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In Depth: SFO Plots New Strategy To Ease Delays

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Travelers At SFO

Passengers wait in line at a ticket counter at San Francisco International Airport. (CBS)

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MILLBRAE (KCBS) – With so many Bay Area residents flying the friendly skies to and from wintertime destinations, it’s likely welcome news that the region’s biggest airport has its eye on the root causes of air travel headaches.

“We have a 1940s-era runway design,” acknowledged John L. Martin, Airport Director, San Francisco International Airport. “It’s not ideal.”

Indeed, the parallel runways of the 85-year-old facility do limit the number of landings and takeoffs at SFO. Mix in the often unpredictable Bay Area weather, and it’s not surprising that the facility has a 70% on-time rating for its flights. In fact, low morning clouds cut the number of hourly arrivals in half – from 60 to 30 – nearly one-third of the year.

KCBS In Depth:

Though of little use to Winter 2012 flyers, relief will land at SFO come Summer 2013.

The new FAA arrival procedure will allow staggered arrivals,” explained Martin.

“That will allow us to go to potentially as many as 36 or 37 landings per hour,” he said of the soon-to-be-enacted policy for foggy days.

Of course, there are times when planes simply can’t take off or land because of various conditions, and Martin stressed the airport’s willingness to intervene – even though, ultimately, it’s up to an individual airline to decide whether to return a plane to a gate or not.

“We intervene. We go right into the mix and help the carriers to let them know where gates are available because they don’t want to get into hot water or create a problem for their passengers either.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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