The big trouble with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the way it’s spoiled San Jose’s Mineta to Tokyo party reminded me of another aviation embarrassment from the early 1990s. I wrote about that in the March 5, 1991 Mercury News story.
SJ to Tokyo — via Oakland: Non-stop flights aren’t always
by Mike Cassidy
Mercury News Staff Writer
A month ago American Airlines officials and city dignitaries proudly launched the first non-stop flight from San Jose to Tokyo. They fibbed just a little.
The flight goes to Tokyo all right, but what airline and city officials didn’t tell their excited public was that every now and then the plane stops in Oakland first to gas up.
Did they say “non-stop”?
Well, Oakland International Airport is nice this time of year. It also has an advantage over San Jose International in that it has a runway long enough to allow the DC-10-30 jet that American flies to Tokyo to take off with a full tank of gas.
2 stops in Oakland
San Jose’s 8,900-foot runway doesn’t cut it when the wind is blowing the wrong way. That has happened twice since the flight started March 2. Each time the American flight took off with less than a full tank of gas and paid $550 to land in Oakland and take on fuel. The maneuver caused delays of more than 1 1/2 hours and left passengers — who paid as much as $2,238 — a little less than satisfied.
San Jose International Airport officials are upset with the stopovers, but they’re not surprised by them.
“I knew that’s what they intended to do from the very first day, ” said Ralph G. Tonseth, the airport’s director of aviation. “It’s one of those things that strikes you as irritating.”
No stop on first flight
Tonseth added that there was concern for a time that the dignitary-laden maiden voyage was going to have to make a detour to Oakland. It did not.
As for American, spokesman Al Becker promised the airline would not stop in Oakland again.
But in order to ensure that, he said, American will have to limit seating on the 227-passenger capacity flight to just 125 people because of San Jose’s short runways. Airline officials have said they also cannot carry any cargo — a service that would bring in about $7 million a year.
Becker pointed out that the airlines had been limiting seating on the DC-10-30 to 147 passengers in an effort to make the non-stop flight — you know — non-stop. And, he pointed out, American had landed a few thousand miles short of its destination only twice.
“It’s a difficult situation, ” Becker said. “We are willing to live with this disadvantage for the short term. . . But it is extremely important to see those runways lengthened as soon as it can happen.”
American will at least be able to add passengers sometime in June when it introduces a different plane, the MD11, to make the trans-Pacific flight. Then, it “probably” will hold more than 200 passengers at liftoff of a capacity of 251.
But any cargo will still stay on the ground.