How SFO ended up ranked as the best airport in America

In this week’s report, a comprehensive study of airport data by The Wall Street Journal concludes that San Francisco International Airport is the best large airport in the country and ranks Sacramento first among midsize facilities. A group of regional airlines warns of an imminent “collapse” of air services to smaller cities due to a shortage of pilots; Alaska Airlines drops the LAX route; Sun Country will not return to Hawaii but will add several local routes; Frontier adds Phoenix Road, and Spirit grows in San Antonio; Delta partner LATAM is planning a new California route to Brazil, as well as international route news from United, British Airways, Air Serbia, Frontier and Canada JetLines; Alaska is improving its airport lounges but raising membership costs and tightening entry policies; and Delta Sky Clubs begin giving quick access to the airline’s top customers as crowds continue.

The Wall Street Journal covered the data in statistics on the 50 largest airports in the country. It concluded that San Francisco International and Sacramento International ranked first in their respective categories. San Francisco International Airport ranked first among the 20 busiest airports in the United States in terms of passengers, and San Francisco Airport ranked first among 30 medium-sized facilities. The newspaper said it examined data for 19 factors in its rankings, ranging from airlines’ on-time performance to average ticket prices, security line waiting time, costs at airport concessions, results from J.D. Power’s annual survey of passenger satisfaction and more.

At San Francisco International, “travelers can return to the yoga rooms, museum, art galleries, and outposts of local restaurants like Bun Me and Boudin Bakery, or enjoy the occasional live music. The new, touchless water filling stations have hot, cold and room-temperature settings and may soon dispense carbonated water, the magazine said. “It doesn’t feel comfortable when flights are delayed – a perennial problem given the city’s signature smog – but it tops a great airport experience when things are going well.” Benefits to travelers in Sacramento, the article said, include good weather at the airport, plentiful runway space, and helpful customer service. “Even airport landscaping is targeting direct travelers.”

Of the 20 busiest airports, Atlanta is ranked second, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit, Phoenix, and Los Angeles International. At the bottom of the ranking were Newark Liberty (the United hub) and New York JFK. Besides Sacramento, other airports in California did well in the midsize airport rankings, with San Diego coming in at number two, Mineta San Jose at number three, Orange County at number nine, and Oakland at number ten. The midsize airports that scored the worst were San Juan and Puerto Rico. New York LaGuardia; and Washington Reagan National.

The main runway at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in June 2021, near Healdsburg, California.
The main runway at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in June 2021, near Healdsburg, California.

George Rose / Getty Images

We’ve reported several times this year about major carriers dropping service to various smaller cities, Mostly because the regional airline partners did not have enough pilots to maintain their schedules. A regional airline association has now issued a stark warning that travelers flying into smaller airports in the US may have to find new ways to get there in the future. That organization, whose regional carrier members provide 43% of the nation’s scheduled passenger flights, took a look at the big picture and learned that “a persistent severe shortage of pilots has resulted in the dwindling or loss of air service at 76% of US airports,” based on Based on a study of schedule data for October 2022 versus the same month in 2019.
“We are on the verge of a total collapse of small community air services,” said Faye Malarkey Black, CEO of the RAA. “It has already begun, with 60 US airports losing more than half of their air service since 2019. Every policymaker in the administration and Congress should put politics aside and address this crisis today.”
The RAA said its member airlines have taken more than 500 planes out of service because they don’t have enough pilots to fly, and as a result, airline service has been reduced to 324 cities and towns nationwide — including 14 airports that “have lost all air service.” Regular commercial – a number that continues to rise. She noted that this is just the culmination of a decade-long shortage of pilots that has faced the regional transportation industry. The RAA said that since 2009, the number of US airports with scheduled airline service has fallen by 5%, and those that have maintained service have fewer flights to fewer destinations. These trends are accelerating. Between 2019 and 2022, 161 US airports lost more than one in four of their commercial flights. The organization said industry and government should work together on efforts such as improving student loans for pilot training, and urged the FAA to “make data-driven decisions about additional and advanced training pathways permitted under current law.”

A Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from Los Angeles Airport in August 2020.
A Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from Los Angeles Airport in August 2020.

Images by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC

In California road news, Alaska Airlines is set to drop service to Los Angeles – Salt Lake City on November 30.; On the same date, daily flights are scheduled to launch between Pine Field in Everett, Washington, and Anchorage, Alaska. Low-cost Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines had hoped to revive flights to San Francisco-Honolulu and LAX-Honolulu next summer, but those plans have now been dropped due to rising fuel costs, according to simpleflying.com. These methods were suspended last April. At the same time, Sun Country plans to begin service on 13 domestic routes this spring, all from Minneapolis-St. Paul’s home base. Destination is Charlotte, North Carolina. New York JFK; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit. Richmond, Virginia; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Wilmington, North Carolina; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Traverse City, Michigan; and Rapid City, South Dakota. Most trails will have two trips per week, running from April through June.


Last week, Frontier Airlines introduced new daily service from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Baltimore Washington International. Spirit Airlines has added San Antonio, Texas, to its route map, and began daily flights last week to Las Vegas and Orlando; It will expand its San Antonio business on March 8, when it will add daily service to Baltimore, Washington, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the Northeast, Delta will realign a handful of commuter routes on January 9, beginning service to Binghamton, New York, and State College, Pennsylvania, from New York LaGuardia, as well as service from New York JFK to Ithaca, New York. At the same time, Delta will halt flights to those three cities from its Detroit hub.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Danube Bridge in Belgrade, Serbia, in December 2015.
A woman rides a bicycle on the Danube Bridge in Belgrade, Serbia, in December 2015.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In international road news, West Coast residents will get a new option to travel to Brazil in 2023. LATAM Airlines Group, a joint venture partner with Delta, plans to offer flights to Los Angeles and Sao Paulo on July 1 — the only nonstop service between LAX and Brazil. The 777-300ER will operate three days a week. United Airlines has restored services to Cuba, offering daily flights to Havana from its hubs at Newark Liberty and Houston Bush Intercontinental. United discontinued the lines in early 2020. British Airways will add a new US gateway next summer, launching five flights a week from Cincinnati to London Heathrow from June 5.

Are you planning a trip to Serbia? Air Serbia said it will introduce Chicago O’Hare-Belgrade service next year, operating two flights per week from May 17 and increasing to three flights per week on June 12. else). Frontier Airlines has begun operating a new international route from Atlanta, offering three weekly flights to San Jose, Costa Rica. A new Canadian carrier called Canada Jetlines plans to begin its first cross-border service on January 19 with four A320 flights per week from Toronto to Las Vegas. The airline has begun flights from Toronto to Calgary and expects to add Toronto to Vancouver flights this winter.

An Alaska Airlines maintenance hanger at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in September 2021.
An Alaska Airlines maintenance hanger at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in September 2021.

George Rose / Getty Images

Alaska Airlines is making some improvements to its airport lounge network, but membership in the program will cost more. Beginning January 1, the airline said on its website, the cost of membership to the standard Alaska lounge program will increase from $450 to $500, and the Alaska Lounge+ plan will increase from $600 to $650. The Standard plan includes access to the airline’s 9 airport lounges, while the Enhanced plan includes access to these facilities as well as 90 other partner airline lounges. Alaska has three lounges in Seattle-Tacoma, two in Portland, and one each in San Francisco International, Los Angeles, New York JFK and Anchorage. The airline is also tightening Alaska’s lounge policy for first class passengers. On first class tickets booked on or after November 18, for travel starting February 15, free lounge access will not be available on nonstop or connecting flights shorter than 2,100 miles, although first class passengers on shorter journeys will be able to This is the purchase of a $30 discounted ticket to enter the lounge.
Alaska opened an expanded C Concourse in Seattle-Tacoma this week, Adding 3,000 square feet and doubling the capacity to 120. On January 7, Alaska said, it will close Sea-Tac’s D Concourse lounge for the summer for a project that will give it 30% more seating, a barista station, and new food and beverage options. At Portland International, the airline expanded its main lounge by 1,000 square feet and added an “express lounge” in Concourse B.
Delta is also making some rule changes to get into the crowded Delta Sky Clubs. Popular clubs are so busy, according to Points Guy, that Delta is creating special lanes at the entrance doors for its best customers, giving them priority access over regular Sky Club members during off-peak hours. The priority entry pass is for Delta One (i.e. international business class) customers, members of the airline’s Delta 360 group and invite-only, SkyMiles Diamond Medallion elite and first class travelers.
Delta may contribute to Sky Club congestion with their admission policies. “Of all US airlines, Delta is the most generous in terms of lounge access,” Points Guy noted. Anyone holding a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Platinum Card from American Express can access Sky Club, along with the airline’s Business Class long-haul passengers, Sky Club members and First Class travelers who choose lounge membership as their annual benefit. Delta has so far only operated lounges for businessmen, exacerbating the problem of overcrowding at the famous Sky Clubs.” Private entry lanes are primarily expected outside Sky Clubs at Delta’s busiest hub airports.

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