Southwest jets at airport
Southwest jets at San Diego International Airport. Photo by Chris Stone

Been to the airport lately? Well, if you’ve flown in recent months, you know that it’s a lot less crowded than the pre-pandemic era.

Passenger traffic was down a whopping 38% in 2021 compared to the record-breaking 2019, according to a news release. But the total was much improved compared to 2020 when COVID-19 struck the region’s economy with full force.

According to the release, San Diego International Airport managed 15.6 million passengers in 2021, a 69% increase over 2020’s number of 9 million. A record-breaking 25 million passengers passed through the facility in 2019. 

“The aviation industry continued to be impacted by COVID-19, but we saw improvement in passenger numbers once vaccines were available and people felt more comfortable traveling by air again,” said airport top executive Kimberly Becker.

The airport added 18 routes and one new carrier during the year, another indication of activities getting back to normal.

The release noted that Southwest Airlines continued to be the No. 1 carrier in 2021, topping the list of carriers serving San Diego with a 33% seat share. Southwest expanded service to three Hawaiian destinations and six new routes overall during the year.

Alaska Airlines maintained its No. 2 spot with 19% of all seats, at the same time adding new service to five cities.

Detailed reports of SAN air traffic statistics are available at

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Meanwhile, the airport announced two ticket counter relocation as the construction dust begins to fly. Starting Feb. 18, Allegiant Air will operate from Terminal 2 East. Starting Feb. 24, JetBlue Airways will operate from Terminal 2 West.

Officials are relocating the ticket counters is to make space for the $3.4 billion Terminal 1 reconstruction project.

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Temecula-based private company Sidecar Tours is bringing a fleet of tandem, two-passenger motorcycle sidecars to San Diego, which a company promoter says will used to provide immersive tours of the city. The company now provides similar service to 20 other cities.

The promoter says the new tour route starts at Coronado Brewing and travels to Stone Brewing in Liberty Station and Ballast Point in Little Italy, returning to Coronado Brewing, where participants will enjoy a beer tasting. The tour includes travel along historical and familiar areas, including Little Italy, Liberty Station, Harbor Drive, Balboa Park and Old Town.

The cost for the tour is $150.

The company also offers other tours of the city that will varying in price and duration, including a food tour and a city tour.

The company will start out with four cars pulled from its Temecula fleet, and add more as business demands.

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Ralphs Grocery and Food 4 Less, divisions of The Kroger Co., recently reported results for the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste program, a chain-wide effort to ease hunger and eliminate waste by 2025.

In fiscal 2021, the two store chains donated $5 million and saved 10.5 million pounds of food that would have otherwise been tossed. The company says this helped to provide 27 million meals to communities where they have stores, including San Diego. 

“Zero Hunger | Zero Waste is shaping the local discussion around how to end hunger and eliminate waste across the country,” said a Food 4 Less executive.

There are 20 Ralphs and 11 Food 4 Less stores in San Diego County.

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Cleantech San Diego says companies in its Southern California Energy Innovation Network program have landed $268.5 million in follow-on funding, breaking a quarter billion-dollar milestone in just five years. 

The six-year-old accelerator features startups located in San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties. They are pursuing  technologies to help the state meet its clean energy goals. 

To date, participants in the SCEIN program have landed $213 million in private follow-on funding and $55 million in public follow-on funding.

“This $268.5 million represents a tripling of the capital that these companies brought to the program,” according to a news release.

The program reported some significant milestones, too.

One startup, Nuvve,  is now listed on the Nasdaq after taking advantage of new financing designed to take companies public without going through the traditional IPO process; 

Another, UCAP Power, acquired the assets of Maxwell Technologies/Korea, and General Motors entered into a commercial collaboration deal for battery-grade lithium with Controlled Thermal Resources.

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Valencia-based Hello Auto Group says it has opened a Mazda dealership in  Kearny Mesa, its first in the city.

According to a news release, the company was founded three years ago as a one-price, “no haggle” dealership. The release says that customers work with one representative during the purchase progress.

Hello Auto break ground on a new, state-of-the art building this year.

“We always present our upfront lowest price. And we never charge over MSRP and never surprise customers with hidden fees or charges,” said Schmidt.

The group says it currently operates five dealerships statewide, including Subaru of Temecula, Mazda of Temecula and Mazda of San Diego.

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Finally, this bit of North County News. The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce is hosting its monthly Rising Star student recognition breakfast on Feb. 15.

The chamber’s program recognizes high school seniors at city high schools who have overcome significant challenges, but who managed to keep, or get back on track with their education.

The students must be college or vocational school-bound and they should reflect the program’s mission statement: “Convening the business and education community to honor Oceanside seniors for rising above adversity by demonstrating character, integrity, school and community engagement that make our city shine like a star.”

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to