San Francisco International Airport

Face masks required at more airports in the US & Canada

In trying to keep people safe during the current COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of government entities around the country now require people to wear non-medical masks or face coverings when out in public.

In many cities, those rules now apply to airports.

Two examples: San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS).

Starting this week, Canada’s Minister of Transport is requiring all air passengers traveling to, through or from Canada to have a non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth and nose.

“Aviation passengers on all flights departing or arriving at Canadian airports will also be required to demonstrate they have the necessary non-medical mask or face covering during the boarding process otherwise they will not be allowed to continue on their journey,” Transport Canada said in a statement.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) jumped right on this rule – and had some fun with it (maybe too much fun?) in a Twitter thread.

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

SFO Airport consolidates international flights to a single concourse

So many international flights have been temporarily canceled that some airports are closing down parts of concourses and terminals.

Courtesy SFO Airport

One example: San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Because the schedule for international flights from SFO will be reduced by 52% by April 1, the airport will temporarily close one part of the International Terminal.

On April 1, and through at least through the end of May, SFO will close Boarding Area A (Gates A1 to A15) in the International Terminal and consolidate all international flight departures to Boarding Area G, which houses Gates G1-G14.

The SFO Medical Clinic (in the Int’l Terminal Main Hall, by the A Gates); the Grand Hyatt at SFO and the Int’l Parking Garage A will still be open, but this will allow SFO to close a security checkpoint and consolidate Custom & Border Protection staff.

Consolidation is going on at other airports as well. So if you are traveling, be sure to check the airport and airline websites.

TSA’s COVID-19 Count Keeps Increasing

Over the weekend, TSA updated its map and its list showing which states and which airports have TSA screening officers who have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Saturday, March 28, TSA reported that over the past two weeks 55 TSA screening officers have tested positive for COVID-19.

TSA says 19 others who had “relatively limited interaction with the traveling public” tested positive as well.

We hope those officers recover quickly, of course. But if you’ve traveled through an airport in one of the blue states on the map during the past few weeks, be sure to check this list to see which airports are affected.

The list includes the last date the officers worked, the checkpoints they were stationed at and their shift hours.

If you think you may have passed through the checkpoints where these officers were stationed, please be sure to check with your doctor about what steps to take next.

Airports: “We’re open”

Restaurants, shops, bars, schools and offices in many communities are closed.

But airports? For now, they’re open.

Although activities in and around the terminals are different, with far fewer passengers and flights than normal.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) has opened its garages to free parking. And posting a list of which dining, shopping and service locations are open.

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) has shifted its dining options to take-out and in-terminal delivery service from At Your Gate.

At San Francisco International Airport (SFO), all restaurants are open for now, but many with reduced hours. Bars are closed. And, as with restaurants in many cities, service is take-out only.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is sharing a list of which restaurants remain open for grab-n-go food options.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) have closed the North and South terminal checkpoints.

Here are recent messages from other airports.

As with everything else in the world right now, situations are changing. So if you’re headed to an airport, check ahead.

And, on Wednesday morning, not long after an earthquake was reported near Salt Lake City, the airport tweeted this:

SFO Airport has a new outdoor observation deck

Airport observation decks are a treat – and a rarity – these days.

So it’s a big deal when an airport opens a brand new one.

Better yet, an outdoor observation deck that anyone – even someone without a ticket – can visit.

But that’s what San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has done.

On February 14 – Valentine’s Day – SFO opened a new $6.3 million outdoor observation deck called the SkyTerrace.

Located pre-security in Terminal 2, the 1,460-square-foot SkyTerrace is open to the general public and, as a bonus, offers 180-degree views of the busiest section of SFO, where all four runways intersect.

Visitors will find wooden chairs and benches at the SkyTerrace, drought-tolerant landscaping, bird-safe glass panels to provide wind protection and great views.

Food and beverages are permitted on the SkyTerrace, and later this year a café will open nearby. So this sounds like a great place to hang out with friends or family before a flight.

SFO’s new SkyTerrace will be open seven days a week from 7:00 am – 10:00 pm. And while no ticket is required to access this new observation deck, visitors must still undergo a security check as they enter the space.

As a nice bonus, the SFO Museum has installed an exhibit at the SkyTerrace titled The 1954 San Francisco International Airport Terminal, which explores the history and architecture of the building that was on the spot now occupied by the SkyTerrace.

Courtesy SFO Museum

Designed in the International Style, the seven-story building was dedicated on August 27, 1954 and had panoramic views of the airfield and San Francisco Bay from multiple spectators’ terraces.  The exhibition features objects and imagery from the first decade the building operated.

SFO’s other observation deck

And don’t forget that SFO airport has another snazzy observation deck.

That one also offers 180-degree views of the airfield and is post-security at the end of the International Terminal, Boarding Area G. It also has wooden chairs, tables, and chaise lounges, ten-foot bird-safe glass panels, drought-tolerant landscaping and three bronze sculptures. Hours: 7:00 am to 11:30 pm every day.

Airports & airlines sacking single-use plastic

Our story about airports and airlines getting rid of single-use plastics first appeared on CNBC.

Business and leisure travelers concerned about climate change and “flight shame” may do their part by purchasing carbon offsets and adjusting the number of trips they take on airplanes.

Airports and airlines are trying to save the planet too with a wide range of sustainable initiatives that include cutting down the use of single-use plastics and making reusable water bottles essential travel amenities.

BYOB at SFO Airport

In 2019, San Francisco International Airport (SFO), launched an ambitious Zero Waste Concessions Program designed to significantly reduce the amount of single-use disposable plastics used at the airport.

Noting that in 2018 nearly four million slow-to-biodegrade plastic water bottles were sold at the airport, in August 2019 SFO became the first airport in the nation to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles.

SFO now actively encourages each passenger to bring their own reusable water bottle with them to the airport and get free water from one of the hydration stations in the terminals.

Bottled sodas, teas and juices are currently exempt from the policy. And bottled water is still being sold, but only in approved packaging made from recyclable aluminum or glass, or in compostable packaging.

Single-use plastics banned at other airports too

Airports in a growing number of other cities in the United States, and around the world, are getting serious about sustainability projects that are good for the environment and, in some cases, the bottom line.

“Whether through their participation in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, implementation of more sustainable business practices, or even by the elimination of drinking straws and other single-use plastics, airports are taking a variety of approaches to be good neighbors in their communities,” said Scott Elmore, Vice President, Communications & Marketing for Airports Council International – North America

In February 2019, Glasgow Airport offered all 5,300 people working in an around the airport free, reusable bottles.

In September 2019, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) announced a campaign to phase out all single-use plastic straws at the airport.

In October 2019, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) announced that at least 55 airports in the country had banned single-use plastic items such as straws, plastic cutlery and plastic plates.

And January 1, 2020, is the deadline for Dubai’s two airports, Dubai International Airport (DBX) – the world’s busiest airport for international travelers – and Dubai World Central Airport (DWC) to be entirely free of single-use plastics such as plastic cutlery, drinking straws, meal packaging and bags.

“Along with our partners, including global brands such as McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Starbucks, we are committed to not only removing single-use plastics but in their place providing appropriate and importantly sustainable alternatives,” said Eugene Barry, Dubai Airport’s Executive Vice President – Commercial, in a statement.

Barry says finding replacements for plastic bottles remains a challenge for the airports, so for now bottle recycling efforts are being beefed up.

Going forward, a bill passed by the Atlanta City Council and waiting for the mayor’s approval is set to ban single-use plastics in the city and at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) by the end of 2020. Following the new law shouldn’t be too much of a reach: ATL’s guidelines for increased sustainability already seek to divert 90% of the airport’s total waste from landfills.

Not all airports are nixing the plastic water bottles, though.

In its food court, Portland International Airport (PDX) eliminates a great deal of plastic with its Green Plate Program that gives travelers the option of having meals served on reusable plates with reusable utensils.

But the airport’s environmental team hasn’t pressed to impose a ban on plastic bottles because “not every traveler chooses to tote around what can sometimes be a very expensive refillable bottle,” said PDX spokesperson Kama Simonds, “Further, what if travelers to our airport were unaware of the ban? This could have unintended consequences of either leaving folks with less hydration and/or potentially having a sugary drink as the option, which isn’t healthy.”

Airport vendors and airlines doing their part

HMSHost, which operates dining venues in more than 120 airports around the world, says it is on track to honor its commitment to eliminate plastic straws in its North American operations by the end of 2020.

The company has already eliminated plastic cocktail stirrers and currently only provides straws on request in its casual dining restaurants.

In September, Alaska Airlines kicked off a “FillBeforeYouFly” initiative, asking passengers to help reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles inflight by bringing their reusable water bottles to the airport and filling them at airport hydrations stations before their flight.

In November, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) introduced sustainable meal packaging that includes paper with a coating made of organic plant-based plastic instead of oil-based plastic as well as cutlery made of plant-based plastic.

And earlier this year, Air New Zealand removed individual plastic water bottles from its Business Premier and Premium Economy cabins and switched to compostable plant-based coffee cups made from paper and corn instead of plastic.

The airline is encouraging passengers to bring their own reusable cups on board aircraft and into lounges. And, in a truly tasty move, ANZ is running a test program to serve coffee and ice-cream in edible, vanilla-flavored cups made by New Zealand-based twiice.