10 things about new Aloft hotels


Over the last year, I’ve been hearing a lot about the new Aloft hotel brand from Starwood. Since I have not had the chance to sleep over in one yet, I asked for a tour of the Aloft San Francisco Airport, one of the three Aloft hotels in the Bay Area—all of which have opened in the last year.

With my camera and notepad I met up with hotel sales & marketing manager Janfred Agarao who showed me around the hotel located on Millbrae Ave just south of SFO.

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

Here’s what I saw and learned.

>The Aloft brand is billed as “A Vision of W Hotels” and it’s clear that the W is from where the new chain’s quirky and colorful spirit comes. The SFO property was the 62nd Aloft hotel to open—Starwood expects to have 80 by the end of this year. The other Bay Area locations the Aloft Silicon Valley, located in Newark, which used to be the old W Silicon Valley, and the Aloft Cupertino, near the Apple campus.)

>Most Aloft hotels are built new-from-the-ground-up, but this building started out in the 60’s as the Thunderbird Hotel (which starred in the film, Bullitt), and most recently was a Clarion hotel. Starwood came in and took the building down to the studs and added brand new space, so the look and feel is brand spanking new.


>The six story Aloft at SFO opened last September with 252 rooms. Its average rate is about $239 per night. Occupancy is healthy—the hotel regularly sells out on midweek on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but struggles to fill up on weekends (which is when rates take a tumble to the $150 range).

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

>Most Aloft hotels are located in suburbs, near airports or on the fringes of major downtown areas. For example, New York City locations are in Harlem and in Brooklyn.


>The lobby of the Aloft at SFO is big, bright and lively—the hotel calls it the “remix area” and there’s room for small groups to gather, communal tables, an unusual blue pool table, free wi-fi, and electrical outlets all over the place. Stationary iPads are available for browsing or making reservations via OpenTable. There are also two desktop computers and a printer.

>Food service is “grab and go” with a wide variety of snacks, such as prepared salads and sandwiches Butterfingers, trail mix or Doritos, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or It’s It bars are available for sale. Guests who want a full service meal can walk across the parking lot to the Westin hotel.


>Agarao said that the busiest time in the lobby is morning and during happy hour, from 5-8 pm when there’s live acoustical music and discounts on snacks, beer and designer cocktails at the WXYZ bar– muddled watermelon martinis anyone?

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

>While Starwood is clearly trying to cater to a younger crowd with the Aloft brand, Agarao said guests generally range from 20 to 50 years old.


>Beds in nearly every room at the Aloft are placed opposite the window instead of lining up along side it as they do in most hotel rooms. Good feng shui? Who knows? But rooms appear modern, comfortable and well appointed with Bliss bath products, coffee makers and quirky touches like retro-clocks.

>Rooms located on the hotel’s 6th floor offer excellent views of planes taking off and landing on SFO runways…a hypnotizing sight…and only minimal rumbles from jet blasts.

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

Have you stayed at an Aloft hotel yet? Let us know what you think! Please leave your comments below! 

Chris McGinnis


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  • tmcarroll

    I visited Aloft near the San Francisco Airport, and it’s a nice hotel, but I’m surprised that they charge $20 a night to their guests for parking! They also charge for their breakfasts. Other hotels in the area provide both for free.

  • Jeff

    I have stayed at Aloft and found the beds to be Medieval torture devices. One guy at the front desk kept calling the elevator the “lift” as if he were British instead of American, and the a/c was out in our room. The manager switched us to another room really nicely, only to discover it was out in that room (and several others), too. The parking lot did not have enough spaces for all the cars, and people were parking on the little islands with trees. Overall, I felt it was crazy!!

  • Scott

    I am in Charlotte every couple of weeks and consider their little Aloft to be a home away from home. Competitive price, nice room that feels like home, lobby that is somewhat vibrant, I really like what they have going on.

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  • FairySac

    I stayed at the one in Franklin, TN, just south of Nashville, on business travel. I was there on three trips of five day stays. It’s a really cool place. However, one time I made a reservation for a five day stay, but canceled my reservation four days in advance. They charged my AMEX for the entire period, saying I didn’t cancel. Their policy says they can only charge you for one day if you don’t cancel by 6pm of the day of your stay.

    I showed them the email that showed my cancellation four day prior, but they still tried to charge me for five days. After I still complained, they claim they were going to do me a favor and only charge me for one day. I disputed it on my AMEX, who removed the charge, but it wasn’t until I got my company’s travel department involved, who also had electronic proof that I cancelled, that they refunded my money.

    This happened in 2012, and I’ll never stay there again. The rooms were only $130/night, so I have no idea why they were so hard up to steal my money. They are no way worth $230/night, but that’s a low rate for the SF area.

  • pattona

    My husband and I spent a night at both the Aloft in Tempe and the Aloft Skyharbor (phoenix) Christmas of 2011. Light rail to the airport hadn’t quite opened but we had shuttle service from both locations. Loved them both but liked the Tempe’s more pedestrian friendly location including being near the lake.
    We were happy to see an Aloft at SFO!

  • gmurphy03

    United put me up at the Aloft near Denver Airport when they had to cancel my flight because of a plane malfunction. My previous experience with United’s choice of hotel for the same reason left me dreading it. However, the Aloft was a very pleasant surprise! Definitely seemed geared toward younger crowd (I am over 60), but I loved it. Quirky, colorful, minimalist. It was late and fortunately the bar still was serving snacks. The lobby was very nice and the room quite comfortable and modern.

  • san mateo guy 2

    A small correction to your “Aloft at SFO” article. As I recall, the Thunderbird Hotel was semi-circular and located where the SFO off ramps from 101 are connected. The Thunderbird was torn down to make room for those off ramps.

  • Ken

    Stayed at the ALOFT Minneapolis . Located near downtown with great staff. Loved the 4 days I was there Upon check in they noted that I was from California and assured me that I would have an ocean view. When I got to my room and opened the curtains sure enough there was that ocean view – swimming pool! Became a running gag with the staff and I – still highly recommend!

  • http://www.travelskills.com/ Chris McGinnis

    Glad to see you are following the #TravelSkills chat, Gary! http://www.travelskills.com/chat Thanks! — chris

  • garydpdx

    Thanks, that’s good to know! I really don’t need housekeeping every day but it’s often difficult to have the staff pass unless you run into someone in the morning, on the way out.

    Chris McGinnis also mentioned other options to forego daily housekeeping, in exchange for other amenities, in his (most) weekly #travelskills chat on Twitter. (Yes, I’m a follower or check it out on the weekend afterward.)

  • Eiji

    The Cupertino Aloft is great. Apple TV in every room. If you opt-out of linen cleaning, you get an additional 250 Starwood points PER DAY that you opt-out. This is a great bonus for SPG members.

  • BigWayne19

    ——– my wife and I (seriously older than fifty ) stayed in the Brooklyn branch. very pleasant. a little weird with the vending machine food in the lobby, though . . .

  • wjd

    i stayed at several when the chain was first debuting and i was doing a lot of domestic biz travel. they were reasonable and well-run; the funny thing was staff always signing off with “aloha,” especially when i was staying in minneapolis or someplace of that clime…

  • John M.

    I have stayed at Aloft SFO three times and find it a better option than the older Wsetin Hitel next door. As a Platium SPG member, I was given the top floor with the airport view without even asking. It was just the opposite at the Westin. I was never upgraded there and only given a recognition as a SPG member. There is a free shuttle bus to the airport and a short walk to the Baysore Park.