There is good news for UC Davis students who frequently fly through Sacramento International Airport and expect their flights to arrive on time.
According to a Brookings Institution study published on Oct. 8, 83 percent of flights to Sacramento Airport arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled time over the past year. Sacramento ranked 10th among the nation’s 100 largest airports.
Sacramento’s record beats the national average of 79 percent for arrival flights meeting the 15-minute mark during a one-year period ending in June, Brookings researchers said.
Among departures, 86 percent of flights leaving Sacramento left within 15 minutes of posted schedules, topping the national average of 83 percent.
Gina Swankie, a spokesperson for the airport, said one significant advantage that Sacramento International has are two parallel runways without intersections. This allows for less delays in arrivals since pilots do not have to wait for others to land.
Late arrivals and departures happened more often at airports on the East Coast, where stormy weather and congestion often cause delays.
Not all Northern California airport locations ranked as highly as Sacramento. San Francisco and Oakland airports had only a 75 percent on-time arrival rate.
San Jose, however, boasted an 84 percent on-time arrival rate.
Salt Lake City’s Airport finished in first place with 86 percent on-time arrivals, while Honolulu and San Jose followed with 84.7 percent and 87.1 percent on-time arrivals, respectively.
Some UC Davis students described how they have had better experiences at the Sacramento Airport than at SFO or other airports in the area.
“I’ve had good experiences at Sacramento,” said sophomore psychology major Brittany Hart, who is from the Sacramento area. “I used to go to SFO, but they would forget my bags in S.F. a lot of the time.”
Others agreed with Hart’s opinion.
“I went to the inauguration in January, and in the past when I’ve used the [Sacramento] airport [flights have] always been on time and the staffers are friendly,” said junior political science major Jacob Sacks, from Fresno. “The Sacramento airport is also a lot smaller and quaint than other airports.”
Brookings officials also said that delays are twice as common as they were in 1990 and will likely worsen when the economy improves and more people frequent airports.
The study found that the number of passengers going through Sacramento International had dropped lower than the national average during the recession.
Sacramento has had a passenger decrease of 11.5 percent over a one-year period through March. On average, passenger numbers dropped 6.3 percent nationally.
“The economy has been challenging for aviation in general. Sacramento International is a strong airport with a very large catchment area,” Swankie said. “As economic recovery gains momentum, passenger numbers will rise.”
Sacramento airport officials are currently engaged in a $1.08 billion expansion that began before the current downturn in flights and passengers.
Set to be completed in late 2011, the expansion project replaces Terminal B that opened in 1967, long before carry-on and checked luggage ran through X-ray machines. Swankie said the structure has outlived its usefulness and a replacement is needed to provide customers with up-to-date facilities. However, this project does not change the runway configuration.
Students who have not used Sacramento’s airport before may change their minds, considering the expansion.
Senior chemical engineering major Junhyun Choi, who is an international student, flies from Korea to SFO.
“SFO is so far from Davis, and I have to pay money to get from SFO to Davis,” Choi said. “An expansion of the airport in Sacramento would be much more convenient for me getting to Davis.”
Nearly 2 million people flew between Sacramento and Los Angeles area airports in a one-year period through June, making it the nation’s 46th busiest corridor, the study said.
Far busier is the San Francisco to Los Angeles corridor, which was the second busiest in the country, behind New York and Miami.
Heavy air travel between northern and southern California cities suggests California may be a serious contender for billions of dollars of federal stimulus money for the high-speed rail system, said study co-author Adie Tomer in a Sacramento Bee article.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.