San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is both the biggest and busiest of the three primary airports of California’s San Francisco Bay Area. In 2016 the airport served over 53 million passengers and also saw double-digit growth in those traveling internationally over the previous year. The total economic impact of SFO is estimated at over $60 billion annually.
So it makes sense that the airport is in the middle of a $2.4 billion expansion project that will completely overhaul Terminal 1.
SFO Terminal 1 being expanded over an 8-year timeframe
The groundbreaking ceremony for the Terminal 1 expansion was held in the middle of 2016. The expansion/redevelopment was long overdue. The original terminal was constructed in the 1960s, long before millions of people were traveling through it every year. As far as terminals go at SFO, it is my least favorite.
The expansion started with introducing an interim Boarding Area B. The first new section of the expansion is scheduled to open at the end of the year with 9 gates in the new Boarding Area B. By the middle of next year, the capacity will increase to 17 gates. In 2020, the new area will reach full capacity of 24 gates. It’ll take until 2024 for the new central terminal area and a refreshing of Boarding Area C to be completed.
I’ve gotten a look at the project the last couple times I passed through SFO.
You can check out the time-lapse rendering of the entire project and a current construction cam (click on the labeled tab).
While the airport isn’t high on my list of overcrowded airports in terms of the passenger experience (except for maybe the SFO Centurion Lounge), the airport is plagued by operational issues when visibility is poor. SFO really needs another runway. Here’s a good read on the situation. Yeah…some nearby airports experience 10% cancellation rates.
But I digress. I still have one question for those who designed the Terminal 1 expansion.
Maybe consider connecting *all* the terminals?
One of my biggest beefs with SFO is the lack of connectivity between the terminals post-security. Sure, this may not seem like a huge thing in most cases. For example, the United terminal is connected to International Terminal G (the only airside connection) where all other Star Alliance carriers arrive and depart, allowing easy transfer across the alliance.
But there are problems elsewhere. Alaska currently flies out of two terminals, which might have cost us if we had showed up too late on our trip to Disneyland a few months ago (SEE: Turning 20,000 Amex points into 25,000 Alaska miles and $500). We arrived at Terminal 2, only to be directed to International Terminal A.
I guess this is what I get for paying literally zero attention to our gate on the app ahead of time and going off of the last time we flew out of SFO. No harm, no foul. The error cost us a mere 10 minutes. But how I would hate to be making a connection on Alaska through SFO where I had to get from Terminal 2 to International Terminal A.
The Terminal 1 expansion makes a meager attempt at alleviating some of the problem. When the expansion is complete, Terminal 1 will be connected to International Terminal A. But what about connecting Terminal 1 to Terminal 2? Didn’t anybody think of that? Even the pit that is LAX as been able to connect all but one of their terminals post-security (albeit not very efficiently).
They even keep kids in mind
When I think of world-class airports, none in the U.S. really come to mind. The first airport that pops into my head will forever be Singapore Changi, which has such a ridiculous number of activities and sights that the airport is basically a destination in and of itself. Amsterdam also comes to mind, with their Kids Forest. I know there are other great airports for kids out there.
SFO is doing their best to keep up. They are already pretty kid friendly, as there are dedicated play areas in other terminals. The new Terminal 1 expansion plan runs consistent with this theme. Kids areas are planned into the terminal.
As air travel continues to grow year after year (regional Sonoma County airport to the north is breaking records and can’t expand fast enough), I’m sure more airports will undergo huge expansion projects. Salt Lake City is seeing some addition as well. I can’t wait to see the final product at SFO.
The real question is…will they ever add a second Priority Pass lounge?
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They did think of connecting Terminal 1 to Terminal 2…there is already a post-security connector between the Delta gates (boarding area C). By connecting the new area B with these gates, there will be a complete linkage between A (int’l)-B-C. Still less ideal than having all gates linked post-security, but nowhere as dire as this makes it out to be.
These IS a post-security connector between T1 and T2. I’ve had to use it several times when, due to overflow, an AA or AS/VX flight is assigned a gate in T1.
Typically that involves a “last 60 to 90 minutes” gate change announcement — “Flight XXX will now be departing from Gate 52 to Gate 48. To reach Gate 48, return to the Security Screening area, but do NOT exit the Terminal. Just before Security, on your left as you face Security is a walkway to Terminal 1. You will NOT have to go through screening again.”
P.S. You can see the post-security corridor on this map: https://www.flysfo.com/maps/interactive-maps
@Jason, @Neil – Thanks. No idea how I’ve never heard of this. I’ve been through SFO like two dozen times all flown in or out of every terminal. It’s never been explained in anything I’ve read and never been on any map I’ve seen. It *totally* makes sense given the connectivity of Alaska, AA, and VX, which is why I expected it’d be a part of the redesign!
@Ian —> The next time you fly in or out of T2, look for the sign (admittedly not the largest sign in the world!). Coming through security in T2, immediately on your right will be two restrooms back against the wall, and before Books, Inc. As you face that wall, look farther to the right, and there’s the walkway. (Note: it’s actually easier to locate the sign for the Yoga Room, which is located within that corridor.)