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Home Vacation SFO holiday travel was brisk — but did it set records?

SFO holiday travel was brisk — but did it set records?

by Staff

People carry luggage into San Francisco International Airport on Dec. 18. Travel levels during the holiday season approached that of 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

Despite a few days when stormy weather and cloudy skies forced hundreds of flight delays, San Francisco International Airport experienced a mostly smooth holiday travel season that saw nearly 2.5 million travelers pass through its terminals, officials say.

SFO’s holiday travel season started on Dec. 15 and officially ended Tuesday. Through Monday, about 2.46 million people either departed, arrived or made connections through the Bay Area’s busiest airport.

Those numbers show a continuing ascending trend in air travel from SFO, though they still lag totals from 2019, the last holiday season before the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Doug Yakel, an SFO spokesperson, this season saw about 91% of the number of holiday travelers in 2019.

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“Overall, the holiday travel season went well,” Yakel said.

That’s not to say that things went flawlessly, however. On Dec, 19 and Dec. 27, incoming storms brought low-hanging clouds and strong winds that led to hundreds of flight delays and a handful of cancellations.

But weather during most of the holiday travel season was mild and storm-free, unlike many past holiday seasons. And there were no widespread problems like last holiday season’s Southwest Airlines meltdown, which caused thousands of flight delays and cancellations nationwide, including at the Bay Area’s three airports, and stranded millions of passengers.

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As SFO heads into the slower winter and spring travel seasons, Yakel said the airport’s air travel numbers are expected to continue recovering to pre-pandemic levels. During the first three months of 2024, the airport’s numbers are anticipated to be 87% to 90% of 2019 volumes.

Reach Michael Cabanatuan: [email protected]; Twitter: @ctuan

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