SJC

Baby Chickens Take Flight at San José Mineta International Airport

San José Mineta International Airport (SJC) is kicking off some egg-citing festivities to celebrate 75 years of service for the Bay Area community.

In tribute to its very first arriving passengers – a group of 2,550 baby chickens – anniversary events at SJC will feature creative acknowledgments of those feathered pioneers in various forms and sizes.

“For 75 years, SJC staff has put in the work to create an unparalleled travel experience that is both reliable and convenient for our residents and visitors from across the globe,” said San José Mayor Matt Mahan. “Thanks to their dedication, our airport was recently recognized as one of the best in the country, and I’m confident the next 75 years will prove just as bright for SJC and all those coming to visit our beautiful city.”

This landmark anniversary celebrates a journey that began in 1929, when the first Citizen Airport Committee (CAC) was formed. In 1939, the CAC, driven by the vision of a dedicated aviation enthusiast from San José, Ernest H. Renzel Jr., selected the site for the future airport. The location (a former onion field) was chosen based on its proximity to the town and superior weather conditions in the area.

A Stanford graduate, grocer and City Councilmember, Renzel led a transformative campaign to elevate San José’s status in the aviation world. His decade-long efforts paid off on Feb. 1, 1949, with the official dedication of San José Municipal Airport, introducing modern-day passenger service to the local community. Notably, the Airport’s first commercial flight, a DC-3 operated by Southwest Airways (forerunner of today’s Delta Air Lines), carried a unique mix of passengers: seven humans and 2,550 baby chickens, with only the latter deplaning in San José. (The humans continued on to Los Angeles.)

San José Municipal Airport underwent its first significant transformation in 1968 when it became San José International Airport – signaling its readiness to connect the Bay Area with the world. Another important moment in SJC’s history came in 2001, when it was renamed in honor of the influential former Mayor and Congressman Norman Y. Mineta for his contributions to the Airport’s development and to the U.S. transportation sector.

Passengers traveling through SJC in 2024 will be treated to an array of airport festivities and decor, a dedicated anniversary webpage and surprise encounters with “chickens” roaming throughout the terminals with giveaways. In addition, fun photo opportunities will be present including the unique chance to pose with a 10’ inflatable baby chicken that will be located in Terminal B Baggage Claim. Social media enthusiasts will have access to engaging and educational content, including animated videos, contests and first-class seats to the “Baby Chickens Take Flight at SJC” campaign. The campaign kicks off March 6.

A commemorative logo was created to mark the events dedicated to this important anniversary in SJC’s journey through history.

“I’m pleased to celebrate the 75 wonderful years of the San José Mineta International Airport providing service to passengers in the greater Bay Area and beyond. I want to thank all our airline carriers, food and beverage concessionaires, and SJC staff past, current and present for making SJC a simple and timely travel experience,” said Jennifer Maguire, San José City Manager. “We look forward to providing passengers with many more years of exemplary service they have come to expect and love about flying through San José.”

Over the years, SJC has facilitated extensive development and expansion to accommodate Silicon Valley’s dynamic growth. Between 2015 and 2019, the Airport was declared the fastest growing airport in the U.S. And in 2022, passengers traveling through SJC voted it as the Best Midsize Airport in North America for Customer Experience. Most recently in 2023, SJC earned the title of Best Midsize Airport in the U.S. from The Wall Street Journal.  

“As we hit the 75-year milestone, our focus remains on convenience and excellent service. This anniversary celebrates our beginnings and commitment to connecting people and places,” said SJC Director of Aviation John Aitken. “I am grateful to everyone who has played a role in our history. Here’s to many more years of SJC serving our community.”

Community members and passengers are encouraged to join in the celebration and events throughout the year at flysjc.com/75years.

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