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San Diego Airport

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In an effort to maximize the use of San Diego International Airport, the Airport Authority developed the Airport Master Plan. In 2005, the Authority Board selected the build-out of Terminal 2 West as the preferred alternative. With the environmental review process already under way, construction of 10 additional gates, airfield improvements, structured parking and more efficient airport roadways is expected to begin in 2009.

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      23.03.2013 16:53
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      A great little airport that's convenient and easy to navigate.

      San Diego International Airport - International Arrivals

      I travel through this airport at least twice a month, usually arriving directly from London. This is a review of the international arrivals process.

      ***Background***

      Despite being the eighth-largest city in the USA, San Diego, California has a small-town feel about it. This feeling extends to the airport, located at the edge of the San Diego downtown/midtown areas and next to San Diego Bay. Used by 17 million people each year, there are three terminals: commuter, 1 and 2. International planes usually arrive at Terminal 2. Terminal 2 is currently being extended/renovated. This building work is hardly noticeable and the facilities are clean throughout.


      ***Approach and landing***

      The approach to the airport is nearly always over the gorgeous Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo, continuing close to several high rises and then low-flying over the I-5 Freeway before touching down. If you are an anxious flier, look out the left side windows to watch the pretty, little boats bobbing on their moorings in the bay.

      The airport is prone to fog, especially in the early mornings and late evenings in Autumn. In this situation, the planes either approach from the ocean side, or alternatively are diverted to Ontario California (inland from LAX).


      ***"Deplaning"***

      It goes without saying that the closer you are to the open doors, the sooner you will be off the plane. This is important when arriving from an international destination, as the next step in the process is immigration.

      Note - I am one of few people who put all embarrassment and tiredness out of my head, and at this point I RUN! You will understand why after reading the next section.


      ***Immigration***

      Ideally, you will have completed the necessary paperwork on the plane prior to your arrival. One custom form per family (to be shown here and later on), and if travelling on a visa (NOT a visa waiver), one white I-94 form per person. There are spares on the tables within the "immigration" area if you need them.

      The immigration area is VERY small. From memory, there are lines for US citizens, visitors, one for visitors AND permanent residents/visas, one for crew, and one for the Global Entry program participants.

      I happen to be a permanent resident of the USA, which means that there is only one line I can be in. Unfortunately this line can be the slowest to move. On one recent arrival, I was the 15th or 16th person to reach immigration (yes, I did count - I'm such a saddo!), and 6th in my line. Out of a full planeload of arrivals, I was the 3rd LAST person through immigration.

      The immigration officer may ask you questions such as the length and purpose of your visit, what you do for a living, what items you have with you and which will remain in the USA, and other similar questions.

      ***Luggage collection, screening and customs***

      Once through immigration, the luggage hall is a short walk away via stairs or an escalator. There's only one small carousel. Don't be too anxious if you cannot locate your suitcase at first; many of them are removed and placed just to the side by the airport workers. Oversized luggage collection is found easily on the far side of the carousel.

      The next step is for all of your items, bags and luggage to be screened - just as your hand luggage was at your departure airport. Lots of patience is required here - 300 passengers for one little scanning machine!

      Finally, all there is to left is to hand your customs declaration (one per family) to the officer located approximately 10 metres from the scanning area.

      Go through the (only) set of automatic double doors, and you're here! If you are not sure where to go next, there are usually several "airport ambassadors" close by who will be happy to help you. Taxis and buses are a further 10 metres away.

      As it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour from leaving the plane to getting through the arrivals process, it's important to know that the nearest loos ("restroom") are a very short walk away to the left as you exit the luggage hall's double doors.

      If you are desperate for caffeine, there is a starbucks upstairs - follow the signs to "departures". This area is currently being renovated, so there are not many facilities there are the moment. There is free wi-fi throughout the airport.

      Finally, if you are a true lover of airports who will be spending a few days in the area, try the free "Terminals to Tarmac Tour". According to its website, you can see behind the scenes of San Diego International Airport. The Airport Authority offers free tours of the airport and airfield, including up-close looks at the runway, endangered species areas and public art. Tours are two hours long and are offered every other week on Thursday at 1 p.m. and Friday at 10 a.m.

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      • More +
        24.11.2008 21:27
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        san Diego airport

        On a recent trip to san Diego, we obviously had to use the airport, firstly flying into the airport from Chicago and on the return journey flying from San Diego to Los Angeles

        A bit of history...

        The airport was built in 1928 and was once considered the "Air Capital of the west". It is now the 30th busiest airport in single runway commercial service in America and when the airport celebrated its 75th anniversary, a documentary about its past and present was produced

        Where is it?

        The airport itself is easily accessible and for anyone who knows the area is on harbor drive, just North of down town San diego. Fortunately for us it is also about 25km from where we were staying in La Jolla, so we didn't have a long transfer journey.
        The airport has 3 terminals- Communter Terminal, terminal 1 and terminal 2. There is quite a distance between the terminals and it apparently takes 10 minutes to travel between the terminals when it is not rush hour. Fortunately we didn't have to transfer so it was a breeze!

        The airport itself is very modern and state of the arts and one of the most eye catching is the aeroplane hanging over the entrance/exit area, which I found out later was the Spirit of St Louis. So, as we wandered about, there was plenty to look at and what struck me most was how modern and airy the airport is.

        Food and Drink

        There are more than 30 food and drink places spread throughout the airport, with only one (commuter cafe) in the commuter terminal and the others spread across terminals one and two. There is a really good selection of cafes and restaurants, with food and drink options ranging from Mexican and American entrees, coffee shops (obviously Starbucks featured), and there are eateries specialising in san Diego menus. We just had a short wait so just sampled the coffee because we had eaten previously but there is definitely something for everyone the restaurants and cafes are all clearly signposted and well laid out so it doesn't seem crowded and although there are lots of eating and drinking places they don't take over the place. Because it's auite a small airport, it' amazing that they managed to fit in so many eating and drinking areas but they are there!

        Shopping

        Always the most (only) entertaining bit of waiting in an airport, and even then bearable only if there is no delay.

        The shops are the usual kind expected in airports and spread out across Therminals one and two. There are the usual stationery, book and gift shops, and duty free, which always seem to be the same wherever I go in the world.

        My experience of the airport...

        Flying into and out of San Diego airport was a painless experience. After a 22 hour journey from Newcastle, bags were easily reclaimed and because I had flown internally there was none of the immigration controls and questions I had experienced at Chicago airport. Once outside, it was easy to get a taxi, and it seems that there are very frequent buses linking people to different areas. The strange thing about flying into this airport is how low the planes fly to get into to the airport. It seemed as though we were flying really low between the buildings and although I knew (hoped) we wouldn't, it was as though we would scrape the tops of the buildings. Certainly when driving in certain parts of the city, it's a shock how close the aeroplanes fly to the cars!

        Flying back home I experienced no delays, so having left the heat of outside, it was quite pleasant sitting in the air conditioned airport and looking in the seriously small duty free shop. It was still possible to find seats although because I was going to be sitting down for so long, I preferred a wander! I was flying on one of the very small aeroplanes on the 50 minute journey to Los Angeles, so after showing my tickets, I had to wait on the runway at a kind of bus stop for the plane to be made ready. I believe this is quite usual but for someone used to being shepherded onto planes it was quite unusual watching them take hand luggage which was too big for the plane and piling it up ready for the hold. Fortunately my bag was very small but for some there was a mad scramble as they realised that the bag which had been taken from them contained passports and money.

        However, all in all, an easy airport to travel in and out of. Small but with plenty of amenities and hassle free.

        Thanks for reading.

        Daniela x

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