There’s never been a better time to fly internationally out of SFO, an airport that seems to have 100 flights to Vegas, LA and Denver for every one flight to a desirable international capital city. The range of overseas destinations here can’t quite match what you’ll find in New York or Miami, but things are changing — for the better — with the increased demand in travel. Here’s a rundown on some of the new additions to the nonstop flight list at San Francisco’s flagship airport, returning long-haul flight paths for the seasonal summer schedule and a few notable ones at nearby airports, too.
United is already one of the dominant carriers at SFO, and they’ve doubled down on their international offerings lately. With a new direct flight between San Francisco and Rome, they’ve added a route that hasn’t been offered by any airline since 1990. While you’re in town, check out the Six Senses Rome, a brand new hotel and spa located right in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from the Trevi fountain and the Pantheon. The location can’t be beat, and neither can the calm, oasis-like atmosphere this property has managed to create in a city rather known for its chaos.
There are more than a few ways to get to London these days, but this budget-friendly option lets travelers skip Heathrow altogether. Norse Atlantic, a steadily rising airline out of Oslo, has made London into a new hub. As of July 1, the route from SFO to Gatwick will run three times weekly, and the price point for a ticket often hovers well under $300 one way — quite a break from the $1,000+ tickets that larger carriers are advertising. Once you make your way from Gatwick, check out the music-focused property Middle Eight located in the thick of Covent Garden. With entire suites dedicated to bands like The Rolling Stones, and a subterranean jazz club, QT, playing tunes well into the night, there’s no better landing pad.
Initially introducing this nonstop route to Frankfurt back in 2022, the airline just brought back the seasonal service to Germany for the summer. This flight is now running seven times a week, and the same route is serviced by United/Star Alliance partner Lufthansa. From Frankfurt, passengers can connect further to many destinations throughout Europe, and for those eager to explore Germany itself, this direct route is a boon. Hold out for Lufthansa if you’re loyal to Star Alliance, but if you’re looking to earn or redeem Alaska Airlines miles, Condor recently announced a partnership. If using the SFO-to-Frankfurt route as a jumping off point to head deeper into Europe, then booking a room at the Moxy Frankfurt Airport Kelsterbach hotel might be in order. Moxy is Marriott’s budget boutique option, but with amenities like 24/7 food and beverage options, plus a free airport shuttle, it’s a great place for a proper night’s sleep and a shower before another long flight.
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Terceira, Azores (Portugal)
Sometimes called Oakland airport’s “most unique flight,” this direct route to the Azores returns for travelers looking to visit these gorgeous Portuguese islands. There are nine islands in the Azores archipelago stretching out over 400 miles, and Oakland has been offering the sole West Coast direct flight there for the last two decades. SATA Azores Airlines recently announced a codeshare agreement with Air France, and it has a longstanding relationship with TAP Portugal for onward travel onto the continent. For those who love hiking, swimming and ocean-related activities, there are few better destinations than the Azores. Though it’s usually renewed every year, this flight path only runs until September, so if you’re going to book, do it soon.
San Salvador, El Salvador
Considering how overcrowded Europe is at the moment, 2023 might make sense as the year you finally make it to South America. Offered four times weekly, this new direct route between Oakland and San Salvador officially launched in spring 2023. Volaris El Salvador is a subsidiary of Volaris Mexico, and flight prices are extremely affordable considering the length of the journey — about six hours. With round-trip prices currently hovering below $500, booking is a no-brainer.
Christchurch, New Zealand
No time to travel this summer? Consider rolling your flight budget into a winter splurge: In December 2023, United will become the first American airline to offer a direct flight to New Zealand’s South Island, instead of to the North Island’s larger airport in Auckland. That means you’ll be even closer to all the adventures and natural beauty of Fiordland, the Milford Track and more.
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