Number Of Air Passengers Plummets At SFO Amid Coronavirus

Air traffic has plunged at San Francisco International Airport. And while there are far fewer passengers at SFO, cargo activity is increasing. 

To fully describe just how empty san francisco international is now Doug Yakel, Public Information Officer with SFO, shares a year over year comparison to back before the COVID-19 outbreak. The hustle and bustle normally associated with SFO is hushed.

“When we look at the first five days of April, and compare it to the same period last year, passenger traffic is down 96%.” said Yakel, ““In other words, we are only at 4% of the passengers we normally would be seeing this time of year.”

Yakel says The number of domestic flights in April was slashed by 56% and international flights down by 84%. Still, the airport remains open - not only for essential air travel -- but for the flow of goods and services. 

“We are seeing some increased cargo activity here.” said Yakel, “The other thing we are seeing is Amazon Air, which started at SFO a few weeks ago.” 

United Airlines has also operated some cargo only flights into SFO, and shipping activity is increasing with the stay at home order. There is also cargo activity related to relief efforts, like the plane last week carrying 65 tons of medical supplies for UCSF hospitals. 

Yakel says in 2003 SFO was impacted by the SARS epidemic, with a 30 percent reduction in international traffic. It took a full year for the airport to recover. 

“Given that this is something much greater in scope, it might take longer than that but we really don’t know.” said Yakel, “It’s reasonable to expect that even after the disease is contained or on the decline, that travel demand will remain low for some foreseeable future.“