SFO was a slow go for travelers in January

As passengers and downpours flooded San Francisco International Airport in January, the busiest hub in the Bay Area sank to the bottom of the nation for ushering travelers to their destination on time.

SFO was the worst airport among major hubs for on-time performance for arriving flights in January and second-worst for departures, according to a federal report released this week.

SFO was last in arrivals and better than only Chicago O’Hare International Airport for departures among the nation’s 32 largest airports.

SFO spokesman Mike McCarron blamed the poor arrival statistics on the unusually bad weather three months ago.

“It was probably the wettest January we’ve had in 10 years,” McCarron said.

SFO’s on-time performance has dipped significantly in the last year. Both departure and arrival delays have gone up at SFO during eight of the last nine months compared to the previous year, according to the federal report.

While airports around the nation have had increases in delays, SFO’s on-time performance has dipped more steadily since May than other airports, according the bureau.

During inclement conditions, SFO scales down to one runway, halving the number of hourly flights that can use the airport from 60 to 30, McCarron said.

But analysts fear SFO’s on-time performance will continue to decline as more airlines start service and increase flights.

“My concern is that it’s probably going to get worse,” said Henry Harteveldt, aviation analyst with Forrester Research. “We’re facing the perennial problem that the runway design at SFO dates from the pre-jet era and is not adequate for today’s operations.”

The increased number of carriers at SFO lowers rates but leads to jumps in delays, he said.

But the airport has a few plans to help offset growth at the airport, which has jumped from about 950 to 980 flights per day over last year, McCarron said. SFO is considering raising airline landing fees during peak hours to encourage carriers to spread out their trips, he said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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