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Airport Director John L. Martin Announces His Retirement

San Francisco International Airport Director John L. Martin has announced that after 20 years leading the nation’s 7th busiest airport, he will retire in summer 2016.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to guide SFO through massive changes and unprecedented growth for the past two decades,” Director Martin said.  “I’ve had an extraordinary ride with an extraordinary team, and I am proud of all we have accomplished together.  The time has come for me to retire from the City and to move on to other interests.  I am confident SFO is in a strong position to continue as a leader in the aviation industry.  I've been blessed to lead an Airport team that cares deeply about operating an exceptional airport for our passengers, supporting one another as one team and serving our communities.”

“John L. Martin’s leadership at the helm of our nation’s 7th busiest international airport for the last two decades has left a legacy for residents and visitors for generations to come,” Mayor Ed Lee said.  “SFO as our City’s gateway to the world has been transformed under his direction, passion and dedication to being the best, and John L. Martin will truly be missed as Director of San Francisco International Airport.”

A search for SFO’s next airport director will be conducted in coming months.  Mr. Martin will continue in his current role for the foreseeable future, and he will guide the transition to new leadership at SFO.

Mr. Martin was first appointed Airport Director in 1995 by then-San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan and served as SFO’s chief executive under Mayors Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom and current San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee.  Prior to his appointment as director, Mr. Martin served as SFO’s Deputy Airport Director for Business and Finance.  In all, he spent 35 years at the Airport.

During the early years, Mr. Martin oversaw the completion of a $3.5 billion capital plan that included construction of the now iconic International Terminal, a BART extension to the Airport, new parking garages, and the Air Train people mover system.  During the mid-1990s, this was the largest public construction project in the United States.

A series of world events, starting with the September 11, 2001, attacks, precipitated a dramatic 26 percent drop in SFO’s traffic from 40 million passengers per annum in 2000 to around 26 million a few years later just as many of the new facilities were coming on line. 

“We responded by cutting costs, finding new sources of non-airline revenue and increasing the number of international and low-cost carriers.  It was a difficult period for SFO,” Mr. Martin said.

Since then, the Airport has added 25 new international carriers, and several new low-cost carriers, including the home-basing of Virgin America.  For the past seven years, SFO has been one of the fastest growing airports in the world – currently approaching a record 50 million passengers per year, and is the top concession revenue producer per passenger of any U.S. airport.

“Through it all, we maintained our commitment to providing excellent customer service and a ‘sense of place’ for our guests and to being an excellent steward of the environment,” Mr. Martin said.

SFO continues to plan for the future, with a new $4.4 billion capital project currently under way.  The current plan includes a new air traffic control tower (completed), a new Terminal 1, a new 350-room hotel, and numerous cargo and service-related buildings.

Other key accomplishments at SFO under Mr. Martin’s direction include:

  • Opening the first LEED Gold terminal in the world in 2011 – Terminal 2.
  • Being a leader in the industry for safety and security technologies and practices, including operating the first in-line security baggage screening system in the world; which is now the industry standard.
  • Instituting fair and living wages for all service and security providers at SFO, beginning in 1999.  The current wage standard is $13.52 per hour.
  • Requiring that all door-to-door vans, shuttles and many commercial buses serving the Airport use green fuels.
  • Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent from 1990 emission levels.
  • Creating a culture of health and wellness among all employees, leading to SFO being named one of the healthiest places to work by the San Francisco Business Times.
  • Providing unique guest services, such as locally owned restaurants and retail stores, yoga rooms, and an accredited art program and museum.

“I am confident that SFO’s future continues to be bright, and that the Airport will persevere with our mission to be an exceptional airport in service to our communities,” Mr. Martin said.  “I am honored and fortunate to have served San Francisco as Airport Director for the past 20 years.”

In the time remaining, Mr. Martin will be fully engaged as Director, especially with the design of the new Terminal 1, the new Airport hotel and major improvements to Terminal 3 and a major refreshment to the International Terminal.