SFO to open three international gates 

In yet another sign of recovering times for San Francisco International Airport, three gates in the International Terminal, which have been closed since the terminal opened in 2000, are set to open this fall.

This means more revenue for the airport and some additional space for a number of airlines, including JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Southwest, and, most likely, Virgin America, that are expanding or adding service to SFO this year.

Of the International Terminal’s 24 gates, these three, located in Boarding Area A, were the only ones that were out of commission, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. Airport officials hope to have the gates up and running by October, when the $3.6 million project is expected to wrap up, according to McCarron.

This year, the airport demolished the former Boarding Area A, at a cost of $5.3 million, in anticipation of the gate-opening project. This leftover structure was blocking the new gates, but, given the fiscal outlook, officials had previously postponed even the demolition of the project.

The International Terminal, which opened in late 2000 to great fanfare, can accommodate up to 5,000 arriving passengers per hour, according to airport figures. But the travel downturn following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, left it emptier than expected and forced the airport to put off other large projects and make budget cuts.

However, airport figures compiled recently forecast a brighter picture, with an estimated 13 percent growth in passenger load estimated for 2008.

Officials are dusting off other projects and plans, which include remodeling domestic Terminal 2 — the former international terminal.

"We didn’t have the passenger loads to do these projects, but it looks like we can now," McCarron said.

McCarron said the airport collects a $66 per-use fee when airlines use the SFO-owned passenger boarding bridges to funnel passengers in and out of planes. In addition, the airport collects landing fees that amount to approximately $15 per airplane passenger.

Traveler Dianne Jenson, heading from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last week, said that adding gates seemed like a logical choice for a major airport.

"It may even make [travelers’] lives easier, that would be nice," Jenson said.

tramroop@examiner.com

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