How SFO was voted America’s best airport

Later this week, a comprehensive study of airport data by the Wall Street Journal concluded that San Francisco International is the nation’s best large airport and that Sacramento ranks first among medium-sized facilities; regional airline group warns of impending “collapse” of air service to small cities due to pilot shortage; Alaska Airlines Drops LAX Route; Sun Country won’t return to Hawaii, but is adding several domestic routes; Border adds Phoenix route and Spirit expands to San Antonio; Delta partner LATAM plans new California route to Brazil, plus international route news from United, British Airways, Air Serbia, Frontier and Canada Jetlines; Alaska improves airport lounges but raises membership costs and tightens check-in policy; and Delta Sky Clubs begin to provide fast access to the airline’s best customers as the crowds continue.

The Wall Street Journal looked at statistics about the country’s 50 largest airports. It concluded that San Francisco International and Sacramento International were ranked No. 1 in their respective categories. SFO ranked first among the 20 busiest US airports by passenger volume, and SMF ranked first among the 30 mid-sized facilities. In its rankings, the newspaper examines everything from airline on-time performance to average ticket prices, security line wait times, costs at airport concessions, the results of JD Power’s annual passenger satisfaction survey, and more. He said that he examined the data on 19 factors.

At San Francisco International, “Passengers can enjoy yoga rooms, a museum, art exhibits, and stops at local restaurants like Bun Mee and Boudin Bakery, or occasionally enjoy live music. The new touch-free water filling stations have hot, cold and room temperature settings and could soon dispense free seltzer,” the Journal reported. “It’s all a small comfort when flights are delayed — a chronic problem given the city’s signature smog — but when things go well, it’s a pinnacle of a great airport experience.” The benefits for travelers in Sacramento include the airport’s good weather, ample runway space and helpful customer service, the article says. “Airport landscapers are even addressing travelers directly.”

Among the 20 busiest airports, Atlanta is second, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit, Phoenix and Los Angeles International. Newark Liberty (United center) and New York JFK are at the end of the rating. Besides Sacramento, other California airports fared well in the mid-sized airport rankings, with San Diego in second place, Mineta San Jose in third place, Orange County in ninth place and Oakland in tenth place. The worst performing medium-sized airports were San Juan, Puerto Rico; New York LaGuardia; and Washington Reagan National.

The main runway at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport near Healdsburg, California in June 2021.

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Several times this year, we have reported on major carriers suspending service to various smaller cities. often because they did not have enough pilots to maintain the schedules of their regional airline partners. Now, the Regional Airline Association has issued a stark warning that travelers flying to smaller US airports may have to find new ways to get there in the future. The organization, whose regional carrier members provide 43% of the nation’s scheduled passenger flights, looked at the big picture and learned that “an ongoing, severe pilot shortage has led to reduced or lost air service at 76% of US airports.” Based on the study of table data for October 2022 compared to the same month in 2019.

“We are on the brink of the wholesale collapse of small community air service,” said RAA CEO Faye Malarkey Black. “Since 2019, 60 U.S. airports have already lost more than half of their air service. The administration and every policymaker in Congress must put politics aside and address this crisis today.”

The RAA said member carriers had pulled more than 500 planes from service because they did not have enough pilots to fly them, reducing airline service to 324 cities and towns across the country, including “14 lost airports”. all scheduled commercial air service – a figure that is still growing. He noted that this is the culmination of a decades-long pilot shortage faced by the regional carrier industry. Since 2009, the number of U.S. airports with scheduled airline service has declined by 5%, and those that do maintain service have fewer flights to fewer destinations, the RAA reports. “These trends are accelerating; Between 2019 and 2022, 161 US airports lost more than a quarter of their commercial flights,” the RAA said. The organization said industry and government should work together on efforts such as improved student loans for pilot training, and called on the Federal Aviation Administration to “make informed decisions about additional, advanced training pathways permitted under existing law.”

A Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from LAX in August 2020.

A Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from LAX in August 2020.

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In California route news, Alaska Airlines is to end Los Angeles-Salt Lake City service on November 30.; on the same date, daily flights are scheduled between Payne Field in Everett, Washington, and Anchorage, Alaska. Minnesota-based low-cost carrier Sun Country Airlines had hoped to revive San Francisco-Honolulu and LAX-Honolulu flights next summer, but those plans have now been scrapped due to rising fuel prices, according to Those routes were suspended in April last year. Meanwhile, Sun Country plans to begin service this spring on 13 domestic routes from Minneapolis-St. Paul home base. Destinations Charlotte, North Carolina; New York JFK; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit; Richmond, Virginia; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Wilmington, North Carolina; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Traverse City, Michigan; and Rapid City, South Dakota. Most routes will receive two flights per week, with departure dates from April to June.

Last week, Frontier Airlines introduced new daily service from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Baltimore-Washington International. Spirit Airlines added San Antonio, Texas to its route map last week, starting daily flights to Las Vegas and Orlando; It will expand its San Antonio operations on March 8, when it adds daily service to Baltimore-Washington and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the Northeast, Delta will realign several commuter routes starting Jan. 9 from Binghamton, New York and State College, Pennsylvania LaGuardia, New York, as well as from New York JFK to Ithaca, New York. At the same time, Delta will cease flights from the Detroit hub to these three cities.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Danube Bridge in December 2015 in Belgrade, Serbia.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Danube Bridge in December 2015 in Belgrade, Serbia.

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In international itinerary news, West Coast residents will have a new option for travel to Brazil in 2023. Delta’s joint venture partner, LATAM Airlines Group, plans to introduce Los Angeles-Sao Paulo flights — the only nonstop service between LAX and Brazil — on July 1. The 777-300ER flight will be operated three days a week. United Airlines has resumed service to Cuba, offering daily flights to Havana from Newark Liberty and Houston Bush Intercontinental hubs. United had suspended the routes in early 2020. British Airways will add a new US gateway next summer and will operate five weekly flights from Cincinnati to London Heathrow starting June 5.

Planning a trip to Serbia? Air Serbia has announced that it will introduce a Chicago O’Hare-Belgrade service next year, with two weekly flights from May 17 and three weekly flights from June 12. This will be the airline’s second US route (New York JFK-Belgrade being the other). Frontier Airlines has begun flying a new international route from Atlanta, offering three weekly flights to San Jose, Costa Rica. Canada Jetlines, a new Canadian carrier, plans to launch its first cross-border service on January 19 with four A320 flights a week from Toronto to Las Vegas; the carrier has begun flying from Toronto to Calgary and expects to add Toronto-Vancouver flights this winter.

Alaska Airlines maintenance at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in September 2021.

Alaska Airlines maintenance at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in September 2021.

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Alaska Airlines is making some improvements to its airport lounge network, but membership in the program will cost more. The airline said on its website that starting Jan. 1, membership fees for its standard Alaska Lounge program will increase from $450 to $500, and the Alaska Lounge+ plan will increase from $600 to $650. The standard plan includes access to the airline’s nine airports, and the advanced plan includes access to those facilities and 90 more lounges of partner carriers. Alaska has three lounges in Seattle-Tacoma, two in Portland and one each at San Francisco International, Los Angeles, New York JFK and Anchorage. The airline is also strengthening its Alaska Lounge policy for first-class passengers. For first class tickets booked on or after November 18, free lounge access will no longer be available on non-stop or connecting flights of less than 2,100 miles for travel beginning on or after February 15, although first class flyers on shorter trips will receive discounted lounge access. Buy a $30 day pass.

Alaska opened an expanded C Concourse in Seattle-Tacoma this week, On Jan. 7, Alaska announced that its D Concourse lounge at Sea-Tac will have 30% more seating, a barista station, and new food and beverage options. At Portland International, the airline expanded its main lounge by 1,000 square feet and added an “express lounge” on Concourse B.

Delta is also making some rule changes for access to crowded Delta Sky Clubs. According to the Points Guy, the popular clubs are so busy that Delta creates dedicated lanes at the gates for its best customers, giving them priority over regular Sky Club members during peak hours. The priority access lane is for Delta One (ie, international business class) customers, members of the airline’s invitation-only Delta 360 group, SkyMiles Diamond Medallion elites and first class flyers.

Delta can contribute to the Sky Club crowd with its check-in policy. Points Guy noted, “Of all the US airlines, Delta is the most generous with lounge access.” “Anyone with a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Platinum Card® from American Express can access Sky Club, including the carrier’s long-haul business class passengers, Sky Club members and select lounge members such as premium flyers . their annual award. Delta still doesn’t operate business-only lounges, which adds to the overcrowding problem for its popular Sky clubs.” Dedicated access lanes are mostly expected outside Sky Clubs at Delta’s busiest hub airports.

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