Last updated: 02:34 PM ET, Mon October 19 2015

Lufthansa to Link Germany and Silicon Valley

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | October 19, 2015

Lufthansa to Link Germany and Silicon Valley

PHOTO: San Jose Mineta International Airport. (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

San Francisco's airport has always been THE international hub for the Bay Area. It is one of those central points so familiar to travelers that it is almost universally known by its IATA code: SFO.

SFO connects Northern and Central California with the world. The two other major Bay Area airports, Oakland International and San Jose’s Mineta International, are usually considered secondary airports even though they serve cities that have large populations.

A new international hub for the Bay Area

This dynamic may be changing. Though SFO may remain the area’s main international flight connection, Mineta has been growing steadily. Now, Lufthansa is planning service between San Jose and Frankfurt, with an eye on eventually developing connections that could take German passengers across the Pacific to East Asia and American passengers to Europe, India and Africa via Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub.

The San Jose-Frankfurt service will start April 29, 2016. It will be the first non-stop route between Silicon Valley and Europe. Lufthansa is expecting demand to be high, and scheduled five flights per week.

Flights will run overnight, leaving San Jose in the afternoon or early evening and getting to Germany the following morning. The timing of the flights isn’t an accident. A morning landing in Frankfurt will allow for the maximum number of connection possibilities.

Specifically for Silicon Valley travelers

Lufthansa’s premium classes generally rank higher than those of U.S.-based carriers, and this fact can’t be anything but good news for the airline as they try to appeal to Silicon Valley travelers, an area with business travelers aplenty.

“Passengers from the Silicon Valley area will now be able to experience the quality service and premium products that Lufthansa has always been known to offer, including our brand new Premium Economy Class that offers extra space for comfort and relaxation, as well as an elevated experience,” Juergen Siebenrock, vice president, Americas, Lufthansa German Airlines said to Breaking Travel News.

Starting to gain traction as an international hub

Since it completed a major modernization project in 2010, San Jose International has been gaining traction as an international hub. Currently, it offers service to Beijing, on Hainan Airlines and Tokyo, via ANA. Lufthansa isn’t the only European carrier launching service to Mineta in 2016. British Airways will be starting flights between Heathrow and San Jose in early May of next year.

San Jose officials and local business organizations have been lobbying for international airline service for years. These efforts finally started to pay off in 2013, when ANA began service between Mineta and Narita. Well before the first flight took off for Japan, the airport was in negotiations with Lufthansa. In all, it took about five years to convince the German airline to consider San Jose flights.

Renovations are paying off (and being paid off)

Mineta will benefit from having another major airline offering international service, but the biggest gains do not have to do with its Bay Area credibility, but with its budget. Getting international routes will increase the airport’s income. This is necessary because Mineta incurred a lot of debt during its upgrade and modernization projects.   

The London and Frankfurt routes will open up Europe to Silicon Valley-based travelers (and vice versa). San Jose won’t be challenging SFO for the title of top Bay Area hub anytime soon, but for Silicon Valley travelers, the new international routes are a sign that Mineta International is moving out from behind SFO's shadow. 

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