SFO begins building home for low-fare flyers

As the nation goes through turbulent financial times, expansion at San Francisco International Airport may help provide a smoother economy for the Bay Area.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Terminal 2 at SFO on Thursday, Mayor Gavin Newsom praised the start of a major renovation that will bring 14 new gates to the Bay Area’s busiest plane hub.

“The impact of this airport’s growth and expansion has a direct impact on the economy of the entire region,” Newsom said.

The terminal, which will eventually be able to accommodate 11 million passengers per year, will have a “hotel lobby” feel, with comfy seats, high-tech amenities and local restaurants serving locally grown produce, airport officials said.

Ten gates will be set aside for low-fare airline Virgin America, and the other four might go to fellow bargain airlines JetBlue or Southwest Airlines. The project is scheduled for completion in 30 months.

Terminal 2 has remained empty, mainly due to a post-Sept. 11 dip in air travel, SFO Director John Martin said. In recent years, however, an influx of international flights along with growth in demand for low-fare domestic flights has allowed the airport to fill the space, he said.

The growth is providing millions of dollars in local and state tax revenue to the Bay Area, Newsom said. Every 10 daily flights from SFO snags $33.8 million per year in tax revenue, he said. Last year, there was an increase of 610 flights on a weekly basis, he said.

The airport’s expansion has much to do with the Bay Area’s global position as a high-tech epicenter as well as the weakened U.S. dollar, which is attracting a high volume of tourism to the region, said Rob Black, vice president of public policy with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

SFO’s Terminal 2 project.

$383 million Total cost
587,800 Square footage
14 New aircraft gates
11.2 million Annual passenger capacity
450 Construction jobs
200 Airline jobs
200 Airport concession jobs

Source: SFO

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