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SFO Ops: why use Intl gates for Dom flights when traffic is so low?

SFO Ops: why use Intl gates for Dom flights when traffic is so low?

Old Aug 23, 20, 11:11 am
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SFO Ops: why use Intl gates for Dom flights when traffic is so low?

My flight SFO to IAD yesterday AM departed from Intl G gate; equipment was the arriving flight from IAD the night before. Why would SFO utilize the international gates for domestic flights these days, when traffic volume is low and there must be loads of open gates in T3? I imagine many less-than-savvy travelers were caught by surprise when they came to T3 for the morning flight.
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Old Aug 23, 20, 11:14 am
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Originally Posted by higher_flyer View Post
My flight SFO to IAD yesterday AM departed from Intl G gate; equipment was the arriving flight from IAD the night before. Why would SFO utilize the international gates for domestic flights these days, when traffic volume is low and there must be loads of open gates in T3? I imagine many less-than-savvy travelers were caught by surprise when they came to T3 for the morning flight.
Was your aircraft a widebody, a 772?
There are a limited number of gates in the domestic concourses that can handle widebodies.
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Old Aug 23, 20, 1:43 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Was your aircraft a widebody, a 772?
There are a limited number of gates in the domestic concourses that can handle widebodies.
Yes, it was a 788 and I see your point. But still, in all the halcyon years when widebodies were quite frequent on SFO domestic mid- and trans-con routes, I flew them often and never once departed/arrived Intl. I would just find it surprising that there are so many domestic widebody flights during this crushing period that they ran out of capable T3 gates.

Side note, it appeared that our domestic departure was the only flight leaving from Intl G around that time. No other passengers to be found in the concourse. Probably also a product of that time of day, but very bizarre to witness nonetheless.
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Old Aug 23, 20, 1:58 pm
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Originally Posted by higher_flyer View Post
.... But still, in all the halcyon years when widebodies were quite frequent on SFO domestic mid- and trans-con routes, I flew them often and never once departed/arrived Intl. ....
Our experiences are different as I have had many domestic out of the G / International gates.

While not the titled subject, the domestic use of G-gates is mentioned frequently in UA sometimes moving international flights to domestic terminal at SFO
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Old Aug 24, 20, 6:31 am
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Pre-virus I've had domestic A319 and A320 flights to Seattle and other west coast destinations out of the International G terminal at SFO. Sometimes the arrival was an international flight like Mexico City but others it was a domestic arrival like LAX or LAS. Maybe it's a little weird but the "G" terminal is not dedicated to international flights.

-RM
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Old Aug 24, 20, 11:27 am
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Another possible reason for a domestic flight to use the G gates at SFO, while the arriving flight was domestic, the next flight may be international and this would avoid the need for an extra ground movement of the aircraft.
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Old Aug 24, 20, 11:56 am
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In last 5 years or so, every wide-body Iíve been on SFO- IAD has been out of an intíl G gate. Only 3-4 times, but too much of a coincidence. I never delved into previous/subsequent flights, but I assumed aircraft was used in intíl/domestic circuit.
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Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Aug 24, 20 at 12:03 pm
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Old Aug 24, 20, 4:22 pm
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Originally Posted by RobOnLI View Post
Maybe it's a little weird but the "G" terminal is not dedicated to international flights.
Just like the E/F gates aren't entirely dedicated to domestic flights.

Many departing Canada/Mexico flights use those gates. And arriving pre-clearance flights from Canada often use them as well.
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Old Aug 24, 20, 5:19 pm
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I've noticed a distinct effort at EWR to space out planes across the terminals -- of course it is my assumption was that UA op's was working to keep people distanced and I've appreciated the effort - maybe it's the same at SFO? Or perhaps I'm attributing more credit to UA than it deserves lol
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Old Aug 24, 20, 7:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Textile View Post
I've noticed a distinct effort at EWR to space out planes across the terminals -- of course it is my assumption was that UA op's was working to keep people distanced and I've appreciated the effort - maybe it's the same at SFO? Or perhaps I'm attributing more credit to UA than it deserves lol
I get everyone's replies in normal times, but it just struck me as very odd when traffic is a fraction of what it used to be. Why not consolidate, for efficiencies in staffing etc? Or put it another way, why ground-staff a lone domestic flight in G when there wasn't another domestic or intl flight to be seen. Textile has an interesting point. I've noticed the same thing at EWR, walking past a dozen empty gates in between active ones. IAD and ORD on the other hand seem to have had much busier, compact in ops during these times.
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Old Aug 24, 20, 8:56 pm
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Originally Posted by higher_flyer View Post
I get everyone's replies in normal times, but it just struck me as very odd when traffic is a fraction of what it used to be. Why not consolidate, for efficiencies in staffing etc? Or put it another way, why ground-staff a lone domestic flight in G when there wasn't another domestic or intl flight to be seen. Textile has an interesting point. I've noticed the same thing at EWR, walking past a dozen empty gates in between active ones. IAD and ORD on the other hand seem to have had much busier, compact in ops during these times.
In ORD or LAX I would be annoyed, but SFO really isnít that great of a distance to the international gates. I used to go to the UC club in G just for a change in scenery compared to the rotunda location.
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Old Aug 24, 20, 9:25 pm
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Originally Posted by higher_flyer View Post
I get everyone's replies in normal times, but it just struck me as very odd when traffic is a fraction of what it used to be. Why not consolidate, for efficiencies in staffing etc? Or put it another way, why ground-staff a lone domestic flight in G when there wasn't another domestic or intl flight to be seen. ....
There is a lot going on that we passengers do not see. What was happening in the hours before your arrival? What was happening in the hours afterward? What will the arriving aircraft be used next for? And COVID has brought main constraints on operations we are not privy to. Rest assured minimizing operational costs is an important driver. Likely what happened, happened to minimize cost while meeting COVID contraints.
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Old Aug 25, 20, 8:16 am
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Also, I don't know if this goes into their thinking, but remember airport concessions. While many concessions are closed, some are open, so if you consolidate gates/terminals, some concessions would then see no traffic at all. Because of this, the airline-airport agreement might cover flights per gate area by percentage.
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Old Aug 25, 20, 8:28 am
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Originally Posted by higher_flyer View Post
Or put it another way, why ground-staff a lone domestic flight in G when there wasn't another domestic or intl flight to be seen. Textile has an interesting point. I've noticed the same thing at EWR, walking past a dozen empty gates in between active ones.
Gate and ground agents are generally very mobile -- at least I'm pretty sure UA doesn't chain them to the gates -- though there may be labor/contractual considerations (see below for IAD example) but I don't know what SFO is doing well enough to have an opinion.

Aside from COVID-specific concerns, there may be "leveling" concerns also in play -- if you assume that all of the attributes of a gate have some finite lifespan (big things like jetways and smaller things like carpet, seating/gate furniture) there may be arguments depending on how its accounted for and who's responsible for maintenance to use each of the assets a little bit rather than concentrating all of that use on a limited number of gates thus accelerating the requirements for heavy maintenance/replacement/overhaul while leaving other assets under utilized.

There may also be contractual gate utilization requirements, particularly as it relates to "use it or lose it" for gates or concession leases/guarantees (something like concessionaires not being obligated to pay full rent if fewer than X flights/day/week/month use adjoining gates)

Originally Posted by higher_flyer View Post
IAD and ORD on the other hand seem to have had much busier, compact in ops during these times.
I've only had a couple flights through ORD but I've spent way more time than I'd like at IAD and -- at least when I'm there they definitely aren't consolidated. I've connected D30 to A1B (and similar absurdities) while hoofing past loads of unused (no upcoming flight on board/no aircraft at gate) gates. My perception could be wrong but I feel like I'm doing more hoofing at IAD now than pre-COVID. IAD also, though, has some harder constraints, e.g. IIRC, at IAD all of the below-the-wing handling on A is done under contract by Swissport, and I think that's also true for the upper D gates, but not positive what's going on with Low D, and C IIRC is all UA BTW.
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Old Aug 25, 20, 10:19 am
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Similar strange issue at DEN a few weeks ago, when our SNA-DEN and DEN-SNA flights used one of only two United A concourse gates. Not an issue on the outbound but on the inbound, we had to wait 15 minutes for for a GA to come over from B to connected the jet bridge.
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