SFO airport operations were brought to a halt, and flights were diverted elsewhere, including to Mineta San Jose and Oakland international airports. Marianne Favro reports.
San Francisco International Airport reopened two runways about four hours after airport operations were shut down late this morning when an inbound Asiana Airlines flight crashed while landing, killing two and injuring dozens.
Asiana Airlines flight 214, a Boeing 777, was coming into San Francisco from Seoul, South Korea, when it crash-landed on runway 28L at about 11:30 a.m.
Airport operations were brought to a halt, and flights were diverted elsewhere, including to Mineta San Jose and Oakland international airports.
San Francisco airport officials tweeted shortly before 5 p.m., "Fluid situation. Working fast 2 open all runways. 2 runways already opened. Pls check with your airline for info on tomorrow's flights."
San Jose airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said 27 flights were diverted there, and that the airport was able to absorb them without disrupting other air traffic.
She said at about 3:45 p.m. that some of the flights were still on the tarmac awaiting word on whether they would be able to continue to San Francisco or whether to let passengers off in San Jose.
Barnes said the airport and airlines are assisting passengers in getting to their final destinations. "We'll all work together, everybody will find a way home," she said.
Mineta San Jose is able to accommodate all aircraft with the exception of the Airbus A380, she said.
The crash also prompted SFO air traffic controllers to divert 11 flights to Oakland International Airport and other flights to airports in Sacramento and Los Angeles, according to Oakland airport spokesman Brian Kidd.
Four of the airlines rerouted to Oakland were international flights, Kidd said.
Other flights scheduled to take off for SFO were grounded in their departure cities after SFO temporarily closed its runways, Kidd said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is the lead federal investigative agency into the crash and the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting its own investigation, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said.
Redwood City resident Thomas Shoebotham's Lufthansa flight to SFO from Frankfurt, Germany, which was scheduled to land at 12:20 p.m., was initially diverted to Oakland and held there until it was able to continue on to San Francisco.
As of 5:30 p.m., his plane had arrived at its gate, but the passengers were being told they couldn't yet disembark because customs wasn't yet ready to process them. They had been on the plane for more than 15 hours,
including the 10-hour flight time, he said.
"We're still on the plane," he said in a brief interview on his cellphone.
Shoebotham, music director for the Palo Alto Philharmonic Orchestra, was coming back from a summer trip to Europe with the El Camino Youth Symphony.
He said passengers are able to stand up and stretch and have been patient for the most part.
"Nobody's threatened to kill anyone yet," he said. However, he noted a while later that the use of foul language had
increased dramatically and that one passenger had gotten into an argument with a flight attendant.
There was no word on when they would be let off the aircraft, and restless members of the youth symphony-who Shoebotham said were extremely well behaved-- were considering playing their instruments to pass the time.
Longtime San Francisco resident Barbara Malinowski was flying to SFO from South Carolina via Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and had her American Airlines flight diverted to San Jose.
She said things went much more smoothly than she expected.
"I'm so impressed. Kudos to San Jose International for the way they handled this," Malinowski said. "I really thought we'd be on the runway waiting for a gate ... I thought we'd be there for hours."
The passengers were quickly let off the plane and by the time she collected her luggage, there were buses ready to take them to SFO.
"We were supposed to land at 12:30 and got to SFO with bags," Malinowski said.