SFO Serves Record 50 Million Passengers in 2015

New all-time annual passenger traffic record set today

SAN FRANCISCO – December 30, 2015 – The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) announced a major milestone in its 88-year history, achieving a new all-time passenger traffic record of 50 million annual passengers.  This momentous occasion, reached today during year-end holiday travel, caps a six-year timespan of continuous traffic growth at the Airport.

To commemorate the milestone, SFO partnered with San Francisco’s hometown airline and the only airline headquartered in the Bay Area, Virgin America, to surprise the 50 millionth passenger, Katheryn Castanga, of Arlington, Virginia, getting ready to board Virgin America Flight 1 from SFO to Reagan National Airport (DCA) today – with two round trip tickets to the U.S.’s 50th state of Hawaii.  Katheryn is a frequent flyer through SFO and an Elevate Silver Status member on the airline.  Festivities for guests traveling through San Francisco International Airport were held at one of Virgin America’s gates in the modern and stylish Terminal 2.

“SFO is the international gateway to our City and is a proven powerful economic engine for the entire Bay Area, creating jobs and revenue throughout local economies,” said Mayor Edwin Lee.  “I would like to congratulate SFO on this momentous milestone for serving its 50 millionth passenger this year, setting a new all-time record in the process.  This new passenger traffic record is a win for the entire Bay Area region.”

“I join all Airport employees in celebrating this milestone event in the history of SFO,” said Airport Director John L. Martin.  “The continued growth in passenger traffic at SFO reflects the strength of the San Francisco economy and a highly competitive air fare and air service environment at the Airport.”

A July 2015 benchmarking report released by the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of the Controller concluded that SFO led in passenger traffic growth among similar large airports across the United States.  The report, prepared by the City Services Auditor, compared SFO to 12 other peer airports across the nation, including Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York-JFK, LAX, Seattle, and Washington-Dulles.  Findings noted that SFO had experienced the highest rate of passenger enplanement growth, at 33%, from 2007 to 2014.  During the same period, five peer airports experienced a loss in enplanements. 

Looking back: major passenger traffic milestones at SFO

1949 – SFO passes one million annual passengers

Aircraft such as the Douglas DC-4 and Lockheed Constellation dominated the skies over SFO.  The recent addition of foreign carriers, such as British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines and Philippine Airlines, had prompted the addition of “International” to the airport’s name.  Passenger growth spurred the development of new terminal facilities to replace the original Administration Building and Passenger Terminal, opened in 1937.

1966 – 10 million passengers at SFO

A new Central Terminal, opened in 1954, helped usher in the coming Jet Age.  Shortly after the start of commercial jet service, San Francisco International Airport introduced the jet bridge, or “Jetway,” to the passenger experience.  The capacity and efficiency of aircraft like the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 created a wave of economy fare programs in the airline industry.  SFO’s original on-airport hotel, opened in 1962, featured a popular “Tiger-A-Go-Go” nightclub.

1978 – SFO passes 20 million passengers

In the year of airline deregulation, SFO prepared for the next chapter of air transportation, with construction underway for the new North Terminal, now known as Terminal 3.  Accommodating the larger wide-body jets introduced in the 1970s, such as the Boeing 747, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and Lockheed L.1011, airport improvements met the demands of increased airline capacity in domestic and international airlines.

1987 – 30 million passengers at SFO

Having converted the original Central Terminal for use as the International Terminal for its ever-increasing overseas carriers, SFO had also witnessed the rise of regional route systems, including California-based airlines such as AirCal, Pacific Southwest Airlines, and Hughes Airwest.  With the state’s enormous population growth, SFO enjoyed hub status on the California Corridor.

1997 – first year of 40 million passengers at SFO

SFO was again preparing for future air travel with the ambitious Master Plan, the largest public works project in the United States at the time.  This program would create the modern Airport passengers know today, including the iconic International Terminal, the AirTrain light rail system, a new Rental Car Center, and an extension to bring the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) directly into the Airport.

2015 – 50 million passengers

Having weathered economic downturns following events such as the dot-com collapse, 9/11, and SARS, SFO emerged with a commitment to keep airline operating costs competitive to attract growth.  This approach attracted multiple low-cost carriers, including San Francisco-based startup Virgin America.  The opening of the renovated Terminal 2 in 2011 set a new standard for passenger facilities, and in 2013 the Airport embarked on a Capital Improvement Plan, a ten-year program to upgrade the quality of all passenger facilities at SFO, including the creation of a new 350-room, four-star, on-airport hotel.

Images of the event may be downloaded from SFO’s digital library.  Go to sfomedia.widencollective.com and register using the registration code: SFOMedia.  Search using the term ‘50 million’.

About San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 40 international cities on 35 international carriers. The Bay Area’s largest airport connects non-stop with 77 cities in the U.S. on 13 domestic airlines. SFO is proud to offer upgraded free Wi-Fi with no advertising. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit www.flysfo.com. Follow us on www.twitter.com/flysfo and www.facebook.com/flysfo.

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