Smoke delays SFO flights

Smoke from California Wine Country fires was so heavy that flights at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) were delayed or canceled. Visibility was only about 7 miles, which sets into motion a ground delay metering program to control how many planes can take off or land at a time. SFO usually handles 60 flights per hour, but only averaged 30 flights per hour last week.

Delays are averaging 75 minutes and a few flights were delayed for 5 hours. Travelers did not seem to mind as they believed in safety first.

There were also canceled flights, most frequently canceled ones being short trips to cities such as San Diego and Los Angeles. These were deemed as frequent flights where passengers can immediately be re-scheduled on the next departure out. After three days, the total number of cancellations reached about 280. Travelers can sign up for notifications regarding delays or cancellations. They are also advised to check directly with airlines to check on their flight status. SFO has a casual way of telling whether there will be smoke or fog delays. They say to plan on delays if the San Mateo Bridge cannot be viewed from the airport.

The air quality on Friday morning at the airport was so bad that unusually sensitive people were advised to avoid extended or heavy exertion. Senior citizens, pregnant women, young children, and those with ongoing heart and lung issues are especially vulnerable. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District prolonged a health advisory and Spare the Air alert into the weekend.

Other major Bay Area airports were not affected by the smoke problems, although they did experience problems earlier in the week. San Jose Mineta International Airport was free of visibility-related delays and cancellations. The Oakland International Airport had some flight delays but an airport spokeswoman reported that smoke from the fires was not the source of problems.


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