United Airlines has taken the extra step to offer flight waivers and different flights ahead of the upcoming San Francisco (SFO) runway closure, as reported first by The Points Guy. So far, United is the only airline to offer customers alternative travel arrangements ahead of the planned maintenance.
What is going on at San Francisco International Airport?
San Francisco International Airport is a very busy airport, flying in hundreds of flights a day. These are not only from all over the United States, but also from far-reaching destinations such as China, Australia, United Kingdom and more.
As such, from time to time they need to repave the runways that aircraft use for landing. This mammoth task requires runway 28L to be shut down for 20 days, this time from the 7th of September right through to the 27th of September.
The airport has been very careful in choosing these dates, deciding on a time period after the summer crunch and before the onslaught of holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas). Additionally, the repair work itself requires hot and dry weather, thus Septemeber in the Bay Area is the perfect time to lay the asphalt.
“With input from airlines at SFO, the project team selected September 7-27, 2019 for the closure to avoid the busy summer and year-end holiday travel seasons. This timeframe was also chosen for the low probability of precipitation, as dry weather is necessary for asphalt paving.” – SFO Airport Press Release
The entire project (funded by the government) is estimated to cost around $16.2 million US dollars.
What problems will this cause?
But shutting down one runway of four is going to have an impact on the amount of aircraft that can take off or land at the airport. Not only that, but runway 28L actually intersects with two other runways and will impact their performance as well.
“These runway intersections are the most heavily-traveled areas of the entire runway system at SFO,” – SFO Airport Press Release
Thus the airport has actually asked airlines to reduce their scheduled flights to the airport and offer alternative travel arrangements of travelers that might be affected. Some predictions have put daily delays at around two hours per flight, with a caveat that earlier flights before work begins at 9 AM will be the least affected.
How is United Airlines handing this?
United Airlines, which operates around 44% of all traffic to and from SFO (the biggest airline at SFO airport with around 30 million seats from the Bay Area), has decided to get ahead of these problems and offer their passengers alternatives.
“The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will close a major runway for repairs from September 7–26, and we expect it’ll cause flight cancellations and delays. We want to help, so we removed some flights from our schedule and rebooked customers to help reduce any disruptions to their travel plans.”
There is also a flight waiver available for those who want to completely rebook to a different flight or a different date. The airline also points out that the Air Train at the airport is undergoing maintenance around the same time and passengers should prepare for that too.
You can see the full details of the waiver here.
What do you think? Is United taking the right action? Let us know in the comments.