This post intends to provide guidance and directions for you to navigate your way around the terminals of San Francisco International airport (SFO) in California, United States. Likewise, thanks to the information that will be detailed below, you will learn more about the airlines flying to and from this hub, the services offered to passengers in transit and visitors -including its acclaimed aviation museum and library-, and the various ways to go from the airport to downtown San Francisco.
SFO is located 21 kilometres away from the city centre, and serves as an important gateway for European and Asian travellers into one of the world capitals of entrepreneurship and technology.
Terminals of San Francisco airport in the United States
San Francisco International has four terminals (three domestic and one international terminal), which are connected on the landside by an Air Train. This automated people mover runs free services for travellers between the different departures zones and the car rental centre outside the facilities. As an exception, the areas of T1 and T2 from which American Airlines operations are carried out are linked by an airside connector which runs services after security, thus helping passengers who are making a connection or need to transfer from that part of the airport to the other.
Terminal 1 of SFO is home to all B and C gates, and handles domestic flights by American and some Air Canada operations to which preclearance applies at the airport of origin. Terminal 2 accommodates boarding concourse B, the main check-in area for American Airlines and an Admirals Club lounge. Some Virgin and Alaska Airlines flights depart from this point. Terminal 3 is known as the United terminal with its check-in counters, three United Club lounges, boarding gates E and one American Express Centurion Lounge.
The International terminal of San Francisco airport in California is home to gates A and G and handles operations of independent international carriers as well as of member partners of Star Alliance, Sky Team and One World, therefore accommodating its corresponding business and first class lounges. In rare cases, domestic flights might depart from this building so do not discard having to travel to it before confirming your boarding gate. You will need to go straight to the International terminal if you are flying with Aer Lingus, Aeromexico, Air China, Air France, Air India, Air Italy, All Nippon Airways, Asiana, Avianca, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Copa, El Al, Eva Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Iberia, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, KLM, Korean Air, Level, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Qantas, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Air, Swiss, Thomas Cook, Turkish Airlines, Volaris or WOW.
The Aviation Museum in San Francisco airport
If you are an aviation lover, it will be well worth allowing for some extra time to spend at the museum in SFO, or even commuting to the main hall of the International terminal during your trip to San Francisco just to enjoy it. This facility grants free admission to all visitors and there is no need to be in possession of a boarding pass to enter. Featuring both permanent and temporary exhibitions, it is considered one of the best of its kind within US because of its showcasing of a vital part of the American aviation history.
How to go from San Francisco airport to the city
One of the quickest ways to travel from the airport to San Francisco in California is by taking a direct train departing from the BART station –accessible through parking lot G-towards the downtown and the Bay Area. However, several bus lines also connect the two points during the day and the night hours, such as route 140 (from the rental car centre to south San Francisco), routes 292 and 398 (from the baggage claim areas of the domestic terminals or courtyards A and G of the International terminal) and routes 397 and 399, covering the same distances at night, with additional stops in San Mateo and Palo Alto.
If you have already booked a hotel in San Francisco, you might want to check with them whether they offer complimentary or paid airport shuttle services. The hotel shuttle vans pick up passengers arriving in SFO at an island on the departures level of each building. Taxi cabs are available on the arrivals level and, in case you are a user of their app, Uber operates in the San Francisco airport area.
Passenger services for travellers going through San Francisco airport
The following amenities have been especially conceived for those taking a business trip to San Francisco in California, since they will surely help them be more productive while in transit and leave the city less stressed.
Free WiFi throughout the four terminals and the rental car area. After a simple registration process, travellers flying out of SFO can enjoy four hours of complimentary wireless internet on their mobile devices. Additionally, you will find work stations with power outlets in every building.
TSA Precheck lanes are located in the American Airlines area of Terminal 2 and the United area of Terminal 3.
Private showers for travellers are found near boarding zone G of the International terminal before clearing security. Products like hair shampoo and shower gel can be purchased at the premises.
Should you need to hire a mobile phone, get online, print documents or send a fax, the business centre in the main hall of the International terminal stays open from 8:00 to 20:30 every day.
Coffe shops and restaurants in San Francisco airport of California
It would be impossible to mention every outlet composing the widely varied offer of stores and restaurants in San Francisco International airport. Nevertheless, we are about to highlight a few stops that we deem mandatory before a flight. For instance, there are three Starbucks Coffee locations in the public zone of SFO (in the main hall of the International terminal, the departures zone of T2, and the arrivals hall of T3), a Mission Bar & Grill near boarding gates E in Terminal 3, and an array of world cuisines in the restricted concourse of the International terminal, as could not be otherwise. This last group of restaurants caters to the needs of passengers about to board their plane and set off on their overseas journey: Gott’s Roadside, Mustards Bar & Grill, Mum Fresh, Boudin Bakery and Tamokazu are just a few of them.
Are you having an overnight layover or will catch an early morning flight out of SFO? We recommend that you consider staying in a hotel close to San Francisco International airport in California, USA.