I get press releases all day long from travel providers, and 99% of the time I spare you, my readers, from having to hear about them. They usually read something like, “New survey research discovers that X% of travelers say they want to get away for Y holiday, and Z is a great place to [Book Your Travel Online / Stay for a Romantic-Exciting-Fun Time / Waste Large Amounts of Your Hard Earned Dollars]”
And on occasion when I reply to the PR hacks with a legitimate question, even just searching for how in the world there’s something to write about, I don’t hear back. Most PR firms send out press releases hoping something’ll stick but don’t know enough about what they’re pitching to speak intelligently about it, or they’re too lazy to do the legwork to answer real questions.
The result is most of the time I don’t bother replying, or even opening pitch emails.
But I did get a fairly interesting one recently, from someone promoting San Francisco International Airport.
Ok, it’s not miles and points and deals and luxury travel. More airline transport biz, the kind of thing that Cranky Flier writes about.
But it was still kind of interesting.
SFO wants travelers from Australia and New Zealand to connect in San Francisco — rather than LAX — and they’re puttin’ the smack down.
They’re not quite on the money, they’re saying it’s LAX or San Francisco because
Remember, travelers from Down Under *have* to connect in California when going to the US.
Of course that’s not quite true — it’s perfectly reasonable to connect in Vancouver, and Air Canada’s Sydney flight is timed quite well for US connections not to mention Air Canada offers a very nice business class product. The Air New Zealand Vancouver flight isn’t great for heading East since it doesn’t arrive most of the time until almost 2pm. But it’s not an unreasonable option for Western US connections. And there’s always connecting in Honolulu.
But certainly the major connecting point decision from Australia for sure is LAX vs SFO.
Apparently, most of the San Francisco traffic is origin/destination and connecting traffic tends to push through LAX. They tell me that only 10% of Qantas passengers flying to San Francisco connect onward, compared to 25% of Qantas passengers flying to Los Angeles. (Perhaps that’s because of Qantas partner American’s substantial presence at LAX, there’s not a ton of oneworld service ex-SFO.)
San Francisco wants to raise their profile for connections. And they’re calling the campaign
“I Wanna Go Through SFO.”
Their arguments about why it’s a better place to connect are twofold:
- SFO’s terminals are under one roof
- Customs facility can process 5,000 passports an hour.
I was intrigued by the comment about the SFO customs facility, but don’t really have the context to evaluate the claim. So I pushed back a bit — there’s no comparison here — is San Francisco better than LAX in this regard?
They shot back that LAX is capable of processing “upwards of 20,000 passengers per day” which is less than SFO.
Anecdotally, first out of the shoot usually flying in premium cabins, and even when landing behind several other international flights, the only especially long queuing I’ve ever faced has been at Washington-Dulles, Miami, and New York-JFK. Have any of y’all out there found it easier/harder/longer/shorter to process through SFO than LAX?
Now, the “all under one roof” argument is to me quite persuasive. I hate LAX. It’s a pit. The Tom Bradley terminal, I always thought, was designed to make travelers coming from the far reaches of the world feel at home, even if they come from a country with a corrupt government and per capita GDP of less than US$5000. And to make passengers arriving from Asia feel superior. Perhaps as some sort of international trade marketing strategy. Terminal 3 is pretty ghetto, too. And while I don’t mind walking between adjacent terminals, e.g. arriving terminal 4 Qantas and walking outside to terminal 3 Alaska, going from the Tom Bradley terminal to United is a nightmare.
San Francisco used to be a pain going from domestic to international, waiting for the bus to take you across, but now that everything’s connected it’s a pleasure. It even means that United domestic Premier Executive-and-higher members can walk across to the international terminal and use Singapore’s SilverKris lounge during times that correspond to Singapore flights. (Because it’s a Star Gold lounge, they accept all Star Golds flying same-day .. not just international passengers.. so travelers who can’t use the United lounge can use the Singapore one, and while Spartan by Singapore standards is much better than a Red Carpet Club). LAX has no such option, since the Air New Zealand lounge in terminal 2 is rather hard to access without a ticket for a carrier served from that terminal.
Still, Qantas-American connections at LAX aren’t bad. And United-United is pretty good. Air New Zealand – anything domestic at LAX is a pain. And Tom Bradley – Anything, which you won’t experience arriving from Australia or New Zealand (unless coming in on Air Tahiti Nui, Air Pacific, or arriving via Asia!), is awful.
No question San Francisco is aesthetically nicer. And not as much of a pain going from terminal to terminal.
But Qantas doesn’t have the substantial alliance presence at San Francisco, so Qantas passengers are likely to prefer Los Angeles to earn or redeem miles. Though if they don’t mind interlining across alliances, and changing to say a United flight, San Francisco is reasonable.
But… those darn SFO runways, only 750 feet apart, a little bit of wind off the Bay and you’ve got major traffic delays. The San Francisco marketing folks concede that LAX has better on-time performance. And that matters more to most travelers than avoiding the LAX intra-terminal buses.
Me? I’m interested in which flights are easier to upgrade. On United I’ve always found LAX to be the easier station, United has a greater lock over the Bay Area and there’s always seemed a greater concentration of 1K members there. So my bets have been on clearing through LAX.
If I were a Qantas passenger I’d be more torn.
Qantas has a Boeing 747 a day Sydney – San Francisco, and both a 747 and A380 to Los Angeles plus the Brisbane and Melbourne – Los Angeles flight. There’s a whole lot more premium seats on Qantas from Australia to Los Angeles, so that’s great if you’re looking for upgrades. But there’s a reason there are so many more premium seats, there are more passengers flowing through Los Angeles both as a destination and connecting to American. So I’d be really interested in the upgrade experiences of San Francisco vs. Los Angeles passengers.
Hit the comments: LAX or SFO?