San Francisco International Airport announces new facilities, new destinations ahead of holiday travel season


The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) announced the start of the holiday travel season, outlining travel tips, new facilities and destinations and an event to illuminate the airport exterior in holiday lighting. The holiday travel season has already begun with more than 171,000 forecasted passengers arriving and departing SFO.  In total, approximately 6.9 million travellers are expected at SFO between November 15, 2019, and January 1, 2020.

“Caring for our guests is at the heart of what we do,” said Airport Director Ivar C Satero. “We’re committed to making the holiday travel season as enjoyable as possible, with exceptional new facilities, exciting new destinations and plenty of holiday cheer.”

Tips for Travellers

Passengers travelling during the holiday season are strongly encouraged to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to departure for domestic flights and three hours prior to departure for international flights.

SFO recommends that travellers review current TSA regulations for carry-on baggage screening and portable electronic devices. All devices larger than a cell phone, such as laptops, tablets and e-readers, should be removed and placed in a separate bin at the security checkpoint.

Passengers who pack liquids or gels as carry-on baggage are limited to three ounces or less. Such items should be packed in a single re-sealable quart-size plastic bag, with one per traveller.

ID requirements at security checkpoints

Beginning October 1, 2020, every traveller must present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of identification to fly within the United States. Travellers will begin seeing new signs at airports nationwide to remind them that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID, such as a valid passport, federal government PIV card or U.S. military ID will be mandatory for air travel beginning October 1, 2020.

Options to save time at security checkpoints

Travellers have several options that can save time during the security checkpoint process. The CLEAR product is available at SFO, offering a membership program that provides expedited access to all security checkpoints.

The TSA offers the PreCheck programme of expedited screening at SFO. This programme can be joined on a membership basis through a PreCheck enrolment centre located in the International Terminal near the BART station.

Save time during immigration

Travellers have a variety of options to save time on arriving international flights. U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers Global Entry, a programme offering expedited clearance for pre-approved low-risk travellers upon arrival into the United States. Approved Global Entry participants are also eligible to participate in TSA PreCheck. SFO features a Global Entry enrolment office located on the arrivals level of the International Terminal.

SFO offers Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks to expedite the customs entry process for international arriving passengers. The kiosks allow eligible international travellers to submit their customs declaration form and biographic information electronically, thereby reducing the time they spend with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. Individuals can complete the process in approximately 90 seconds.

SFO is also featured on Mobile Passport Control (MPC), the first authorised mobile app to expedite a traveller’s arrival into the United States, allowing eligible travellers to bypass a traditional queue by submitting their passport information and customs declaration form to CBP via smartphone and/or tablet prior to arrival to SFO. Each authorisation is valid for four hours. The app is available to download from the Apple Store and Google Play.

SFO also recommends travellers to check the expiration date of their passports prior to travel to ensure the document is valid throughout the period of travel. Some countries require your passport to be valid for a certain length of time beyond your return date.

What’s New at SFO for 2019 holiday season

First phase of Harvey Milk Terminal 1 is open

The first nine-gate section of the new Harvey Milk Terminal 1 is open, with nine gates operated by Southwest Airlines and JetBlue. The first section of this new facility features nine concession concepts, seven installations of public art and an SFO Museum exhibit – Harvey Milk: Messenger of Hope, which features nearly 100 images, including photos, correspondence and campaign materials, giving travellers a glimpse into Milk’s life, including his activism and ascendance as a political leader in San Francisco, as well as his tragic assassination and a legacy fighting for diversity, equity and inclusion that lives on today.

New on-airport hotel is open, linked seamlessly via AirTrain

The Grand Hyatt at SFO, the only hotel located on airport grounds, is open, featuring 351 rooms with 22 suites, 14,435 sq ft of well-appointed meeting and event space, two distinct culinary concepts, and impressive art. The hotel is connected seamlessly via the AirTrain light rail system to all terminals, parking garages, rental car centre and BART station.

New gate numbering makes finding your way easier than ever

In October 2019, SFO launched a new airport-wide gate numbering system to make navigating easier than ever. The new system is alphanumeric, in which gates will be assigned both a letter and a number. The letter corresponds to the concourse, which SFO calls Boarding Areas, while the number refers to the specific gate within that Boarding Area.

New destinations for holiday 2019

For the 2019 holiday travel season, SFO offers new international destinations, including Norwegian Air service to Barcelona and Paris, new United Airlines nonstop service to Melbourne, Australia, and a second-daily United flight to Hong Kong. On December 5, United also launched a new daily nonstop service from SFO to New Delhi.

Holiday lighting event

The illumination of exterior lighting at SFO has been a holiday tradition for over a dozen years and features one of the largest public displays of lights in the entire Bay Area. A ceremony, open to media and the public, was held on December 4 to turn on the holiday lighting. The event was held on the connecting bridge between Garages “A” and “G”. Pedestrian access is available from Level 3 of Garage “G”.

The ‘Wag Brigade’ stress-relief animals

Launched in December 2013, the SFO ‘Wag Brigade’ brings trained animals to the terminals to make passenger travel more enjoyable. The San Francisco chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) certifies all participating animals through their Animal Assisted Therapy (ATT) Programme. Carefully selected for their temperament and airport suitability, the animals will wear vests that read ‘Pet Me!’.

Getting to SFO Quickly and Conveniently

Transit and shared rides

With holiday passenger volumes, SFO recommends that travellers take transit or share rides to the airport. BART provides direct service from San Francisco and the East Bay and there are several shuttle services to SFO. If travellers elect to drive, they should allow extra time for parking or have someone drop them off.  Travellers are encouraged to check with their airline to confirm their flight.

Parking availability will be tight this holiday

In anticipation of peak holiday parking demand, SFO strongly advises travellers to take an alternate mode of transportation to and from the airport. All parking facilities are expected to be at or near capacity during peak holiday periods, so please plan accordingly. Long term parking is offered at a daily rate of $18. The daily maximum parking rate for terminal parking at the International Garages and the Domestic Garage is $36 per day. Use FasTrak-designated lanes to quickly enter and exit parking garages at SFO.

Use SFO’s Kiss-and-Fly and Cell Phone Waiting Lot to avoid traffic around the terminals

During periods of peak traffic, SFO encourages people to drop off friends and family at the Kiss-and-Fly curb at the rental car facility, where they can catch the AirTrain and be at the airport in minutes.  SFO also offers a free cell-phone waiting lot, located adjacent to the Long Term Parking Campus just five minutes north of the terminals. Avoid curbside traffic by using short-term parking. Any vehicles which enter and exit the International and Domestic Garages within 30 minutes will not be charged. Vehicles parked in the garages for longer than 30 minutes will be charged for the full duration of their stay.

Mobile car-washing service available in airport parking lots

Parking lots at SFO feature an innovative mobile car-washing service, which allows customers to park in any of the airport’s parking lots, keep their keys, and return to a freshly-cleaned vehicle. Washing is available from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, seven days a week. All reservations must be made at least one day in advance. Prices start at $35 for a standard passenger vehicle.