A guide to San Francisco Airport (SFO)

When you’re flying through San Francisco Airport (SFO), knowing where to find an airport lounge, a place to eat, or the best shopping options can help to make your stay enjoyable.

San Francisco Airport. Image credit: JasonDoiy/iStock
San Francisco Airport. Image credit: JasonDoiy/iStock

As the second-largest airport in California and the seventh-largest in the U.S., SFO Airport services about 58 million passengers each year. Take a look at this helpful airport guide to get you started.

Airlines flying through San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport hosts three domestic terminals (Terminals 1, 2, and 3), plus a terminal for international flights into San Francisco, which opened in 2000. Thirteen domestic airlines and 39 international airlines fly out of the airport to a total of 128 cities. Look for your airline on this list to determine which terminal you need to go to.

Terminal 1

  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines

Terminal 2

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines

Terminal 3

  • United Airlines (domestic flights only)

International Terminal

  • Aer Lingus
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Air India
  • Air Italy
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • El Al Israel Airlines
  • Emirates
  • EVA Air
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • French Bee
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Iberia
  • Icelandair
  • Interjet
  • Japan Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • XL Airways France
  • Level
  • Lufthansa
  • Norwegian
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Qantas
  • SAS
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines (international flights only)
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • WestJet

San Francisco airport lounges – relax before you fly

Each terminal at SFO features lounges for premium passengers to give you the opportunity to relax, have a drink and a bite to eat, and take a shower. Take a look at your lounge options.

Terminal 1

Delta Sky Club

This newer lounge features stunning design work, plush seating, great views, and lots of outlets. The business center offers both individual cubicles and communal tables for working, and the cold buffet serves up a range of dishes. Delta premium passengers and American Express Platinum cardholders can access this lounge.

Enjoy a meal at the cold buffet. Image credit: ShotShare/iStock
Enjoy a meal at the cold buffet. Image credit: ShotShare/iStock

Terminal 2

American Airlines Admirals Club

Premium passengers on American Airlines or oneworld airline partners’ flights have access to this lounge, as do oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members and Admirals Club members holding tickets on those airlines. A business center offers computers with internet access and free Wi-Fi, and conference rooms are available by reservation. Showers are also available, as is food for purchase.

Terminal 3

American Express Centurion Lounge

This lounge is open only to American Express Platinum cardholders and Centurion members with same-day tickets, plus their guests. Shower suites allow a moment of refreshment, while a wine-tasting area features Napa Valley wines. The table-service dining features a menu from a James Beard Award-winning chef, with a noted mixologist behind the craft cocktails at the bar. Workspaces are also available for those who need to work.

United Club lounges

Three United Club lounges in Terminal 3 (near Gates 60, 71A, and 80) welcome United Club members with same-day boarding passes, as well as other Star Alliance passengers. Each lounge features a full bar, complimentary snacks and drinks, and a small business center, as well as comfortable seating.

International Terminal

If you’re prepping for international flights at San Francisco, find some serenity in these lounges.

Air France – KLM Lounge

Not flying Air France? You can also get access to this lounge if you’re a first-class or business-class passenger on a plane that’s a member of the SkyTeam Alliance (AeroMexico, Air France, KLM, Korean Air, Qantas, Finnair, Hong Kong Airlines, and Air Italy). A cold buffet, free Wi-Fi, and a wide array of newspapers are all available at this lounge, which closes for a couple of hours every mid-afternoon.

British Airways Terraces lounge

This lounge is actually closed for renovation but should reopen again by fall 2019. In the meantime, British Airways premium passengers have access to the China Airlines lounge.

Cathay Pacific first and business-class lounge

Spacious workstations and shower suites allow you to stay productive and refreshed while traveling, while an ample buffet and noodle bar keep you fed. This lounge is also open to oneworld alliance members, including those flying in premium classes on Korean Air.

China Airlines Lounge

In addition to taking care of British Airways passengers while the airline’s lounge is renovated, this lounge welcomes premium passengers from China Eastern, Iberia, Icelandair, and Norwegian. There is a large bar and a noodle bar, TVs, free Wi-Fi, and newspapers to help you fill your waiting time.

The Emirates Lounge

This lounge is small but ample enough to serve the first-class and business-class passengers on Emirates’ sole flight out of SFO each day. A separate dining room serves hot and cold food, and the relaxation section of the lounge also has a self-service bar and snacks. Shower suites let you freshen up before your flight, and a small business center helps you stay productive.

Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge

This lounge admits all Japan Airlines ticket-holders, plus most JMB members. It’s a smaller lounge since JAL only has one flight per day departing from San Francisco. A hot and cold buffet includes pre-packaged grab-and-go options including fish-free sushi, and a separate room is available for first-class passengers.

Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Lounge

Premium passengers on Philippine Airlines or elite members of the airline’s frequent flyer program can enjoy snacks and hard drinks at this lounge, where staff work hard to make flyers comfortable. A small business center offers computers and printers.

United Airlines lounges

United Club members and their guests with same-day boarding passes have access to one arrivals lounge and one departures lounge in the International Terminal. Other same-day passengers may also be able to purchase day passes. Complimentary bar service, private phone booths, and a small business center are available at each of the lounges, and staff are on hand to help with local dining options and flight reservations.

The United Polaris lounge welcomes those flying first-class or business-class on United, as well as those flying first-class or business-class on long-haul international flights flown by Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, EVA AIR, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, Avianca, ANA, Asiana, Turkish Airlines, Copa Airlines, Air India, or Tap Air Portugal.

This large, two-story lounge features shower suites and nap rooms for those waiting to make a connection. Even when the lounge gets crowded, you can still enjoy a sense of privacy thanks to the mini-cubicles, which include desk space. The dining area features an à la carte restaurant as well as a hot and cold buffet, with a wide variety of options, and barista-made cappuccinos at the bar.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Virgin Upper Class (i.e., business-class) passengers are welcomed to this sleek, high-end lounge, as are premium passengers on EVA Air, China Southern, and El Al. You can get waiter service anywhere in the lounge, and order from an appealing menu. Showers are available, the service is friendly, and the lounge also features a couple of computers if you need to get online.

Hotels near San Francisco Airport — when you want more than a lounge

Because San Francisco International Airport is located significantly south of the city, you may want to book a hotel near the airport if your flight is coming in at a late hour. Check out these fine hotels within easy reach of the airport.

Check into a nearby hotel to get some sleep before the next leg of your journey. Image credit: andresr/iStock
Check into a nearby hotel to get some sleep before the next leg of your journey. Image credit: andresr/iStock

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport

Only five minutes from the airport, the Hyatt Regency features coffee makers and refrigerators in every room, so you can get your day started in peace. Multiple restaurants are available for business meetings or healthy meal options, and a business center lets you get any work you need in hard copy printed. The outdoor pool and fitness center gives you a chance to work out any tight muscles from your flight.

The Westin San Francisco Airport

Only 1 mile from SFO, with a BART rail station at hand, The Westin in Millbrae has double-paned windows to protect you from the sound of airplanes taking off. Room service is available 24/7, or stop at the family-friendly hotel restaurant, Grill & Vine. Both the fitness center and business center are also open around the clock, so you can keep going even if your brain’s in a different time zone.

San Francisco Airport shopping – souvenirs and more

With a wide variety of shops in all four airport terminals, SFO makes it easy to pick up a new outfit, grab necessities for your flight, or take home something special to your family.

Terminal 1

Terminal 1 only hosts a handful of shops, but you can pick up gifts and souvenirs at City by the Bay. Choose some reading material for the flight and grab the sundries you need at Hudson, or take home some California foods and candies ready for gifting at Simply Gourmet.

Terminal 2

If you’re a reader, Terminal 2 is the place to be, with reading material for your flight available at Compass Books, SFO News Express, and Sunset News. Two Zoom Travel Store kiosks let you buy travel products and convenience items. Fill out your toiletries kit with hair and skin products from Kiehl’s, or pamper yourself with a quick visit to Xpres Spa.

Terminal 3

When you need to grab last-minute gifts from your trip to California, stop in at Chalo, District Market, Greetings From San Francisco, or California Lifestyle. The CNBC SmartShop, Hudson News, San Francisco Magazine News, and Compass Books supply you with reading material, while three InMotion Entertainment stores have all the gadgets and electronics you need. Gourmet foods and chocolates are available at Marilla and See’s Candies, and you can upgrade your luggage at Tumi.

International Terminal

You’ll find some great duty-free choices in the International Terminal, including fine apparel at Burberry, Hermès, Swarovski, Coach, and Gucci — and, of course, a wide range of duty-free liquor, fragrances, tobacco, and cosmetics at the Dufry Duty-Free Shops. Convenience items are available at Ingenuity and New Stand, and unique gifts await you at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Museum Store.

San Francisco Airport restaurants – sit down to eat, or grab and go

When you’re looking for things to do at San Francisco Airport, dining should be high on your list. While you’ll find your most intriguing dining options in the International Terminal, San Francisco airport food tends to rely on locally sourced ingredients, providing tasty meal and snack choices in every terminal.

Terminal 1

From excellent coffee to comfort foods galore, the restaurants in Terminal 1 will keep you happy (especially if you’re a baked goods lover):

  • Dogpatch Bakery & Caffè: That espresso gets your day started right, and the sandwiches and baked goods are on point as well.
  • Green Beans Coffee: More top-notch coffee for your caffeine fix, and yes, baked goods, sandwiches, and bagels.
  • Willow Creek Grill: This quick-serve spot has everything from burgers and pizza to pasta and breakfast.
  • Max Eatz and Fresh Bakery: The baked goods go without saying. The “eatz” include barbecue and other entrées.
  • Three Twins Ice Cream: Waffles and crepes go beautifully with the organic ice cream at this spot.
  • Farmerbrown: This sit-down restaurant serves Southern comfort food including fried chicken and waffles.

Terminal 2

Locally sourced ingredients pairs with grab-and-go at SFO restaurants throughout Terminal 2:

  • Lark Creek Grill: Seafood, steak, and a full bar await you at this sit-down restaurant.
  • Sweet Maple: Expect to be happy when you order anything that includes this table-service restaurants signature Millionaire Bacon.
  • Burger Joint: This spot may sound ultra-casual, but that’s Niman Ranch beef they’re using in their burgers.
  • Cat Cora: Need a drink? This full cocktail bar is happy to comply — and they serve small plates as well.
  • Napa Farms Market: Make this your grab-and-go destination, with a gourmet deli and plenty of pre-packaged choices.
  • Vino Volo: A wine-tasting bar at an airport? Yes, please.

Terminal 3

Lots of varied choices among these San Francisco airport restaurants help you while away your pre-boarding time in this terminal:

  • Fraîche: Both frozen yogurt and traditional yogurt provide a fresh pick-me-up here.
  • Ladle & Leaf Restaurant: Seasonal, locally sourced ingredients fuel the inspiration on this spot’s menu of salads, soups, and sandwiches.
  • Limon Rotisserie: Savory rotisserie chicken for those times when only Peruvian food will do.
  • Mission Bar & Grill: A full bar and table service elevate your sandwiches and salads here.
  • San Francisco Giants Club House: If you’re craving the menu served at AT&T Park, including Crazy Crab sandwiches, it’s all here at this sports bar.
  • Urban Tortilla: Quick-serve Mexican food made with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Klein’s Deli and Coffee Bar: Terminal 3 hosts two of these quick-serve places, ideal when you need an espresso and a made-to-order sandwich.
  • Amoura Cafe: Flatbreads are among the Mediterranean offerings you’ll find at this quick-serve stop.

International Terminal

Some of the best airport dining in the world awaits you when you’re getting ready for your long-haul international flight:

  • 1300 on Fillmore: This soul food-inspired restaurant, an outpost of the well-known bistro in San Francisco’s Fillmore Jazz District, has won raves as one of the top airport restaurants in the world for its Southern comfort food.
  • 24th & Mission Taco House: When only a made-to-order taco will satisfy your cravings.
  • Boudin Bakery: The famous sourdough bread bakery extends its repertoire to include sourdough pizza as well as sandwiches and sweet treats.
  • Joe & the Juice: Fresh-pressed juices and smoothies add a healthy burst of energy to your layover.
  • The Manufactory Food Hall: Thai food, Mexican food, and baked goods all in the same place.
  • Pick Up Stix: Fast Asian fusion choices.
  • Gott’s Roadside: Local craft beers pair with fresh local seafood and salads — plus mini hot dogs for the kids.
  • Mustard’s Bar & Grill: This table-service restaurant serves American classics with an international twist, taking its inspiration from the cuisines of Africa, Asia, and Europe.
  • Potrero Grill: American comfort food with an emphasis on burgers, pizza, and sandwiches.
  • Samovar Tea: An ideal stop if you prefer tea to coffee, with artisanal toasts so you can enjoy San Francisco’s latest dining trend.
  • Tomakazu: A sushi bar that also serves noodles and rice bowls.

Because San Francisco Airport is so far south of the city itself, your journey isn’t over when your plane lands. Make your final connection smooth as silk when you book a professional Blacklane airport transfer for San Francisco Airport (SFO) to get you into the city in comfort and style.