SFO makes delays more comfortable

During the heart of Friday morning’s storm at San Francisco International Airport, a few hundred passengers on 12 SkyWest Airlines United Express flights avoided a frustrating situation thanks to a new airport policy — likely without even knowing it.

The airline’s personnel quickly realized that due to the storms, it would take two to three hours before their flights could depart. With passengers crammed onboard with limited or no lavatory facilities, the airline contacted the SFO duty manager, who sent buses to the aircraft to take the passengers back to Terminal 3 until their flights could depart.

This scenario, said SFO spokesman Mike McCarron, was a prime example of how a new policy implemented last Thursday will help passengers during delays. The policy is designed to allow flights to take off on schedule and let arriving passengers deplane on time — or, at the very least, get passengers off cramped aircraft during long delays.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that 29.69 percent of the flights in and out of SFO were delayed from December 2006 to November 2007, up from the national average of 26.05 percent during that span.

The airport’s plan is in response to national recommendations made by the DOT in September, Deputy Airport Director Tryg McCoy said.

The plan will allow domestic flights with delayed landings to let passengers off at open international gates or at 12 remote parking positions when domestic terminals are full, McCoy said. It also requires airline personnel to contact the airport duty manager when they anticipate a delay of at least 60 minutes.

The policy is voluntary for airlines, McCarron said.

The plan will surely delight SFO passengers like Julien Cortial, who said he has waited for at least an hour to depart after boarding previous flights. Cortial came in to SFO from France with friend Aurelien Bouvier on Monday.

“That’s good — if there are things that the airport can do to make sure we’re on time,” Bouvier said.

Also, as part of the new policy, the airport will distribute 300 sets of sheets, sleeping pads and pillows during instances in which passengers must stay at the terminal overnight, McCoy said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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