San Francisco Airport opens new SFO T2 terminal

By John Walton, April 7 2011
San Francisco Airport opens new SFO T2 terminal

After a US$383 million dollar renovation, SFO's Terminal 2 has reopened to pomp, fanfare and spaceships.

Yes, spaceships: SFO is the home base for Virgin America, and sister company Virgin Galactic flew its revolutionary SpaceShipTwo spacecraft alongside a special Virgin America flight and then landed it at the airport. 

But back to T2: the newly renovated terminal's a stunner.

It's split half between Virgin America and American Airlines, so if you're connecting from LAX on VA from a V Australia flight on AA from Qantas, you'll end up here. (Your better options to get to SF from our side of the world: connecting through Auckland on Air New Zealand, or flying direct on United, like we did a couple of weeks ago.)

The first full flights through the terminal will take place next week, on Thursday 14 April, improving business travellers' journeys to SF.

Business travellers already rejoice in free wifi across the airport -- hurrah for the Bay Area being the home of Silicon Valley. But Terminal 2 will also be a more pleasant, relaxing and productive place to wait for a flight with separate play areas for children. 

And it wouldn't be San Francisco unless the "dining and shopping marketplace" was a "retail street featuring the best of the Bay Area's retailers and restaurants focusing on locally-sourced, organic offerings", with "wholesome food grown and prepared in a healthful manner". You can practically hear the quinoa from here.

The arty side of SF is showing too: permanent artworks commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission include Norie Sato's Air Over Under; Kendall Buster's Topography; and Janet Echelman's Every Beating Second (below).

SFO is also one of the few airports in the country that have opted out of the US TSA security programme. The airport uses a private company instead. That doesn't mean the security is any less stringent, but it does mean you're more likely to encounter pleasant security staff. 

And after you and your belongings have been thoroughly rifled through by security, there's a welcome spot to put yourself and your luggage back together. 

Called "Recompose", and shown below, it provides some space (plus chairs and tables) for you to rethread your belt, put your shoes back on, put your laptop back in your bag and generally get your act together before proceeding through the terminal.

Once you've been stripped of all your liquids by security, you can refill a water bottle at the cleverly-designed Hydration Station water fountains too. The terminal is connected to the BART metro rail service by the SFO Airtrain people-mover, making the trip into the centre of town a breeze.

And for a blast from the past: here's how the T2 lobby used to look back in 1954.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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