Passenger counts are down dramatically at the Bay Area’s three major airports, and the situation isn’t expected to improve significantly anytime soon in this era of travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
And the situation could be made worse by an order from the governor of Hawaii that took effect Thursday requiring anyone flying into that state, tourist or resident, be placed on a mandatory two-week quarantine to protect against the coronavirus.
Passenger volume at Mineta San Jose International Airport this past Friday was down about 89 percent from the volume of the third Friday of March 2019, airport spokeswoman Demetria Machado said. The volume of passengers for the first 20 days of this month is down about 44 percent from that same period in 2019, she added.
“We’re part of the national story of all airports,” Machado said.
Passenger traffic is down at Oakland International Airport, as well, though exact numbers were not immediately available.
“As most U.S. airlines are in the process of reducing flight schedules to meet diminishing demand, we anticipate there to be some impact,” said Keonnis R. Taylor, an airport spokeswoman.
Additionally, this past Saturday, several flights from Oakland to the Chicago Midway and Las Vegas airports were canceled because Federal Aviation Administration personnel who work out of those airports have tested positive for coronavirus, Taylor said.
“Flight loads appear to be similar to what we’ve seen all week, which reflects generally light passenger activity,” she added.
Chris Morgan, an airport duty manager at San Francisco International Airport, said a few flights into or out of SFO were cancelled by weather problems, but that most of the recent downturn in passenger traffic is directly because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, recommendations against non-essential travel or simply fewer places to go that aren’t slowed down by concern about coronavirus. “It’s been a pretty serious dropoff,” Morgan said.
As of March 20, approximately 15,000 passengers passed through SFO, either arriving or departing. That compares with about 79,000 passengers going through SFO on Friday, March 22, 2019. That’s a drop of about 81 percent over a year.
The number of flights in and out of SFO, Morgan said, hasn’t dropped as much as the number of people. Last week, there were about 900 flights in and out of that airport, down from the 1,200 to 1,300 a day in “normal” times. This suggests that there are many more flights flying at less than capacity than a year ago, Morgan said.
The number of flights will likely be cut back. Machado said that All Nippon Airways (Japan) and Hainan Airlines (China) have suspended flights in and out of San Jose, and that Air Canada plans to follow suit on April 1.
In Hawaii, Gov. David Ige said he worked with the state’s tourism industry, particularly the airlines that serve the islands, in advance of making the order so that tourists and residents would have enough time to change or cancel their travel plans.
Hawaiian tourism topped 9.3 million visitors in 2018, with 19 percent of them coming from California.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell expressed support for the quarantine, noting the difficulty of preventing transmission of the virus on the state’s crowded beaches.
Caldwell added that he expects that the order will “cut off the spigot” of tourism to Hawaii.
In response to the quarantine, Hawaiian Airlines announced that it would make “significant reductions” in its domestic and international flights starting this Thursday. Hawaiian Airlines has regular scheduled flights in and out of all three major Bay Area airports.