As summer unofficially kicks off, air travel is back. Gone are the half-empty flights and bottom-of-the-barrel fares that were commonplace during the height of the pandemic: If you plan to fly over the next few months, be prepared for higher-than-normal ticket prices, crowded airports and packed planes. (Case in point: SFO is anticipating more than 12 million passengers between Memorial Day and Labor Day — that’s just 67 percent of pre-pandemic levels, but even so, officials expect parking garages to be full.)
There’s a flip side to all this demand: Airlines are ramping up to meet it with some choice new routes, which means more choices for non-stop service. Here, a few highlights of what’s on tap at SFO and Oakland .
For flights from SFO:
This spring, German leisure carrier Condor created waves among aviation circles when it debuted its striking livery with bold vertical stripes (inspired by beach umbrellas, towels and chairs, natch). Beginning May 19, passengers traveling from SFO will have the chance to see that splashy design firsthand when Condor is scheduled to begin service with its 767-300 ERs between San Francisco and Frankfurt, with three weekly flights (on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays). Frankfurt may be better known as a financial hub instead of cultural hotspot, but its well-connected airport makes for an easy jumping-off point for hopping around Europe on budget carriers. And you still can score a great deal, even last minute: like the approximately $270 one-way fares we recently found.
Craving the kind of hospitality and cuisine only the South can serve up? Thanks to soon-to-be-launched, thrice-weekly flights from low-cost carrier Breeze to Charleston, you can splurge on fancy meals or digs in this perennial Southern charmer. Richmond and Louisville are also among the batch of new Breeze flights from SFO this spring/summer. The West Coast is getting some love, too, with a daily route to San Bernardino starting on August 4.
Boston (On Delta’s Newest Plane)
When Delta’s newest plane — the Airbus A321neo — enters service, Bay Area passengers will have the chance to be among the first to fly it. Starting on May 20, the snazzy narrowbody aircraft, which features 20 percent better fuel efficiency over its predecessors, will enter Delta service on two daily direct SFO-Boston flights (a third is scheduled to start Sept. 12). Of the plane’s 194 seats, 20 are in first class, with another 42 in Delta’s Comfort Plus section, where extra legroom, early boarding and free drinks and snacks make the almost six-hour flight to Beantown a breeze.
In April, Canadian low-cost carrier Flair launched the only nonstops from SFO to Edmonton. Now, Flair is adding SFO-Vancouver service to the mix with three weekly flights. The SFO-YVR market is a fairly crowded one, but another player in the mix means more competition — which is a good thing for ticket prices and passengers.
Seven new flights have been added at Oakland International Airport this summer. A few destinations that caught our eye:
If you’re willing to fly Spirit Airlines, the City of Brotherly Love just got a lot closer, thanks to the May 18 launch of new nonstop service. With daily direct flights on an A320neo — and summer fares as low as about $380 round-trip — rest assured there’s an easy solution when you need an authentic Philly cheesesteak, stat. (The answer is always Pat’s. Always!) In addition to Philadelphia, the budget carrier (whose shareholders are scheduled for a June vote regarding its merger with Frontier) also will be launching nonstop service from Oakland to Newark, Atlanta and San Diego.
For the first time since 2016, passengers can travel directly from Oakland to Kailua-Kona (KOA) on Hawaii Island, better known as the Big Island, with nonstop service on Hawaiian Airlines. The seasonal route becomes Hawaiian’s fourth daily connecting flight from the East Bay, meaning it’s never been easier to plan a tropical getaway. The new OAK-KOA route is even more enticing because it has no brutally early flight times or red eyes on either end: It leaves OAK at 8:10 a.m., which means you can be sipping mai tais on the beach by early afternoon; the return leg, meanwhile, departs KOA at 11:55 a.m. for a civilized 8:10 p.m. arrival in OAK. Aloha, indeed.
This article was featured in the InsideHook SF newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Bay Area.