SFO eyes old terminal for expansion

SFO -- San Francisco International Airport officials intend to renovate an unused section of the airport as part of a redevelopment plan that is expected to cost as much as $250 million. The Airport Commission requested proposals earlier this week...


SFO -- San Francisco International Airport officials intend to renovate an unused section of the airport as part of a redevelopment plan that is expected to cost as much as $250 million.

The Airport Commission requested proposals earlier this week to renovate part of the old international terminal known as Terminal 2 Boarding Area D. The plan is intended to ensure that SFO has enough terminal and gate space to meet domestic airlines' needs in the future, an airport staff report states.

The renovation work will include installing new heating and ventilation systems, modern computer systems, and other upgrades, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. The work area was closed down about eight years ago when the new international terminal opened.

The overall project, known as the Domestic Terminal Redevelopment Plan, also calls for renovating or replacing the existing Terminal 1 boarding areas B and C. It is expected to take 21/2 years and will be paid for out of the airport's capital improvement program budget.

It will be a while before the renovations occur, McCarron pointed out. "We have at least another year of planning," he said.

The unused Terminal 2 area has 10 gates, but can be reconfigured for up to 14 gates, McCarron said.

Although it is unclear what airlines would use the renovated terminal, airport officials said the changes are needed to accommodate growth.

This year, air travel is expected to increase by about 4 or 5 percent at the airport, with most of that coming from international travel, McCarron said. He said he is not surehow much of the increase can be attributed to more low-cost carriers operating out of SFO.

Airport officials, however, anticipate that those low-cost carriers will continue to add flights at SFO.

"The new low-cost carriers at SFO indicate that they plan for very aggressive growth within the next two to three years," Airport Director John Martin wrote in a staff report. "This ... growth, coupled with the continued increase in international air traffic, will impact the airport's ability to accommodate the anticipated increased flight activity in the International Terminal, causing SFO to be gate-constrained in 2010."

The new low-cost carrier arrivals at SFO are Burlingame-based Virgin America, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue. Southwest Airlines has the most flights of those airlines, with 18 daily out of two gates.

Southwest Airlines officials said that although it is unclear whether they would move into the renovated Terminal 2 area, they anticipate a need for more gates when they add eight non-stop flights on Nov. 4 to Los Angeles International Airport. They said Southwest can operate up to 10 flights out of a gate.

"I know we are interested in additional gates at SFO," Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eikhinger said.

Southwest now has non-stop flights to Chicago's Midway Airport, San Diego and Las Vegas.

JetBlue officials said their six daily round-trip flights are doing well at SFO, but it is too early to talk about expanding at the airport. The airline has four daily round-trip flights to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, one to Boston and one to Salt Lake City.

"We started service on May 3. If our customers continue to give us a reason to expand, we would do so," JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said.

Virgin America officials could not be reached for comment.

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