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San Francisco flight delays ease as runway construction continues

Hundreds of departing and arriving flights at San Francisco International Airport have been canceled or delayed daily since Sept. 7 because of the renovation of a key runway.
Hundreds of departing and arriving flights at San Francisco International Airport have been canceled or delayed daily since Sept. 7 because of the renovation of a key runway.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Flight delays and cancellations at San Francisco International Airport are expected to continue through next week because of construction on its busiest runway, but the good news is that the project, which was to be completed Sept. 27, is two days ahead of schedule.

Construction delays have caused hundreds of flight delays and cancellations, and weather exacerbated the delays. Heavy winds forced airport authorities to use a single runway for departures and arrivals.

“The good news today is that the wind is cooperating,” Doug Yakel, a public information officer at SFO, said Thursday. “And as a result, more flights are taking off.”

That in turn has reduced the number of delays and cancellations, Yakel said.

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On Sept. 7, SFO closed Runway 28L for what it thought would be 20 days to repair the base layer below the runway surface. It is now expected to reopen Sept. 25.

In the interim, passengers have taken to Twitter to express their dismay.

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SFO averages 1,267 flights per day. The airport, in conjunction with major airlines, reduced the number of flights by 13% during the construction period. Yakel said most of those cancellations were planned before Sept. 7.

Last month, United Airlines, the largest operator at SFO, notified customers about the runway closures. It offered a travel waiver that allowed travelers to change flights without penalty. The airline also rerouted passengers, said Maddie King, a United representative.

“For passengers that are stuck in the air, we’re providing free snacks, access to our meditation app as well as meal vouchers,” she said.

American Airlines, which accounts for about 8% of all air traffic at SFO, reduced its flight schedule by 15% this month. It issued a travel alert notifying passengers they could change their travel plans without extra fees.

“We adjusted our flight schedule at SFO in advance of runway construction and proactively notified all customers who were impacted by those changes,” said Curtis Blessing, a representative for American Airlines.

Most airlines generally do not reimburse for incidentals or accommodations in situations that are not their fault. But Yakel still recommends passengers contact their airline directly.

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“There have been several cases where the airlines have made exemptions to their rules,” Yakel said.


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