If you've ever wanted to fly onto a strip of tarmac surrounded by water, find a flight to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Its picturesque location on the edge of the San Francisco Bay offers great views of the city as you land.
Unfortunately, that lovely spot is excessively prone to visitation by San Francisco's legendary fog. In fact, it can sometimes be the only place on the bay that's foggy. When visibility is reduced, SFO can only use one of its two runways, meaning you may be stuck in a roundabout flight waiting for fog to lift or may never get on your flight to SFO to begin with.
Luckily, SFO isn't the only way to fly into this iconic city. San Francisco visitors have alternatives to enduring potential delays, and, best of all, they might be less expensive. Both Oakland and San Jose have airports within a reasonable distance of San Francisco that may be just as convenient for your travel itinerary.
If you want specific information about each airport's on-time performance, statistics about airports and airlines are published by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is about 13 miles south of San Francisco on US Hwy 101. All major carriers and many international airlines fly to SFO, with more international flights added every year.
Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Oakland International Airport (OAK) is 25 miles from downtown San Francisco, just across the San Francisco Bay. It's served by a wide range of major airlines and, partly because of its less-foggy location, experiences fewer flight delays, usually rating about 10 percentage points higher than SFO.
Oakland is a good destination if your trip includes Napa, Yosemite, Sequoia, Lake Tahoe, or other points east of San Francisco.
A number of shuttle services will whisk you from Oakland to San Francisco.
San Jose International Airport (SJC)
San Jose International Airport (SJC) is about 60 miles south of San Francisco. Major carriers include American, Alaska, United, Southwest, Continental, and TWA. On average, San Jose's on-time record is about 10 percentage points higher than SFO.
San Jose is a good destination if your trip includes Monterey, Carmel, or any other areas south of the city. Rent a car in San Jose, make your trip south, then return the car to San Francisco and take a shuttle into the city. Most car rental companies do not have an extra drop-off charge for San Jose pickup and San Francisco return, but confirm this first or risk an expensive surprise.
If you would rather not risk a delay into SFO, consider San Jose. Although it may add a bit of travel time to get to San Francisco from San Jose, it may offer peace of mind knowing that your travel doesn't have to take the San Francisco fog into consideration.