How Has The San Francisco Runway Closure Affected Operations?

The San Francisco International Airport runway closure continues, with more upheaval than it had initially expected. With delayed flights, canceled services and passengers left waiting for more than double the time the airport had predicted, people are eager to have operations back to normal.

How Has The San Francisco Runway Closure Affected Operations?
Part of the runway currently closed. Photo: Kyle Harmon via Wikimedia Commons

What do we know about the 20-day closure?

On 7th September, San Francisco International Airport closed a 579-meter section of Runway 28L and a 183-meter section of Runway 1L for a period of 20 days. This was to undertake structural work, a project which is costing the federal government an expected USD $16.2 million. The work was started after cracks were noticed on 28L over two years ago.

In March 2019, the airport announced that it would be closing the sections of the runway from 7th September until 27th September in order to complete the work. 28L would be receiving a base layer reconstruction, whilst the work on 1L would be focused on an overlay section with 28L.

In a press release on 5th September, the airport announced some of the ways it was helping to soften the blow from the anticipated disruption. It said:

“Airlines have collaborated with SFO to voluntarily reduce their flight schedules to lessen the length of delays. When combined with reductions from other non-airline flight operations, total flights at SFO have been reduced by 13% during the 20-day period of the runway 28L closure. Airlines have also re-timed certain flights to reduce demand during peak time periods.”

The airport also urged passengers to travel before 9am PDT, as most of the work would be carried out after this time. It also warned to expect delays on all international and domestic routes, especially short-haul services.

How Has The San Francisco Runway Closure Affected Operations?
United is just one of the airlines to alter its services for the closure. Photo: Jun Seita via Flickr

Passenger upheaval creating a stir

According to the release, the timing of the project was to avoid the main summer holiday season. But a runway closure on this stretch was never going to be simple, as 68% of the flights that fly out of San Francisco International use these runways.

According to CBS Local San Francisco, over 2,000 flights were delayed or canceled between the 7th and 13th September. There were 143 cancellations on 8th September and 399 delays and 92 cancellations on 12th September.

According to The Points Guy, a number of airlines including United and American Airlines have been offering travel waivers, which allow passengers to rebook flights without additional costs. This is something that airlines normally do for hurricanes as it prevents the need to fork out large sums of money to reimburse and re-accommodate disrupted passengers.

When will it be over?

San Francisco International had planned for the runways to reopen for business in 13 days time, however, that now looks likely to change. The meticulous planning and rescheduling of airlines seem to have paid off.

On 12th September, the airport released a statement saying that it was expecting to reach the second part of the construction 48 hours ahead of schedule. It said that the first phase of the project would transition to the second on 13th September and be completed on 14th September allowing for Runway 1R to be reopened.

How Has The San Francisco Runway Closure Affected Operations?
San Francisco will be back in operation soon. Photo: Håkan Dahlström via Wikimedia Commons

In the release, the airport explained how it had managed to claw back time:

“…the project team built time into the schedule to allow for unknown conditions below the base layer, which would have required additional digging and material installation. These contingencies were not required, as the soil below was found to be stable, allowing crews to move immediately to the installation of a new base layer.”

Things are looking up for the airport and we hope to see the construction completed on time, if not before schedule.

Have you been affected by the runway closure? Do you think now was a good time for the construction? Let us know your thoughts below!