San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (IATA: SFO) is the main international airport of the San Francisco Bay Area in California, the United States.


San Francisco International Airport, or commonly called just by its IATA identifier, SFO, is located between San Francisco and San Jose, roughly 15 miles south of downtown San Francisco, and 35 miles northwest of San Jose, at the western side of San Francisco Bay. Within California, its passenger traffic is second only to Los Angeles. SFO is the 7th-busiest airport in the USA and 22nd-busiest in the world, with nearly 45 million people arriving and departing from the airport annually. The airport was built in 1927, and adopted what is now the centralized terminal design 30 years later.

San Francisco is a major hub for both domestic and international flights to the United States, and both United Airlines and Virgin America use San Francisco as a primary hub.


Taking off from SFO

The airport adopts the centralized terminal concept, with 4 terminals (3 domestic, 1 international) with 7 concourses in a circle surrounding parking and transportation facilities.

Arrival procedures

At the entrance to the International Terminal

International Arrivals: All passengers arriving on international flights (except origins with US preclearance) will be processed through immigration. Passengers will then collect their baggage and pass customs. Those with onward flights, both international and domestic, will proceed to check-in and security. There is no international transit zone. Travellers terminating in San Francisco should follow signs for their desired ground transportation.

Domestic Arrivals: Passengers arriving on domestic flights will arrive on the departure level inside security. Those in transit will not need to clear security again unless their next departure leaves from a different terminal that does not have a walkway between them. Travellers terminating in San Francisco exit and may proceed downstairs to baggage claim or ground transportation. The AirTrain and BART is available upstairs.

Departure procedures

Passengers must check in with their airline at their respective terminal. Note that once you pass the security checkpoint, you cannot go to other concourses (with the exception of Terminal 3 and International Terminal G where a walkway inside security connects them to facilitate Star Alliance connections). Your choice of food, drinks, and shopping is limited to what is available at the concourse your flight departs from.

International travellers will not pass exit controls, however, airline staff will verify passport and applicable destination visa validity.

Ground transportation

Map of the airport

By train

If you are staying in San Francisco or the East Bay, your most convenient option will likely be BART. The platform is at Parking Garage G. You can get there from any of the terminals using the AirTrain.

If you are going south to San Jose, you can take the Caltrain commuter rail line, but you first need to take the BART to Millbrae, where you can transfer to Caltrain. You can take BART directly to Millbrae from the airport after 8PM on weekdays, and all day on weekends. During other times, you need to take BART to San Bruno, then backtrack on another BART line to Millbrae.

There are no means of direct public transportation from the airport to Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Ferry and bus services are available from San Francisco.

By bus

SamTrans provides bus service throughout San Mateo County and limited service to and from San Francisco. Bus stops are located at the International Terminal, Terminal 2, and Terminal 3. Routes KX, 292, 397 and 398 stop directly at the Airport terminals. Routes 140, 292 and 397 stop at the Rental Car Center.

SamTrans bus tokens (valid for local fares) are available for purchase at a discount in bags of ten at several Airport Information Kiosks:

The Marin Airporter offers service every half hour to and from Marin County, operating from 5 AM to midnight.

By car

Get around

Pre-security all terminals are reachable on foot. The Rental Car Center however is not, and requires the AirTrain.

The AirTrain rail system can get you around the airport. The AirTrain runs 24 hours a day and is free.

If you're parking at the Long-term Parking Lot, you need to use a shuttle to get to the terminals. The shuttle picks up from the departure level of each terminal, runs 24 hours a day (every 5 minutes from 4AM to 12AM, 15 minutes all other times), and is free.

TSA security checkpoints are at the entrance of each concourse. Except between Terminal 3 and International Terminal G, there is no means of transportation between terminals and some concourses within the same terminal while inside security.


DC-3 model hanging in Aviation Museum

SFO has a wide variety of activities, installations and public art in the airport.

Eat and Drink

There are 2 food courts right before security adjacent to concourses A & G at the International Terminal. Do not expect the food to be cheap compared to off-airport establishments, though. But the food is better than what you can find in many other airports, as it features a lot of choices for a main course menu. In the north food court, choices include:

In the other terminals:


There are very few shops at Terminal 1, plenty in other terminals.


There are work stations at concourses in the International Terminal that you can use to work with your laptop or to charge your device. On the domestic terminals, there are spotty numbers of power sockets throughout the walls. There is also a machine that can charge your device twice as fast for a fee, with the exception of the International terminals.



Presently no hotel is located on-airport or directly adjacent, but the surrounding communities have plenty of accommodations. San Bruno directly to the west, Millbrae and Burlingame to the south along US 101, or South San Francisco and Brisbane to the north along US 101 have plenty of chain hotels to choose from. Most of these hotels run shuttles to the airport, which stop at the designated area on the Departures level in front of each terminal.

A 350 room on-airport Grand Hyatt was agreed on to be built in January 2016. It is expected to open mid-2019.


Passengers interested in exploring the communities in San Mateo County that serve SFO should read more about:

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 07, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.