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Airline cutbacks batter Bay Area airports

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SAN JOSE — Airline cutbacks have widened at the Bay Area’s three airports as the fallout from the coronavirus panic undermines travel and erodes passenger volumes.

So far this week, San Jose International Airport has suffered more than 200 flight cancellations, Oakland International Airport has endured in excess of 150 flight cancellations, and San Francisco International Airport has experienced about 790 canceled flights, according to blogs that track nationwide airline delays and cancellations.

San Jose International Airport, which had been operating at all-time record levels, said Tuesday that its passenger visits have plunged 46 percent so far in March, while the final date in the survey period points to an even more drastic collapse in passenger traffic.

Southwest Airlines, a linchpin at San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco international airports, has suspended all of its international flights, disclosed it will chop more than one-third of its daily flights, and is evaluating whether to curb its hugely popular flights between the Bay Area and Hawaii.

Alaska Airlines, another Bay Area air travel provider, plans to chop about 15 percent of its daily flights, the airline said Tuesday. Alaska also is evaluating a potential retreat from its Hawaii routes.

On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines canceled the most flights at both the San Jose and Oakland airports, while United Airline accounted for the most cancellations at San Francisco airport, according to statistics compiled by the Flight Aware blog.

Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines officials both said Tuesday they wouldn’t provide any market-specific statistics on flight cancellations. Airport officials in San Jose and Oakland also were vague about which airlines had decided to chop routes.

“We do know that airlines are beginning to reduce operations,” said Demetria Machado, a spokesperson for San Jose airport.

The Tuesday cancellations amounted to roughly 16 percent of the total flights arriving and departing San Jose airport that day, according to calculations by this news organization based on the Flight Aware statistics.

At Oakland airport, the Tuesday cancellations equated to about 14 percent of the arrivals and departures.

San Francisco airport’s cancellations amounted to about 34 percent of the total flights arriving and departing from the Bay Area’s busiest airport on Tuesday, the estimates determined.

If anything, it’s possible that air travel could dwindle even more drastically at the Bay Area’s three airports if the trends at San Jose airport portend a wider impact.

From March 1 through March 22, the number of people passing through TSA checkpoints at the San Jose airport had tumbled 45.7 percent compared to the similar three-week period in 2019, Machado reported.

Sunday, the most recent day available, showed an 83.5 percent plunge in the TSA checkpoint volumes compared with the similar Sunday in March 2019.

The TSA statistics measure passengers, flight crews, and concessions employees. They aren’t the official monthly statistics for San Jose airport.

“San Jose airport remains open for essential travel,” Machado said. “We encourage travelers to check with their airline about their flight status at least 72 hours before their scheduled flight.”

Oakland’s airport traffic is down roughly 50 percent so far in March, compared with the same period in 2019, airport officials estimated.

“Given the nationwide trend, and that non-essential air travel is strongly discouraged in California, that number is likely to increase going forward,” Oakland International Airport spokesperson Keonnis Taylor said.

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