Tuesday, April 27, 1999
Flying into San Francisco Airport
In the winter or the spring? Don’t bother. You’ll be sorry.
SFO (San Francisco’s airport) has only two runways. Add a little bit of weather — and in that part of the Bay Area, that means fog, more likely than not — and one or both runways can close down in a heartbeat. This, of course, causes a domino effect of flights being late or outright cancelled.
In December, 1998, I tried to get back to the Bay Area from vacation in Seattle. Perhaps you heard about the SFO closures that time. Some flights ended up landing in Sacramento, Reno, or even Los Angeles. (One airline even landed in Sacramento and abandoned the passengers — “This is as close as we can get to San Francisco. You’ll have to get the rest of the way on your own.” What fun!) I ended up having to stay in Seattle for two extra days.
In April, 1999, I tried to get back to the Bay Area from a weekend trip to San Diego. Guess what happened? Matters were compounded by the airline I was flying — Southwest — being unwilling to tell passengers anything more than “might be delayed,” even when United passengers were coming over from the other terminal to see about flights since their airline had cancelled everything into SFO that morning. I missed getting on standby to Oakland and ended up on the next-to-last seat on a flight to San José — and then was wedged into a “party seat” with one other man and four obese women (who were fun to talk to, despite the tight quarters: “Honey, you don’t need a seatbelt, you ain’t going nowhere!”) — and then waiting in the cold for a shuttle bus and then the commuter train for about an hour, I made it to my destination (work) about four hours late. I fortunately had no luggage to check; those who did had to chase it all over the Bay Area, adding yet more time to the delay.
My recommendation? During the winter and spring — mid-December to mid-April — if you can avoid flying into SFO, do so. The odds of having weather problems are high, but they drop significantly if you fly into either of the other major airports in the area (Oakland and San José). And truth be told, neither of the other airports is especially less convenient than SFO (depending on where your final destination is, of course) — and they can even be cheaper!
(Oh, and don’t get me started on how I dislike flying out of SFO!)