San Francisco’s 20 Day Runway Closure Begins

Airlines and passengers at San Francisco International Airport are experiencing widespread disruption as runway 28L undergoes 20 days of construction work. The runway was closed on 7th September so that a new base layer could be constructed. Total airport capacity has been significantly affected as a result.

San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport’s runway 28L is undergoing significant reconstruction work. Photo: Daniel L. Lu via Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco International Airport recently entered a period of major construction work which will see its busiest runway out of action for 20 days. As reported by Flight Global, the runway requires a new base layer. The base layer was previously “showing signs of fatigue cracking due to a large amount of aircraft activity”.

The issues with the base layer of runway 28L were first detected in Spring 2017 whilst work to repave the top layer of the runway was ongoing. Reconstruction work could not be carried out at the time and it was postponed until now.

In a press release, San Francisco International Airport said,

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“SFO staff have evaluated multiple options and concluded that the best long-term solution is to excavate the section of Runway 28L at the intersection of Runway 1L and 1R to reconstruct the pavement structure,”

The current works will replace the base layer of a 579 meter section of runway 28L as well as a 183 meter overlay section of Runway 1L. The project, costing $17.2 million in total, is being funded by the federal government.

The disruption

Even though the works have only been underway since Saturday, they have already caused massive disruption at the airport.

On Tuesday alone, 103 flights into and out of the airport were canceled and a further 208 flights were delayed. To top it off, the average delay time for arriving flights was over three and a half hours. Sunday was even worse, with 143 cancellations in total.

San Francisco International Airport
Hundreds of flights have been canceled so far as a result of the construction work. Photo: Andrew Choy via Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco International Airport is the seventh busiest airport in the US, processing over 57 million passengers in 2018. Windy conditions have made the situation worse over recent days as aircraft have only been able to land on runway 28R.

When the works were announced back in March, the airport asked airlines to make voluntary reductions to their flight schedules. This was intended to help deal with the reduced runway capacity as a result of the works. Even after a total flight reduction of 13%, the flight delays and cancellations are extensive.

What can passengers do?

While passengers traveling through San Francisco International Airport were warned well ahead of time that there would be significant delays, the scale of delays has been far greater than expected. The average predicted delay time was 30-45 minutes, with a maximum of 2 hours for all flights past 9 a.m.

A United Airlines Airbus A319
United Airlines is rescheduling certain flights. Photo: Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, Monday’s average delay time of more than three and a half hours blew the airport’s predictions out of the water.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, United Airlines is allowing some customers to reschedule their flights for free.

Despite the massive disruption, passengers only have to wait until 20th September for the works to be completed. The total of 20 days of construction work is less than the five-week closure Salzburg Airport experienced earlier this year and far less than the three-month closure of Milan Linate Airport.

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Will

Yesterday I watched a BA A380 take off from Oakland, headed to SFO. Had never seen it before. I wonder if the runway closure had anything to do with it.

Tom Boon

Hey Will, It was stored in Oakland while BA Pilots were on strike as it’s much cheaper to park an A380 there for two days then at SFO. 🙂