Last week TravelSkills snagged an exclusive hard hat tour of the new Boarding Area E at United’s Terminal 3 at San Francisco International Airport.
As you can tell from my slideshow photos, there’s still quite a lot to do before the new $138 million, 65,000 sq ft space opens in late January.
Here’s what you need to know:
>First, for a little background: United’s Terminal 3 consists of boarding areas E and F. Boarding Area F is currently in use. Boarding Area E housed American Airline’s operations until it moved into Terminal 2 in 2011. After closing, Boarding Area E was stripped to the studs and then rebuilt slightly larger (one gate added, for a total of 10).
>The new Boarding Area E will open on Tuesday, January 28th say airport officials and the design-build team of Hensel Phelps and Gensler.
>If you are a fan of SFO’s popular new Terminal 2 (housing Virgin America and American), you’ll likely enjoy the new Boarding Area E.
>Like T2, the space will be bathed in natural light, plenty of art, local concessions and modern, functional furnishings. Unlike T2, the color palette will be warm, with plenty of earth tones like tan, gold, brown, yellow and olive green. Other familiar sights will be water bottle filling stations and a yoga room.
>Bathrooms are large, and like much of the terminal, sheathed in local Heath subway tiles, which are handmade in Marin County. Bathrooms have windows out to the ramp, and also include dressing rooms where passengers can change clothes.
>Three of SFO’s most valuable works of art (by Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Bechtle and Robert Torlakson) will be displayed prominently along the main corridor of the boarding area.
>Similar to T2, the new space will be saturated in public wi-fi nodes ensuring fast, free connections, plus there will be plenty of tabletop workspace and electrical outlets galore.
>Unlike the windows in Terminal 2 which are covered in tiny spots (called “frit”) to block heat and glare from the sun, most windows in this space only have it near the top… which makes for much better runway views. Airplane and airport nerds will geek out over the huge 25-foot-wide picture window at the north end of the concourse, which will offer some of the best views of taxiing aircraft anywhere at the SFO.
>Some familiar brands will be back as concessions: Mission Bar & Grill, Klein’s Deli, Dogpatch Café. There’s a special space set aside for small businesses (without the means to sign long term leases) to show their wares. For the first year, these “pop up” spaces will be occupied by a Berkeley art dealer and a purveyor of wine country olive oil.
>Terminal 3 East, the concourse used to access Boarding Area E (between the street and the terminal) is also going through a total revamp. However, this phase of the project will not be totally complete until summer 2015, which means passengers departing and arriving in the new board area will be walking through a construction zone for the next year or so. An airport spokesman told TravelSkills: “During the concourse renovation, passengers will be able to easily connect between Boarding Areas E and F through a temporary passageway, featuring contemporary finishes and varied seating options to enhance the passenger journey.”
>When Boarding Area E opens on January 28th, departing passengers will continue to use the current ticketing counters and security entry points. From there, they’ll have to take quite a long walk (500-900 feet depending on which checkpoint you use) to the entry of Boarding Area E. Eventually (no exact dates yet), passengers will be able to enter Terminal 3 from a new eight-lane security checkpoint near boarding Area E.
>United’s flights that currently operate out of Terminal 1 will move to Terminal 3 between February and May. (Currently, passengers checking in at Terminal 3, but with flights departing United Terminal 1, must take shuttle buses under the airport to get to their flights.) Boarding area E will be used for United’s mainline flights—United Express flights will use Boarding Area F.
>A new United Club will open (estimated summer 2015) in the newly expanded concourse area that connects Boarding Area E with the rest of Terminal 3. (See diagram above.) However, construction has not begun, so it’s going to be a while. In the meantime, United Club members will be able to use a temporary United Club located on the mezzanine level between the current main security checkpoint and Boarding Area E. (This vacant space was a previous Red Carpet Club if anyone can remember back that far…United says that renovation of the space should begin soon, and should open by May 2014.)
>Around October 2014, United’s Premier security checkpoint will move from the far western end of the terminal to the center of it… adjacent to the current main security checkpoint, which means shorter walks to flights departing Boarding Area E.
And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month: