Flier traffic surging at SFO 

click to enlarge See chart below to see how flier traffic has grown since 2000. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • See chart below to see how flier traffic has grown since 2000.

Culminating a decade of growth, passenger traffic at San Francisco International Airport reached an all-time high last fiscal year, finally eclipsing the marks set during the first dot-com boom.

Some 21.4 million passengers boarded flights at SFO during the year that ended in June, besting the previous high of 20.2 million set in 2000.

“This is a very significant moment for the airport,” SFO spokesman Michael McCarron said.

Growth was driven by several factors, including Virgin America’s decision to base its operations at SFO in 2007, he said. That prompted low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, and eventually United, to increase operations. The economy prompted airlines to move services from San Jose and Oakland airports, he said.

During the dot-com boom, SFO seemed poised to deliver ridership records. Plunging traffic coincided with the SARS outbreak in Asia and the 9/11 attacks. In just two years, SFO’s passenger levels dropped by one-third.

Yet thanks to timely investments like the renovation of Terminal 2, the airport managed to recover even as other hubs are still struggling.

Jim Lazarus of the Chamber of Commerce said rising boardings are evidence the economy is growing. “Every recent economic indicator has been healthy, from falling commercial vacancy rates to more overseas visitors,” he said. “We’ve risen strongly out of the recession.”

And SFO expects more growth. It is now planning to expand Terminal 3, and will remodel Terminal 1 in a few years, McCarron said.

“We have to make sure that we have the facilities to meet any kind of passenger boom that could be coming,” McCarron said.



Year Passenger Boardings (in millions)
2011 20.0
2010 19.3
2009 18.4
2008 18.1
2007 17.3
2006 16.3
2005 16.1
2004 15.6
2003 14.1
2002 14.4
2001 15.8
2000 18.9

*These numbers reflect the regular calendar year. SFO’s record-breaking 2012 traffic was based on its July-to-June fiscal year.

Source: Research and Innovation Technology Administration

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