What’s next for SFO?

United's new Boarding Area E is the best place at SFO to go planespotting (Photo: SFO)

United’s new Boarding Area E is the best place at SFO to go planespotting (Photo: SFO)

Now that SFO officials have handed off the shiny new 10-gate, $138 million Boarding Area E (T3E) to United, what’s next?

A lot!

TravelSkills snagged a few moments with San Francisco International Airport’s director John Martin to get the scoop on the big changes TravelSkills Readers can expect in coming months. Here’s what we learned:

>There’s still plenty of finishing work to be done at Terminal 3, such as the construction of a temporary United Club on the mezzanine level (opens this May) as well as a brand new one near Boarding Area E (opens 2015). Plus there’s that new American Express Centurion Club (opens later this year). There’s also the reconfiguration/rebuilding of the security check point entries (including a new Premier entrypoint) and finishing off the corridor that connects Boarding Area’s E and F. There will also be a new Global Services reception area (similar to the one that just opened in Newark).

>But starting now, the focus will be on updating the aging, bland Terminal 1, which is currently used by Alaska Airlines, AirTran, Frontier, Delta, Southwest, United Express and US Airways. Making way for a major re-build means moving some airlines around.

Between now and mid-May, United Airlines will slowly move most operations out of Terminal 1 and into Terminal 3. Goodbye and good riddance to those irritating under-airport shuttle rides!

Alaska, Frontier, US Airways and United on the move at SFO T1

Alaska, Frontier, US Airways and United on the move at SFO T1

Then, in July: 

  • Alaska Airlines will move out of Terminal 1 (Boarding Area B)and into the International Terminal (Boarding Area A).
  • US Airways will move out of Terminal 1 (Boarding Area B) and into Terminal 1 (Boarding Area C), taking over Frontier’s gates. Boarding Area C is used primarily by Delta.
  • Frontier will move from Boarding Area C into Boarding Area B
  • All of Southwest and AirTran flights will be consolidated from the same gates in T1 (Boarding Area B). AirTran will be fully absorbed by Southwest by the end of this year and the brand will disappear.

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What’s interesting here is that US Airways, which is merging with American Airlines, is NOT moving into American’s gates  in Terminal 2 as we had expected. While that may sound a little messy, it won’t be too bad. That’s because the airport is now building a new post-security corridor that will connect Boarding Area C with Terminal 2. Opening this December, the new corridor should ease transfers between American and US Airways flights. This is big boost for Delta flyers cooling their heels in the somewhat drab Boarding Area C– they will now have access to all the excellent amenities of T2 that lie behind security.

Here's a rendering of what SFO Terminal 1 will eventually look like.

Here’s a rendering of what SFO’s $2 billion Terminal 1, Boarding Area B will eventually look like.

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SFO has confirmed that a new airline lounge is under construction in Terminal 1 (Boarding Area C) that will be located between the current security checkpoint and Gate 41– above the general area where the new corridor connecting T2 and T1 will be. While one would assume that this lounge will be a Delta Sky Club, a Delta spokesperson would not confirm it.

Physical construction of the new control tower between Terminals 1  and 2 will be complete by the end of this year. Once complete, SFO turns the tower over to the FAA to install their equipment, train employees and test all of it before making it operational in late 2015.

What do you think about all the updates and improvements at SFO? Please leave your comments below. 

— Chris McGinnis

And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month:

United biz class giveaway + New Chicago flight + MileagePlus deadline + Southwest overwater + Rocketmiles

First look inside United’s new terminal at SFO

United’s state of the union

New Year. New credit card?

American & US Airways at T2 + Sonoma airport expands + UberX + Delta/Virgin + EVA expands

United transcon bonus + United 787 domestic + Fewer 747s + Delta vs Alaska

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Anticipating T3E + Google Int’l + New Virgin Visa + More Southwest nonstops

Southwest: Blackfish backlash

United: T3E & UA500 & 49ers-Seahawks Game fares

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  • mark

    Also, I understand that Alaska won’t have a temporary boardroom in the Intl terminal, so they’ll be without flyer’s lounge at SFO for many years.

  • Ron Garrity

    I have to agree with Virgin on this one. I fly mainly on American and I’m a member of the Admirals Club. Even though the SFO club is great, I often don’t even go in because the rest of T2 is so enjoyable.

  • Brian

    But aren’t their taxiways to narrow for larger jets like the 747 to comfortably maneuver? they would also have to make some runway adjustments no?

  • bk

    Lots of capacity available at OAK and with new BART connection later this year hopefully it will get some more flights.

  • Kirk

    Brian, SJC can handles tons more flights, their current gates are only at 50% capacity. And they’ve already designed a whole new South Concourse to add more gates, they’re just waiting for demand to justify building it. No capacity issues here whatsoever.

    Anyways, if SF gets a “bit” more Bay fill, then everyone else will want a bit more too, don’t you think?

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

    Hi Andrew: The Centurion Lounge will be located above the current Premier entrypoint on the western side of T3. Not certain if it’s airside or landside yet but would assume landside so non United flyers can enjoy it. — chris

  • Andrew Dhuey

    Greetings, folks. Anyone know precisely where the new AmEx Centurion Lounge will be located? Somewhere in T3 I understand, but airside/landside? T3E or T3F?

  • Brian

    Bummer….I remember the battle…I didn’t know about the BOS resolution in 2008 not allowing any more filling of the bay….I’m all for environment, but I can’t see how a bit more runway into the bay would really cause much more damage to the environment, it can’t be worse than building a new airport from scratch over vacant land somewhere else…which may have to happen as the area grows….Oakland and San Jose airports can’t expand either…

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

    Thanks, Brian: We frequent flyers would of course love to see another runway built out on the Bay, but after contentious environmental battles in the past, it seem unlikely anyone is willing to push for more. See this: http://www.savesfbay.org/stopping-bay-fill

  • Brian

    These new terminals are gorgeous…but will the runways ever get expanded so that they don’t have to shut one down every time it rains or is foggy? A good airport is one that can handle the traffic…

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

    Virgin America feels that the entire T2 is as nice as any lounge, so they don’t really need one. I kinda agree. Do you? They do have a lounge at LAX where facilities are less upscale (to say the least!)

  • NeutralNovice

    I would take a guess that the Boarding Area C and T2 connector is what prevented USAir from ultimately moving over to T2. What T2 needs now, especially since it’s the hub for VX is their own lounge. Don’t know why they didn’t bother making one when they were building it.

  • NeutralNovice

    From someone who works at the airport—I personally really like it! I think it looks and feels better and more welcoming than T2. T2 is so bright and feels like an Apple Store. Also, T3E, at the very least, is significantly better than what it used to be and somehow even feels larger.

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

    Hey Kirk: I have not heard anything about Air Canada in T3E but will ask around.

  • Kirk

    Originally Air Canada was supposed to use T3E. Do you know if they will be staying permanently in the International Terminal now Chris?

  • UAglobalsvc

    The new United gate (T3E) was a disappointment to me; nice and new, but cluttered, and when I was there, crowded enough that people had to squeeze past each other in the walkway. Reminded me of small, older airport terminals. What happened to roomy?

  • Michael James

    Interesting about USAir not moving over to T2. I guess either they feel they would not have enough gates or VX is requiring a few more gates, even though they are common use.