ft in length, which may not mean much for arrivals, but means a LOT when trying to deal with fuel capacity and weight for a given aircraft’s takeoff roll. For some flights, especially with heavy jets, that may not be long enough of a runway. Also, bring back to mind the downtown area. If they have to depart runway 9, they have to meet the minimum climb rate criteria for that runway, With being that heavy in fuel and weight, that would be hard for an Int’l flight. So some things to consider.

Small airplanes? Simple. to feed the other airports that can handle the int’l travel. Saabs, Dash 8s, CRJs, etc. all feed LAX, SFO, SJC, OAK, and any other airports via TEC routes to get them around the area.

Remodel the terminals? Good question. In my travels there, I’ve felt that SAN was easy to get into and out of. It was also the first airport I had been to that had a dedicated pet relief area (crucial when you’re traveling with a service animal). Either way, there was talk of building another airport in the area, either somewhere north of Miramar, or out near Brown field that would have the room to grow.


To add to what tyketto says the airport is fairly old and is now basically unexpandable short of moving I5, the harbor or downtown San Diego. There have been proposals to trade SAN for Miramar NAS but the Navy has all but ignored those ideas.

Easy answer, LAX is a major West Coast hub, SAN is not.

You also need to take into account the demographics of the San Diego area. As an example, there’s more flights between LAX and JFK because the demand is higher than it is for SAN-JFK. There are more industries based in the LA area than San Diego area. The population is higher.

The Bureau of Transport Statistics maintains all sorts of data on airline flights. You may be surprised to see that actual aircraft types operated at SAN after the numbers are crunched. These are all scheduled pax flights.

B737 series 300 through 900: (no 200’s): 21,545 flights (53.1% of total)
A318/319/320/321: 6,445 flights (15.9%)
Regional jets: 6,427 flights (15.8%)
B757: 2,620 flights (6.4%)
The rest constis of MD80, MD90, EMB120, B767, and A330. They total 3,560 flights (8.8%)

I wouldn’t consider aircraft the size of a B737 or A320 to be small aircraft.

Correction: The London service begins in June 2011

As a ff on UA out of SAN, let me point out that aircraft size has more to do with traffic demand than the limitations of the runway. UA has many 757 flights along with Delta and USAir having some. As you mentioned, BA will try a third time with 777 non stop to LHR. The flight will be weight restricted on cargo to meet the limitations of the runway. Because of topography, fully loaded 747 overseas flights are impossible.

In regards to Florida, if the demand was there, I would think that AA with their hub in Miami would allocate an aircraft, their 738’s would be able to handle the distance, no problem. I’ve flown UAL 319’s non stop from IAD to SAN in the winter against a 140mph jet stream, making for a long 6 3/4 hour flight no problem, so smaller aircraft are quite capable of distances. Again, it’s all about the number of seats than an airline can fill and whether a non-stop to Florida is warranted.

The reason I have a concern about the size of SAN is because there are over a million people living in San Diego. Why can’t they expand it, so it is easier for the 1,000,000+ travelers to get to their destination, other than driving to LAX, which is off by 100 miles, to go to some destination like NRT. :arrow_right:

 From Airline Kid: DUDE, where did you get all those statistics!

Dude, were did you get all those statistics? P.S. I am considering San Diego have small aircraft not because of the small aircraft, but i blame the airline. They remodel the bigger planes, and not the smaller planes. Why can’t these airlines remodel their aircraft, to suit the comfort of passengers better? In economy, and first, every A319, A320, 737, or 757 should have AVODS by 2012-2014. Exepts the CRJS because they dont havve 4 hour flights.

You have to understand how the hub and spoke system works. Unless you live in a hub city, LAX, DFW, ATL, ORD, MSP, etc., it is difficult to find direct flights. You can fly out of SAN just fine, but expect at least one stop in a hub city to connect, such as SAN-LAX-NRT, or SAN-DEN-JFK. A lot of large cities in the US have the same situation as SAN, not every major city will be an airline hub. Even the cities that are hubs, may have limited service from airlines other than the airline that is using the airport as a hub. Imagine flying into/out of DEN on American or Delta, not as many flights.

NIMBY neighbors prevent new runways.

For the same reason why the Clark Country Dept. of Aviation can not expand McCarran: They don’t have the room.

A bit of history here. I moved to Vegas in 1998. At that time there was only 750,000 people living there. There were more living in the San Diego area at that time. The current airport in Vegas has been in the same place since it was built there in the 1947. At that time, they only had 2 runways (7/25 and 1/19), with room in their plan to expand that out to 2 sets of parallel runways. That had been done by at leas the 1980s. By the time I moved there, 4 terminals were built with all of them active, and all available land allocated to the airport used. The last bit of land they have is where the new International Terminal is going, while the current int’l terminal will be razed. After that, there is no more space available.

Oh… By the time I started my move to Sacramento, Las Vegas grew out to 6.5 million people. They’ll be hitting 10 million within the next 2 - 3 years.

The only thing they can do there is build a new airport, which they had planned since the 1990s: Ivanpah. some 20 miles out of town to handle all international and cargo operations, while McCarran goes completely domestic. But to do that, they need one major thing: LAND.

Same applies to San Diego. They have no room to expand the current airport, especially with the North Island NAS across the bay from them, MMZT airspace 10 miles to the south, and downtown San Diego immediately to the east. If they were going to expand they need one major thing: LAND. And that is what they do not have at their current location.

Hence the ideas of moving the airport, which the Marines aren’t wanting to give up Miramar, and all other efforts out east near Brown are in limbo. So you’re stuck.

LAX has the room to expand, and is doing so. SFO just completed a major expansion. SAN just does not have the room to do it.


You posed a very good question and received excellent answers from very knowlegable FA members.

BTS Airiline Data and Statistics
The data above are from the On Time table.

The AVODS (audio/video on demand system) does not make an aircraft small or large. Would you consider a 747 without AVODS to be a small aircraft?

As far as putting AVODS on a particular aircraft, it all boils down to the economics of doing it. It makes more sense to put it on an aircraft with 150 seats than one with 50 seats, especially if the airline charges for use of the system.

I didn’t say that Audio video on demand makes plane bigger or smaller. Only the length and width and components built makes the plane bigger. What do you mean that those TV screens boil the plane?
(One time, i went on a Delta Plane to SAN from JFK, and the Audio Video on Demand malfunctioned for a little bit)

KSAN is currently expanding. Among other things, 10 new gates and ramp space on the far west side. More info can be found at san.org/sdcraa/airport_initiativ … fault.aspx

I don’t know where some of these stats came from… Never had an A330 into KSAN before. Also, I once saw BA depart a 777 to London off runway 9… in fog…with a 7-kt tailwind. 6000’ takeoff roll. 767’s can use SAN with no issues. Zoom ran 767’s to London until they were shut down. No problems. And, Aeromexico is still flying 777’s from Tijuana (9500’ runway) NONSTOP to Asia. Tijuana to Asia? Seriously? Yep, for well over a year now.

Porterjet… Miramar is now USMC. The Navy moved out, split their squadrons between Lemoore and Fallon. The Marines moved in from El Toro and Tustin (both places now closed). Still a great airshow.
Miramar would have been the best option for a new airport IMO… central location, 12,000’ main runway… topography not too terrible, Tracon on site. It was the closest we got to having a new airport, but the government basically wouldn’t have it, even if it were joint-use. (Plus they have their own group of well-to-do NIMBYs).
The Border-port plan was too far south, would wipe out a ton of import warehouses, and raised too many questions about border crossing concerns. It would have basically combined KSDM and MMTJ, with runways crossing the border.
The desert plan was basically laughed into oblivion.
Now, some people are looking into an offshore “floating airport” proposal. We shall see.

That’s sort of a special case, forced by the 777s inability to depart the hot and high MEX with full payload for Asia, so they use the sea level point in their country along the way.

About all I can add to this debate is that a long time ago I flew into SAN just after getting my instrument rating in fairly low weather in a Cessna 172. I took off to the east with a what seemed to me at the time was a terrifying mountain directly in front of me. There really is no room to do anything with that airport. BTW, I believe that Gatwick in metro London is a single runway major airport with a class B control zone.

I had forgotten that the Marines moved into Miramar until about 5 seconds after I posted.

Gatwick does have two runways but they are too close together to be used at the same time so it is considered a single runway airport for practical purposes.

Speaking of England EGSS 200550Z 04002KT 8000 NSC M13/M14 Q1000
Our boss says his wife doesn’t like shopping in the cold so I guess his credit card is spending a lonely holiday this year.

When the first border airport was proposed those warehouses weren’t there. I remember back when you could watch the activity at TIJ from Otay Mesa Rd; nothing but fields in the way.

There is no class B airspace in the UK, and Gatwick is far from ‘metro’ London.