ALERT: United has moved flights to Terminal 1 at SFO

 

[UPDATE: June 21: UAL's Terminal 1 mess is getting even messier. Readers now report to TravelSkills that UAL is now running flights from airports such as DENVER and LAX through T1 with no advance warning. ]

The following confirms information in an earlier post about United moving flights to Terminal 1.

Starting today  (with no formal announcement or instructions to its customers or the media) United Air Lines moved flights to/from several southern California cities and Las Vegas to Terminal 1 at SFO.

Despite several requests to United and airport officials to verify start dates for this significant change, I learned about this from a surprised reader who sent the following via email today:

I read your announcement that United would use SFO Terminal 1 for certain flights.  Today, we left SFO on such as flight, and it was awful.  We had to check-in at United’s regular Terminal 3 area, then walk to Intl Gate 92 where we caught a bus over to Terminal 1 gate area.  This took a long time and was unpleasant.  I couldn’t believe the procedure involved … Now, the long walk to gate 92 and then waiting for the bus, the bus ride, etc. Terrible start to a trip. I assume it has to do with cost; United wants to avoid setting up a check-in and baggage operation at Terminal 1.  Also, the bus came quickly, although there was a long line, and the United personnel were friendly and nice.  So, my compliments to the staff. However, it’s an awful plan, and we’re certainly going to choose a different airline for any United flight that leaves Terminal 1.  The staff told us this plan would be in effect for 18 months.

Why United has chosen to keep this major change and inconvenience for its customer under wraps when we are at the outset of the peak summer travel season is beyond comprehension. I’m not the only observer who is awestruck.

“United’s silence on this matter is very alarming to me,” said Atmosphere Group analyst Henry Harteveldt, who is based in San Francisco. “It just looks like the Keystone Cops. It’s not complicated or expensive to do this right. United is going to end up with many confused, unhappy and irate passengers if they don’t get their act together on communicating this properly. This is a classic example of how an airline loses business,” he said.

**SEE BELOW FOR UNITED’S OFFICIAL RESPONSE WHICH CAME AFTER THIS POST PUBLISHED**

I’ve been able to piece together the following information based on what I’m hearing from customers, and the early draft of an alert sent to me by SFO officials late today:

>Starting June 7, if you are flying from SFO to Las Vegas, Orange County (SNA), San Diego, Ontario, Burbank or Santa Barbara, your flight will depart/arrive at Terminal 1 starting today. (Those cities are subject to change since United has not verified this information.)

>United will NOT have check in facilities at Terminal 1. All United passengers MUST check in, check baggage and enter security at Terminal 3.

>If you are flying to one of the above cities, the gate number on your boarding pass will be either 87A or 92.

>You will enter check in, check bags and enter airport security at United counters or kiosks at Terminal 3.

>You will walk to the gate, then walk outside, down some stairs and board one of several 19-passenger shuttles for a ride underneath the airport to Terminal 1.

>Airport authorities claim that the transfer will take 4-5 minutes and that busses will run every 4-5 minutes.

>Upon arrival at Terminal 1, you will then exit the shuttle, walk up a set of stairs and enter the terminal at gate 32. There is no need to pass through security again.

>You will then board your flight from Terminal 1.

>When RETURNING on a United flight to Terminal 1 with carry on luggage only, you may exit at Terminal 1. (If you are being picked up, be sure your ride knows to look for you at Terminal 1.)

>When returning on a United flight to Terminal 1 with CHECKED luggage, get ready for a hassle. You must go back to gate 32, take the shuttle back to gates 87 or 92, and then walk to baggage claim– and exit at Terminal 3. (Which is where your ride should pick you up.)

So that’s the drill for locals…. 

But there’s a whole other set of unwieldy new rules for passengers connecting through SFO. Here’s what the airport has provided:

Domestic Connecting Passengers.

If your connecting boarding pass has Gate 92, proceed to gate 92 to catch the transfer bus.  If your connecting boarding pass has gate 87A, proceed to gate 87A to catch the transfer bus. Please allow yourself a few extra minutes for the transfer bus to Terminal 1.

If you arrive to Terminal 1 on United Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, AirTran Airways, or Southwest Airlines AND your luggage is checked to your final destination AND you are departing from gates 92A, 92B, 92C, 92D, 92E, or 92F, you do not need to exit Terminal 1. Please proceed to your gate.

If you are connecting to a United Airlines flight not operating from gates 92A, 92B, 92C, 92D, 92E, or 92F follow the signs to the United Airlines transfer bus at Gate 32. Please allow yourself a few extra minutes for the transfer to Terminal 3.

If you are arriving on any other airline, you will need to clear security at Terminal 3 or the International Security Checkpoint for the G gates.

International Inbound Connecting Passengers.

After clearing Immigrations and Customs, please drop any luggage checked to your final destination at the United Airlines re-check counter immediately to your left outside the Customs Hall. After re-checking your luggage, continue down the corridor and up the escalator to the International Security Check Point for the G gates. Once through security, please proceed to the gate printed on your boarding pass. There is a post-security secure connector that allows you to walk to Terminal 3 after clearing security.

International Outbound Connecting Passengers

If you arrive to T1 and are connecting to an International Outbound Flight, follow the signs to the United Airlines transfer bus at Gate 32. Please allow yourself a few extra minutes for the transfer to Terminal 3 and then follow the signs to the connecting gate printed on your boarding pass.

Confused yet? I bet. Good luck out there!

Why do you think United has not chimed in with any alerts or instructions about this major move? Please leave your comments below. 

 

**UPDATE: Official response from United on Friday June 8**

We added new gates in San Francisco to support the additional service for our customers. Since 2010, we have announced the launch of seven new markets from SFO in addition to adding departures to existing markets.

Transfers between the terminals will occur during renovations to Boarding Area E, which will provide the airline with more gates and enable us to offer customers a better overall travel experience. We expect to complete the renovations in 2O13.

We have also added several hundred customer service agents and offer bus service between the terminals every four to five minutes to assist our customers using the new gates.

UPDATE 2: United has confirmed to me that passengers with carry on luggage and pre-printed United boarding passes for gates 87 or 92 may enter at Terminal 1 instead of having to enter at Terminal 3 and take the shuttle. — chris

*****

Subscribe to TravelSkills via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

*****

 

 

  • Wes

    I just got off the phone with SFO and they confirmed that the reason you must check in your bags and get your boarding pass in Terminal 3 is because United won’t pay for a booth in Terminal 1 or pay for extra employees. He did let me know that if I am not checking in a bag and I have printed my boarding pass at home (or have a mobile pass) I can proceed directly to Terminal 1 and go through security. If I have a bag or need to print a boarding pass, I would need to proceed to Terminal 3, check the bag, proceed to the shuttle gate etc etc.

  • Robert

    All went smoothly on UA SFO –> BUR flight, but only because I was alerted to this issue. Printed my boarding pass at home, went through security in T1 (no wait!), gate checked my bag.

  • Disgruntled

    I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with this clusterf$%^ today on a flight from SFO to PDX. Electronic boarding pass and UAL website both said Gate 92C, so I went to International Terminal Gate 92 only to find total emptiness. After wandering around confused for 20 minutes, I found an airport employee who directed me to a hidden, unsigned elevator which led to a dark corridor, then to an unsigned bus waiting area and an unsigned bus which took us to Terminal 1 where we climbed up the stairs. Apparently Gate 92C = Gate 34, and UAL just expects you to know that. But with no warning, no information prior, no signage, and no agents posted to help, I was totally lost! “Fortunately” the flight was an hour late, so I made it in time…

  • Nancy M

    yesterday our flight from Denver arrived at a gate at Terminal 1 – I didn’t know about the lack of baggage claim for UA there, and truly could not believe it when an agent told us we had to take the Airtrain over to Terminal 3 to pick up our bags – how stupid and customer-unfriendly can they get?!

  • Dean

    United’s service is quickly approaching rock bottom. I’ve been foolish enough to give them three tries over the past two months and on two out of the three occasions flights were cancelled and I was delayed 8 or more hours each (one was to LA). Ground staff and inflight crews are equally uncaring so…..that’s it…..Southwest or Virgin America gets my business whenever possible. It’s sad to see a once-good airline under such horrific management and uncaring about their customers.

  • chris

    UPDATE: United has confirmed to me that passengers with carry on luggage and pre-printed United boarding passes for gates 87 or 92 may enter at Terminal 1 instead of having to enter at Terminal 3 and take the shuttle. — chris

  • Laurence

    Is there any reason why people can’t just check in online and then go straight to T1 themselves, and clear security there (assuming they are originating in SFO)?

  • chris

    UPDATE: United has responded to this post. Here it is:

    We added new gates in San Francisco to support the additional service for our customers. Since 2010, we have announced the launch of seven new markets from SFO in addition to adding departures to existing markets.

    Transfers between the terminals will occur during renovations to Boarding Area E, which will provide the airline with more gates and enable us to offer customers a better overall travel experience. We expect to complete the renovations in 2O13.

    We have also added several hundred customer service agents and offer bus service between the terminals every four to five minutes to assist our customers using the new gates.

  • Teo

    why can’t you just check in in T3 and then walk to T1 via the walkway below the int’l terminal? why are you required to pass security at T3?

  • Eric

    Virgin America flies to most of those cities and they are MASSIVELY better. I was a 1K on United but now only fly Virgin America (exclusively) if Virgin flies to a city.

    You get friendly staff, new planes, great service, WiFi on every flight, food on demand, free TV, tons of movies on demand, interactive maps, power plugs for your laptop — oh, and often a lower fare, too.

    Seriously, don’t get confused by the frequent flyer programs — I’m so glad I ended up on Virgin. Oh and Terminal 2 is just amazing, too!

    Do yourself a favor and give Virgin America a try if you haven’t already.

  • Michael Pevny

    Well, whose bright idea from UA to keep the CO gates and have such a cluster @&%! to the pax who are connecting and NO check-in facilities in Terminal 1?? I really feel for those non frequent UA travelers not familiar with SFO and the terminals. Let’s hope the powers to be at UA can this not so bright of an idea.

  • Mike

    typical united. I am a 1k, million mile flier, have flown 68K miles so far this year and united just sucks. Way to ruin an airline. Next move will be to remove all loyaty programs, as they really don’t care about customers, and since the flights are all full on all airlines, who needs to spend the money on loyalty programs. just wait.

  • Mark

    If SFO is your final destination and you have CHECKED BAGS, you don’t have to take the bus, you could leave Terminal 1, take the AirTrain to Terminal 3, then take the elevators inside to the baggage claim level. It’s probably faster than queueing up for a bus that only carries a fraction of the total aircraft passenger count.

    Or, for a healthy walk after being in a cramped airplane seat, just exit the secure area of Terminal 1, turn right and walk through Terminal 2’s check in area, and when you get to Terminal 3, go down the escalators to baggage claim.

  • BethACZ

    I see a whole mess of problems with this situation: How are people with access issues (bad knees, seniors, people in wheelchairs, crutches) going to handle all of those stairs? What about families with children in strollers toting purses, kids backpacks, carry-on bags, etc.? What about international travelers for whom English is not a first language? How about those who connect through SFO from another city, who will then have to sprint to make a connection? The instructions above say “please allow yourself a few extra minutes for the transfer to Terminal 3″. Is the pilot, gate agent/flight attendant going to provide a “few extra minutes” for me to make the flight?

  • chris

    Sent via email from Barbara:
    Thanks for the information. After 35 years flying United I am just about done with them. Going up stairs/going down stairs. I don’t think so. What happen to ADA. My daughter keeps telling me to fly Virgin or Jet Blue.

  • Evan

    Since check-in is the same as always (T3), United probably feels there is no new instructions to communicate. The only difference is to leave some extra time, but they probably feel that if you show-up at the “recommended” time, you’ll be fine anyways.

    If you arrive in T1, then the f/a’s can give you instructions. Again, no need to explain something complicated and annoying to the masses, most of whom are not affected.

    Right decision? Most likely no. But alas, it’s what they have apparently chosen to do.

  • msimons

    Well I’m from San Diego, and will make sure SFO is NOT my connection from now on.

Editorial Disclaimer: This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. Responses in the comments section are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”