Approximately 13 miles from downtown San Francisco and between the cities of San Bruno and Millbrae, San Francisco International Airport is a major U.S. airport and a hub for major airlines including Alaska and United. In 2018, this world-class complex of four runways, various hangars, and a ring of restaurant- and shop-filled terminals served 57.5 million passengers (making it the 7th busiest airport in the U.S. and 25th busiest in the world according to Airports Council International ). SFO is home to four terminals all together—three domestic and one international, and boarding areas arranged according to airlines in letters “A” through “G.” All terminals are accessible by foot or by AirTrain. The airport also features impressive art displays, several yoga rooms, places for kids to play, and a “Wag Brigade” of dogs that greet passengers.
San Francisco Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
- Airport Code: SFO
- Website: https://www.flysfo.com/
- Flight Tracker: https://www.flysfo.com/flight-info/flight-tracker
- Flight Status: https://www.flysfo.com/flight-info/flight-status
- SFO Interactive Map; https://www.flysfo.com/maps
- Airport Phone Number: 650-821-8211
- Passenger Services (including information booths, ATMs, etc): https://www.flysfo.com/services-amenities/passenger-services
Know Before You Go
SFO is laid out in a ring, or loop, of terminals (1-3, and the International Terminal) that take about 25-minutes to a half-hour to walk from one end to the other. Generally speaking, the airport is made of the upper Departures level—home to ticketing counters and kiosks and airport security stations—and the lower Arrival area, where you find the baggage carousels. A complementary AirTrain system makes it easy to travel between terminals. The AirTrain is also easily accessible via Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which connects the cities of San Francisco and Oakland (as well as many East Bay points) to the airport.
The Terminals of San Francisco International Airport
- Terminal 1 (T1), or the Harvey Milk Terminal, named after the beloved San Francisco politician and California's first-ever openly gay official, is where you'll find flights by Delta Air Lines, as well as Southwest, JetBlue, and most recently American Airlines (and its Admirals Club lounge). The space is currently home to several permanent art installations, including two mosaic murals, as well as "Harvey Milk: Messenger of Hope," a fascinating wall exhibit that will be on display at least through July 2021.
- Terminal 2 (T2), which is notably the country's first airport terminal to bring in food vendors sourcing local and healthy cuisine, rather than your standard airport eateries. It's home to “D” gates and the bulk of Alaska Airlines flights (some of which also take off from the International Terminal).
- Terminal 3 (T3) is the hub for United Airlines and United Express flights, as well as all “E” and “F” gates.
- International Terminal: This enormous space is actually North America's largest international terminal, with all “A” and “G” gates and direct access to BART. It's also where you'll find the SFO Medical Clinic.
San Francisco International Airport Parking
San Francisco International airport offers several parking options including short term ($2/per 15 minutes), hourly parking (which is available in the airport's domestic garage), and long-term parking ($18/day) situated in a newly enlarged six-story garage and with frequent shuttles to all terminals. There's also a “Cell Phone Waiting Lot” at North McDonnell Rd. and San Bruno Ave., adjacent to the long-term parking facility. You'll also find several off-site parking facilities that average around $10/day, with shuttle service to the airport. Still, depending on your length of trip, it may be easier and more financially feasible to take a car or public transit.
For those driving to the airport, U.S. Highway 101 is a straight route to the airport from either downtown San Francisco or the East Bay (after driving over the Oakland Bay Bridge). People driving though San Francisco (as well as Marin County) can also use Park Presidio to 19th Avenue, connecting with Interstate 280 south. In normal traffic, the drive from San Francisco to the airport takes about 20-25 minutes.
Public Transportation and Taxis
Public transit to SFO runs the gamut from shared-ride services (like taxis, Uber, and Lyft) to BART trains, SamTrans buses, Caltrain from the South Bay (connects to the airport via BART's Millbrae station), and the Marin Airporter shuttle service from the North Bay. There are also shared van services and complimentary airport shuttles, depending on the hotel at which you're staying.
Taxis can be found at designated areas outside the Arrivals/Baggage Claim level of each terminal. For shared-ride vans, head to the center island outside and across from the Departure level of all terminals. Depending on which level of rideshare service you select (for example, UberPool via Uber Comfort) domestic pickups will take place either on Level 5 of the domestic garage, or outside your specific terminal. All International Terminal pickups take place on the Departures level, outside the terminal. The app and signs will guide you to where you need to go.
Where to Eat and Drink
SFO is known for its incredible array of dining options and there are plenty of eateries to choose from—whether you're looking for something grab-and-go or a leisurely sit-down option. In fact, you'll find branches of some of San Francisco's most notable local eateries at San Francisco Inernational Airport. Here are some favorites:
- Napa Farms Market: An artisan marketplace with seasonally changing to-go options like Muffaletta sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, and gourmet pizzas. There's even an assortment of sodas, wines, and beers to choose from. With two locations: one in T2 and the other in the International Terminal.
- SF Giants Clubhouse: A ballpark-inspired space paying homage to SF's major league champions, with ample beer, live baseball coverage, and game-time meals like Dungeness crab cake sliders, classic all-beef hot dogs, and sides of shoestring fries. Located in Terminal 3.
- Bun Mee: Get quick and convenient banh mi sandwiches made with tofu, crispy chicken, and pork belly, along with noodle and rice bowls and salads. This Bay Area chain has locations in both Harvey Milk Terminal 1 and the food court in Terminal 3.
- Manufactory Food Hall: Expect baked goods from San Francisco's legendary Tartine Bakery, delicious Thai cuisine from the chef behind Kin Khao in SF's Union Square, and delightful fast-casual Mexican fare at this fairly new 3,200-square-foot food hall in the International Terminal. There's also a full coffee bar and plenty of cocktails to choose from.
- Mustards Bar & Grill: A Napa Valley classic transformed into an airport bistro and offering the perfect option for a leisurely meal (think grilled hanger steak and Mongolian pork chops). Situated inside the International Terminal.
- Super Duper Burgers: Mouthwatering burgers, fries, and milkshakes, along with top-notch breakfast sandwiches await here. Located in the food court at Terminal 3.
- Farmerbrown: Get Southern comfort food like fried chicken, cornbread, and gumbo for dine-in or take-out, with a full bar to accompany. You'll find it in Terminal 1.
- International Terminal Marketplace: This pre-security International Terminal food-court features the Chinese cuisine of Koi Palace, burgers and pizza at Potrero Grill, and ample coffee and pastries at spots like Marina's Cafe and Roasting Plant Coffee.
Where to Shop
SFO is home to a wide variety of shops, including newsstands, bookstores, and retail outfitters, as well as stores that specialize in San Francisco goods. Popular stops include:
- Kiehl's: A Manhattan-born company specializing in naturally-inspired skin, body, and hair care products since 1851. Terminal 2.
- San Francisco Bay Traders: Cable Car ornaments, Ghirardelli chocolates, souvenir tees, and more; this is the perfect place to pick up that last-minute SF-themed gift. International Terminal.
- InMotion Entertainment: An electronics retailer stocking everything from noise-canceling headphones to fitness trackers. With locations in terminals 1, 3, and the International Terminal.
- SF Moma Museum Store: A pre-security, design-savvy shop from San Francisco's own SF MOMA museum where you'll find unique gifts like handmade jewelry, collapsible coffee filters, and art-making books for kids.
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
SFO provides Wi-Fi free-of-charge throughout its facilities on the network #SFO FREE WIFI. You'll find both traditional outlets and USB ports for charging your electronics throughout the terminals and in various spots, including between some seats and in dedicated work stations.
How to Spend Your Layover
- Peruse the public art displays and enriching exhibits of the SFO Museum, located in public spaces throughout the airport, or—if you're in the International Terminal—pay a visit to the Aviation Museum and Library.
- Take in spectacular airfield views from Terminal 3's outdoor SkyTerrace.
- Indulge in spa services like massages and pedicures at Terminal 2's XpresSpa.
- Find one of the airport's many kids' play areas and let your little ones roam free.
- Relax and unwind in Terminal 2's complimentary Yoga Room.
- Buy a one-day pass to an airport lounge.
- Shower and/or nap at Freshen Up!, a worthy splurge looking pre-security in the International Terminal's main hall.
San Francisco International Airport Tips and Tidbits
- AirTrain is just an escalator ride above the BART terminal and provides access to all four airport terminals, though you can wait directly from BART to the International terminal upon arrival.
- There are two AirTrain lines: the Red-line, which provides access to both the terminals and the airport garage, and the Blue-line, which also serves the airport's car rental facilities.
- There are information booths and ATMs before and after security in all terminals, and you'll find water bottle refill stations throughout the airport terminals.
- When transferring between domestic and international flights (or vice-versa), passengers must once again make their way through airport security. One exception to this is passengers transferring from T3 who've previously checked in for their connecting international flight.
- Security lines can be lengthy, so on average—plan on arriving 2-3 hours before your flight is scheduled for take-off.
- Adhere to your airline's baggage time-line check-in requirements (typically 30 minutes to an hour prior to your scheduled flight time). They're serious about them, and you may miss your flight if you don't plan accordingly.