Some travelers are gradually returning to San Francisco International Airport after the pandemic devastated the local aviation industry on an unprecedented scale.
Nine airlines resumed regular international flights to destinations such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Copenhagen, Vancouver and other cities around the world during the month, according to a press release on Wednesday July 22, with more expected as early as August .
While the additional activity shows a sign of life for an industry torn by COVID-19, airport spokesman Doug Yakel was moderately optimistic that a return to normal could soon be in sight.
“We expect an additional international service to return in August, but this is very speculative as airlines are scaling back their plans to resume more flights due to the increase in COVID cases,” he said in an email.
To illustrate the projected growth, 330 international flights are scheduled for Monday, August 31st – more than double the 127 international flights that took place on Monday, July 20th, according to a recent report from the Airports Commission. 1,826 domestic flights are also planned for the end of August, compared to 1,514 at the end of July.
The report also notes that scheduled flights are subject to airline judgment and the metric is a poor measure of traveler tracking with so many seats left empty on any plane.
Should the airport’s 579 international flights and 2,811 domestic flights scheduled for early September take place, those numbers would still be a long way from the 816 international flights and 3,298 domestic flights that occurred at the same time last year.
The report further details the drop in travel, saying that 200,261 people were processed at the airport security checkpoints in July – about 1.2 million fewer than in the same period last year.
To that end, tourist traffic plummeted in April when only 69,217 passengers passed through security – a 97% decrease from the same time last year when approximately 2 million passengers passed the gates at the Bay Area’s primary gateway.
Similarly, 117,186 people walked through the gates in May, steeply less than the 2.2 million who traveled through the previous year. Alternatively, the airport’s traffic in January and February before the outbreak of the coronavirus was roughly the same as last year.
Tourism officials have said the sudden drop in tourist traffic is extraordinary, comparable only to the declines in the industry following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In the years before the pandemic, annual records were regularly set at the airport for the number of people entering and leaving. In 2018, officials said the airport had hosted 58 million passengers. Last year it was ranked the seventh largest airport in the country and had an estimated annual turnover of 8.4 billion US dollars.
As travel trends have changed, so have the demands on travelers. Face masks are required at the airport, social distancing markings and plastic barriers have been installed in public areas, and thorough cleaning is much more common, according to the facility’s website.
In addition, more than 350 hand sanitiser stations have been set up, and the Transportation Security Administration has relaxed bans that allow travelers to take a small bottle of hand sanitiser on an airplane.
Food and drinks are available in the terminals and restaurants offer take-away, but duty-free shops are closed, as are most airline lounges and facilities such as the library, museum and spa or yoga rooms.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105