Bay Area air travel rises but passengers face roadblocks

Air travel at three airports in the Gulf region has finally resumed after a nosedive during the pandemic, but now too many obstacles face travelers trying to get out and as the coronavirus threat begins to dwindle .

San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco international airports have seen a huge increase in passenger travel in recent months and airlines are launching new long haul and domestic routes to entice more people to take to the skies.

British Airways resumed nonstop flights between London Heathrow and Mineta San Jose International. And relatively new low-cost airline ZIPAIR said it would offer flights between Tokyo-Narita Airport and San Jose this December.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Airline passengers pass by a balloon sculpture of a British phone booth at Mineta San Jose International Airport on Friday, June 17, 2022, where British Airways recently operated from San Jose to London A new non-stop for Heathrow was announced. airport. (Carl Mondon/Bay Area Newsgroup)

In San Francisco, Condor is offering new service to the Frankfurt area of ​​Germany and Swoop is offering service to Edmonton in Canada. In Oakland, Spirit Airlines is introducing new flights connecting the East Bay with San Diego and Newark in the New York City area, while Hawaiian Airlines is offering flights to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The resumption of nonstop flights between Silicon Valley and London “represents an important milestone in our recovery,” John Aitken, aviation director for San Jose International, said in a statement.

A rebound is also underway for airports across the United States, increasing dramatically since last summer, according to Brett Snyder, founder and author of the Cranky Flier airline industry site.

“Nationwide, things are absolutely booming,” Snyder said. “Demand is very high for domestic travel and nearby international travel – Latin America and Europe in particular.”

International travel has been a particularly slow rebound. But this month, the US said it would no longer require passengers flying from a foreign country to show a negative COVID-19 test, easing previous restrictions.

Nevertheless, air travelers must navigate a prohibited landscape if they are to fly. Skyrocketing fuel costs, a shortage of aircraft, a lack of skilled pilots and the quest for airlines to skyrocket ticket prices as they scramble to recover from the economic crisis linked to the pandemic have all added to the list of air travel bottlenecks. are happening.

“Ticket prices are definitely higher now,” said Carmen Silva, a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, who was on her way to San Jose this week to visit her boyfriend. “In March, I paid $380 for a roundtrip between Raleigh and San Jose. This time I paid $1,000.

And while some passengers are ill-equipped to coexist and are willing to spend large sums of money to fly, others are staying away, some travelers still need to be wary of crowded places and on flights. No masks will be needed as the virus continues to spread.

Monthly passenger activity at the Bay Area’s three aviation hubs is still much lower than it was before the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, when federal, state and local government agencies implemented widespread business closures and limited travel.

As measured by departures from airplane seats, a metric compiled by Cirium, which tracks aviation trends, it’s clear that all three Bay Area airports are struggling to fully recover from passenger losses linked to COVID-19. Huh.

In June 2022 compared to June 2019, San Francisco’s airport is down 25.1%, San Jose is down 20.2%, and Oakland is down 9.5%.

But there are encouraging signs. Passenger levels at all three travel hubs are up from a year ago, according to data released by a trio of international airports.

San Jose International handled 972,600 passengers during April, up 108.9% from the same month in 2021. Oakland International handled 918,500 passengers in April, up 53.8%. In March, San Francisco International handled more than 3.09 million passengers, up 166.9% compared to March 2021.

Oakland is recovering its missing passengers more quickly than San Jose or San Francisco airports. The East Bay’s aviation hub relies more heavily on domestic leisure travel, while San Francisco generally relies on transpacific flights, many of which were halted because of the virus.

“San Jose is more of a business market, not a leisure market, and business travel has recovered very slowly,” said Snyder of Cranky Flir. “San Jose has struggled more than other markets to recover. It’s tied to Silicon Valley, which is really a business market.”

“Things are tough for the San Francisco airport because SFO is the gateway to the Pacific,” Snyder continued. “Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing are still constrained. Even South Korea and Japan are slowly starting to open up.”

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