Tough Connections: Flying through EWR and SFO

March 2020 · 3 min read

Connecting flights are an inevitable part of air travel for most of us. No matter how hard you look, you won't be able to find nonstop commercial flights all of the time. Most passengers will rarely consider their connecting airports when booking a flight, but travelers should pay attention to where they are stopping between flights.

Not all airports are equal for passengers making connections. Weather conditions and airport design issues can significantly impact air traffic significantly at all airports.

While no airports are immune to airline delays, there are two that tend to stand out as problematic connection points for passengers. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) are both large hubs for international and domestic travel. These airports handle high volumes of flights and passengers from all over the world, but they both can have significant delay issues impacting flights at all times of year.


The primary delay issue that EWR faces is the high volume of traffic in the New York area. During certain times of day the amount of air traffic can become so congested that the FAA will impose restrictions on the amount of flights that are able to take off and land at EWR. These Air Traffic Control (ATC) delay programs at EWR can cause flights from all over the world to be delayed for up to several hours, causing many passengers to miss connecting flights.

Along with lots of air traffic at and around EWR, there is also the unpredictable New York weather. Snow, high winds, and thunderstorms can all create delays at EWR causing lots of passengers to miss flights.

San Francisco

San Francisco is well known for its fog. While partly adding to the city's charm and providing some excellent photo opportunities, fog can be very difficult for air travel. ATC delays due to low clouds and other weather conditions can be constant at SFO making it a very difficult airport for making connections.

Another limiting factor for SFO is the design of the airport. If you have ever flown into SFO you know that the field is surrounded by water. This presents little room for expansion as the airport continues to add flights from around the globe. SFO is relatively small compared to the amount of traffic that it handles. The high volume of traffic combined with persistent weather issues creates extreme delays for many inbound flights to SFO, leading to lots of passengers missing flights.

While making connections in these two airports can be difficult, passengers will usually have successful travel through these or other airports. Passengers who travel early in the day and book flights with longer layover times will have better luck when making connections.

Have you had issues with making connections in SFO, EWR, or other airports? What is your favorite airport for a layover? I'd love to hear your airline connection stories, leave me a comment below!

All images are from my personal collection and were taken by me.