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San Francisco City Hall


Monday, November 6, 2023 

Contact: Mayor’s Press Office, 


In August of this year, SFO reached up to 97% of international travel as compared to pre-pandemic levels driven by connections with the United Kingdom, Europe, and India 

With anticipated return of key Chinese carriers this month, SFO will be back to pre-pandemic level number of flights 

San Francisco, CA – The City’s recovery efforts show significant growth for international travel into San Francisco as service continues to expand. This year, the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has reached up to 97% of international travel as compared to 2019 levels prior to the pandemic. By the end of the year, with return of key Chinese carriers and the expansion of new carriers elsewhere, San Francisco will exceed the number of international flights pre-pandemic.  

San Francisco’s international travel recovery has been driven by the United Kingdom, Europe and India, while Mexico and Canada remain the city’s largest international visitor source markets. For example, SFO has more flights to India than all other major west coast cities combined with 17 nonstops to India per week, and an 18th flight coming soon.  While China has been slower to recover when it comes to international travel, key flights are returning this month to SFO. 

“San Francisco is open for business and travel, and we are thrilled to see our international travel demand not only return, but continue to increase at this pace,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “With the coming of APEC, we know the eyes of the world will be on San Francisco. Our City is a world-class destination and with these new air carriers, we can now welcome even more people to experience San Francisco This is a great moment for our airport, our City, and our economy.” 

In March of 2022, Mayor Breed visited London, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Paris, where she met with airlines, airports, and local leaders to both continue and expand partnerships to reestablish San Francisco International Airport (SFO) as the international gateway to California and a hub for European markets, and to bring tourists back to San Francisco.  

That trip has helped support San Francisco’s international travel recovery, including for example securing a new airline which services direct routes from London to San Francisco.   

Key Airline Recovery Info: 

  • During the pandemic, SFO successfully introduced seven new airlines for travelers: Air Transat, Breeze, Flair, ITA, Qatar, Vietnam, and ZIPAIR already launched flights at SFO.  
  • With the anticipated return in November of Chinese carriers, to include Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern, SFO will be back to 43 total international flights, fully back to pre-pandemic levels.  
  • San Francisco has two more international airlines on the way, with Starlux and Porter planned for December and January launch dates respectively. 

Last week, the first airline based in China returned to SFO after an absence of more than 3 years. Air China, the flag carrier of China, restored nonstop flights to Beijing. On November 11th, China Southern will resume nonstop flights to Wuhan, followed by China Eastern to Shanghai on November 29th

“Attracting new airlines and new destinations to SFO has been such an important part of our post-pandemic recovery,” said Ivar C. Satero, SFO Airport Director. “Reaching this level of international passenger activity demonstrates that San Francisco continues to be a compelling destination for new and existing airlines. My thanks go out to the entire Airport team for this achievement.” 

Nearly two million international visitors—a key segment of San Francisco’s tourism industry due to their longer length of stay and higher spending—are projected to spend $4.2 billion this year, and international overnight visitation is expected to grow 14.6% compared to 2022.  

San Francisco is at a key moment for international travel with the arrival of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in two weeks. The 21 APEC Member Economies account for nearly 40 percent of the global population and nearly 50 percent of global trade.  APEC’s themes this year are sustainability, inclusivity, innovation and resilience.   

APEC will be the largest convening of world leaders in San Francisco since the UN Charter was signed in 1945 during the UN Conference on International Organization, also called the San Francisco Conference. 

“International travel is a vital part of San Francisco’s tourism industry,” said Joe D’Allesandro. “The addition of new airline routes and increased number of international flights, especially those catering to Asian travelers, is a huge step forward in our path to recovery. This milestone demonstrates our city’s resilience and is a clear indication that San Francisco remains a must-visit destination for travelers from around the world.”