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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.

Conclusion

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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