In August 2014, I sadly posted about American canceling their long running JFK-Barbados flight – American Axes One of my Favorite JFK Routes – Caribbean Left with Just a Few Flights. I lamented that this was one of my favorite JFK-Caribbean flights on AA for a bunch of reasons:
- Barbados always seemed to be less touristy than the other Caribbean locals with direct NYC based flights (less US tourists anyway…very big with the UK). Friendly locals,beautiful uncrowded beaches, and a great Hilton and decent Radisson as well for points redemptions.
- Award availability was fantastic. My family of four flew Dec 24th returning December 30th in 2013 all on MileSAAver awards. We’ve done that to several other Caribbean location each and every year on AA for 11 years through 2014 (from 2015 and 2016, there was simply no awards to be had given present day American’s stingy availability).
- Since award availability was so fantastic, there was always Avios availability as well. I was able to avoid a NYC blizzard and escape to Barbados last minute using an AAdvantage MileSAAver award booked via British Airways Avios. The total cost was $47.50 in taxes and only 12,500 Avios points (instead of 17,500 AA miles) each way!
At the beginning of 2014, AA was left with non-stop Caribbean service from JFK to only Antigua (ANU), St. Kitts (SKB) once per week, Port-au-Prince (PAP), San Juan (SJU), St. Maarten (SXM), and St. Thomas (STT). A far cry from the days when we’d sit down at the kitchen table and look at AA’s “Where We Fly” map to pick our next Caribbean winter vacation spot, always a new destination on miles. By the end of that year, the St. Kitts once daily flight completely disappeared and the JFK-SJU route was cut to only once per day!
Well, we’ve now reached the end of an era. In case you missed the news earlier this month, American has confirmed that it will terminate non-stop service between JFK and San Juan, a former hub, in August 2017. The route had been flown by the carrier since 1971!
American told the following to USA Today:
“We continually evaluate our network, looking at supply and demand for each route we serve. We want to ensure our fleet and crews are serving routes that are profitable, better positioning us for long term success against global competition.”
American will continue to serve the market from Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia.
It had put added pressure on American’s activities by providing its own services on the New York JFK – San Juan route since 2002, a route it now serves up to six times daily and one of 14 non-stop routes it offers linking San Juan to destinations in the mainland United States, the US Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. It also offers up to two flights per day to San Juan from Newark.
Take a look at the AA schedule at the bottom of this post from July 2001 with 11 daily flights from JFK to their then hub in San Juan! Of course, the competition is a bit different now. JetBlue has up to 6 daily flights to SJU from JFK and up to 2 from Newark, Delta has 4 from JFK while United has up to 4 from Newark. Southwest also now operates a weekly Newark flight.
Wow, a sad loss for American, JFK, and San Juan. For an airline that wants to “re-gain footing in the lucrative New York market”, American continues to cede routes to competitors. Delta now operates from New York to markets that were unimaginable prior to their “win in New York” strategy that began around 2010. If I want a direct flight to the Caribbean or Mexico from NYC, I’m likely flying with Delta, JetBlue, or United.
Routesonline has a fantastic piece that looks back at American’s SJU service over the years and highlights how the average fares on the route have remained resilient over the past ten years.