San Francisco airport runway construction update

You must see this mesmerizing video of fog rolling over SF from Simon Christen.

On May 17, San Francisco International Airport shut down two of its four runways for federally mandated safety upgrades.

Since then, summer fog and heavy air traffic have caused occasional minor back ups, but significant delays have been minimal. Over the last month, I have noticed longer taxi times and airplane “traffic jams”  as they wait in line to depart at peak times. I’ve kinda enjoyed the new flight path for departures (a hard right immediately after take off). But I’ve heard from few travelers experiencing anything major, or ongoing. Have you? 

Due to a combination of weather and outdated runway design, SFO has one of the worst reputations for on-time performance among all major airports. That’s not great. But the fact that things have not gotten worse due to the construction project is good news.

“The project is moving along well; we’re a bit ahead of schedule, now looking at completion in late August. Delays are on-track with our expectations; averaging about 15-20 minutes when weather is not a factor, 30-35 minutes when we start the day with low clouds and fog,” airport spokesperson Doug Yakel told TravelSkills. 

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New flight paths are about the biggest change fliers have felt during SFO runway shutdow (Courtesy SFO)

New flight paths are about the biggest change fliers have felt during SFO runway shutdow (Courtesy SFO)

Virgin America says that the impact of the construction project on travelers has been eased through a combination of carriers altering summer schedules ahead of time and its proactive notification to guests. 

Last month TravelSkills obtained data from FlightStats that show that not much changed between April (prior to the shutdown) and early June (after the runway shutdown). Before the project began, 75-80% of arrivals and departures were on time, and the same held afterwards. When arrivals and departures are delayed, the average wait before and after the shutdown remained about the same, too, in the 45-60 minute range. Not great. But not bad enough to spoil a business trip. And not all that out of the ordinary. 

So it appears that so far, we have a non-event on our hands in San Francisco. What do you think? Have you experienced significant delays this summer at SFO or elsewhere? Leave your comments below. 

–Chris McGinnis

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  • Anon Y Mous

    So far things are going well during the dry construction season. I was
    worried about cross wind landings on the main runways during the
    construction leading to an Asiana type debacle.

    Family member trying to get home from ACV had cancelled flight due to ATC
    (air traffic control). While there were numerous cancellations and a
    curious hour+ delay for pilot shortage (flight crew availability), anyone
    will have trouble telling the runway construction delays from the weather
    delays. It hits all of the Skywest United Express EMB-120 fleet the
    hardest. Family member unable to depart until next day, missing work and

    Flight status & information from SFO airport and UAL talks only about
    possible delays, not cancellations. Guess the EMB-120s don’t have much of
    a priority.

  • SFO

    We had a 4 hour delay because they were limiting inbound flights from Southern California. A lot of people missed heir connections. Not good!

  • Pam H.

    I’ve flown from SFO twice since May 17th and I’ve not had any significant delays. The weather cooperated for both departures and arrivals, which were late night and early morning.

  • Chris

    Four days short of the Asiana anniversary that proved if you don’t know how your aircraft works it doesn’t matter how long the runway safety area is…

  • Greg

    Had to cancel a trip to SFO last week due in part to SFO delay. All flights to SFO were delayed, mine was pushed back 1hr 40 min, just long enough for evening thunderstorms to come rolling into the NY area. After 3 hr Tarmac delay, flight canceled as crew timed out.

  • Transplant206

    Not important, but don’t the Europe departures generally continue W/NW over Ocean Beach before turning E/NE over the Golden Gate?

  • tripswithtykes

    We’ve flown SFO twice since the construction started, departing during peak midday periods both times. Were a bit nervous about potential for delays, especially when traveling with two small kids. But we had nothing more than usual 15-20 mins delay, which is par for the course for a busy airport like SFO. One more family trip from SFO this summer – hope it is as successful!