Continental Enters LA to Latin America – Is More on the Way?

Continental, Schedule Changes, Star Alliance, United

Starting on July 1, Continental will begin thrice weekly service between LAX and San Salvador, El Salvador. Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about a simple route addition like this, but I find myself wondering if this is the beginning of something more.

This particular route is an interesting one. There is a great deal of traffic, and that’s probably why TACA and American both fly it. But why is Continental going in? It’s possible that they see a marginal opportunity and it’s a way to improve utilization, but I’d like to hope that this is the beginning of Continental’s move into an expanded role between LA and Latin America.

United used to serve the San Salvador route from LA, but they pulled out within the last couple years. Continental has a strong presence in Latin America, but ever since the airline packed up its headquarters and left LA for Houston more than 20 years ago, it hasn’t had much of a presence in LA at all. So the route may or may not have been on their radar before (they’ve tried limited Mexico night flights from LAX in the past), but now with Continental joining the Star Alliance and becoming a tight partner with United, could this be recognition of a greater opportunity?

It always surprised me that United never really tried to penetrate the LA to Mexico business markets. That’s Continental’s specialty out of Houston. So now if we combine Continental’s Latin experience and capabilities with United’s strong LA presence and feed, I’d like to think that Continental may see a golden opportunity.

Do I know anything in particular about this? Absolutely not. But it makes a lot of sense. It would be great to see someone try to tap into that market.

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9 comments on “Continental Enters LA to Latin America – Is More on the Way?

  1. The UA/CO tie in makes sense but its hard to say. So many airlines now are trying anything that may get people on a plane. Plus flights to Central and South America seem to leave late at night so it may be a way to keep a plane in the air.

    There is a huge population in the the L.A. area and a big Latin population as you know so there is a lot of local people to use the service for family visits and vacations.

    So it must be a combination of the market is there and the extra feed from UA to get CO to try an international route away from the safety of their hubs.

  2. When UA tried to tie (off and on again) Mexico and Central America from LAX the loads were quite heavy. As we all know…full planes do not necessarily equal profit, much less break-even; perhaps CO’s cost structure makes it’s metal the viable alternative to keep Star’s toe in the water. (??) I do not think UAL plans to give up one inch at LAX, but UA is pretty shameless when it comes to ‘farming out’ flying to Express or partner carriers…so by default, your assumption that CO will grow at LAX (especially Latin America, where the CO brand is strong) is a very good one.

  3. I think CO might be setting up for Havana. I believe that there are a lot of Cubans in the L.A. area. And with L.A.’s huge population base, many non-Cuban Americans are eager to travel to the island. Every airline with a Central American or Caribbean presence is probably drooling at the possibility to be the first U.S. carrier to Cuba.

  4. Of major domestic US airlines, Continental really is the best in my opinion.

    And of course Continental’s commercials are going to say they’re good, and they are going to brag about themselves. Why would an airline pay for TV commercials and say negative things about themselves? The whole POINT of advertising is to make an airline (or whatever the company is) seem good. So you shouldn’t only look at that. I’ve seen commercials for United Airlines, and they say that they’re a good airline, but they’re really not. So don’t take the commercials seriously. My guess is that you live in or near a city that Continental has a large presence at (near one of their hubs) so that is why they advertise more heavily and you only see their commercials. Granted I literally watch almost no TV (less than an hour a week), but I don’t ever recall seeing a Continental Airlines commercial.

    That said, however, Continental has the best customer service of any major US airline, in my opinion, and is one of the best in the world. I fly almost 100 times a year and I love Continental.

  5. US Travel if you’re going to promote your hack site by reposting comments dug up from the internet, (yours or whosever,) you should at least attempt to keep them somewhat on topic.

    No one is discussing Continental’s marketing or advertising.


  6. Ken US carriers have been flying charters to Cuba for years so the question will be who will be the first to get the first award for anyone to travel from the US to Cuba.

    Cuba Travel Services will restart it’s Los Angeles to Havana charters at the end of this month using Continental airlines. You can be sure since CO and AA have Cuban charters they will be prime carriers to get the first full traffic rights once Cuba is open to all Americans.

  7. splatterboy – It’s going to be a 737-800.

    US Travel – I’ve let some of your previous comments stand even though they’ve been slightly off topic. This one is not only off topic, but you’ve used the exact same words on several other websites. If you continue to post like this, your comments will be removed. I have no problem with people who want to link to their websites via the comment form, but you have to take the time to comment on the topic at hand and not just spam us.

  8. LA to Latin America has very heavy demand, but people visiting friends and family type markets are quite low yield. Reminds me when Southwest first entered Chicago to Baltimore, United ran full DC-10’s on the route, only problem was the yield was so low, the break even load factor was 130%. If this is just a utilization flight of an otherwise parked plane, it makes sense since all you really have to do is cover variable expenses, (fuel, crew, mechanical.) Delta just tried LA to second tier business destinations in Mexico with RJ’s and has largely shuttered that operation. UA/Star would have greater feed, but I wonder how many more markets might make sense. CO primarily runs their mainline aircraft through IAH and EWR, so only if they find themselves with excess capacity would any diversion to LAX make sense.

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