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Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Xplainer: San Francisco International Airport

A guide to flying from SFO

If you’ll be flying during the summer, chances are you’ll be at San Francisco International Airport, which is also called SFO. This airport is the closest to campus and the largest in the Bay Area, with 120 gates (more than Oakland and San Jose’s public airports combined) and flights to over 130 destinations with 54 airlines.

Why is it called SFO?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) creates the three-letter designations for baggage tags so luggage heads to the correct airport. SFO is the IATA designation for San Francisco International Airport.

How can students get there by public transit from SFSU?

Head to Daly City BART station on an SFSU shuttle or 28 or 28R Muni bus. From there, take a red or yellow line BART train all the way to San Francisco International Airport station.

During the fall and spring semesters, with your OneCard, the BART fare is $4.83 and the shuttles and buses are free. Outside of those semesters or if you’re not paying with your OneCard, the BART fare is $9.65 and the bus fare is $2.50 if you’re paying by Clipper card or $3 if paying by cash. That’s a total of $12.15 or $12.65.

San Francisco International Airport’s BART station is near International Garage G. Riders can walk along the platform to the G gates side of the International Terminal or head upstairs to the AirTrain station to get to other places in the airport.

What parking options are available?

SFO offers long-term and hourly parking onsite. Parking bookings must be made at least two hours in advance at this website. According to the FAQs, “At this time, the Pre-Booked Parking website offers Long-Term Parking, Domestic Garage, ParkFAST, International Garage G, and International Garage A products. Online bookings are not currently available for our ParkVALET parking product.”

The free Kiss & Fly lot is close to the Rental Car Center AirTrain station. It’s for people dropping off loved ones.

The free Cell Phone Waiting lot is near the Long-Term Parking AirTrain station. It’s for people picking up others and has a time limit of one hour.

How can people get around the airport?

SFO’s AirTrain people mover system is before security, available 24/7, is wheelchair-accessible and has two loop lines with frequencies as fast as four minutes.

The stations for both the red and blue lines are at 

  • level three of Terminals 1, 2 and 3
  • level four of the International Terminal at both the A and G gates
  • level five of zones D and F of the Domestic Garage
  • level seven of International Garages A and G and the Grand Hyatt hotel

The blue line makes three more stops at West Field Road, the Rental Car Center, and the long-term parking area.

It’s also possible to walk between all four terminals before security.

After security, Terminals 2 and 3 and the International Terminal’s G gates are connected by walkways. Terminal 1 and the International Terminal’s A gates are also connected.

A walkway is under construction between Terminals 1 and 2, and when it’s completed, everybody will be able to transfer between all terminals without needing to exit the secure areas.

The International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport on May 13, 2024. (Dan Hernandez / Golden Gate Xpress)

Which gates are at each terminal?

International Terminal: A and G gates

Harvey Milk Terminal 1: B gates

Terminal 2: C and D gates

Terminal 3: E and F gates

There’s also a private aircraft terminal.

When are security checkpoints open?

Most security checkpoints are open by 4:30 a.m. and close by 12:30 a.m.

The checkpoints are staffed by Covenant Aviation Security, which the Transportation Security Administration contracts.

What are some free places to visit at the airport?

Before security:

This is located on the roof of Terminal 2 and is open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From this somewhat secluded area of the airport, planes are visible and seats are present.

This is the International Terminal, near the A gates. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and has models of planes, books, and more.

This screening room for short films is also in the International Terminal and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It’s past the check-in counters and items on display.

This is — guess where? — in the International Terminal; it’s near the BART station doors on the G gates side of the Ed Lee International Main Hall. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and has plenty of seating.

There are over 20 exhibit locations, mostly before security. Most are available to view 24/7.

After security:

There are two yoga rooms at the airport. Terminal 2’s yoga room is along the walkway between the C and D gates. The one in Terminal 3 is near gate E6. They’re both open from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. They’re dimly lit and plenty of yoga mats are provided. 

In the International Terminal near gates G11, G12, G13, and G14, there’s an outdoor terrace open daily from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. There are views of planes and plenty of seating.

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About the Contributors
Neal Wong
Neal Wong, Co-Copy Editor
Neal Wong (he/him) is a third-year journalism student and minoring in urban studies and planning. He was born and raised in San Francisco and attended Washington High School. He has photographed and written for Golden Gate Xpress first as a contributor, then as a photographer, and now as a copy editor. His photos have also been published by the San Francisco Bay ViewSan Francisco Public Press, Mission Local, and Xpress Magazine. Neal has also created and taught four SFSU Experimental College courses. His hobbies include traveling, cooking, and reading.
Dan Hernandez
Dan Hernandez, Visuals Editor
Dan Hernandez (he/him) is the Visuals Editor for Golden Gate Xpress, majoring in journalism and minoring in business administration. He is an award-winning multimedia journalist, applying his skills in both news reporting and press photography. He got his start in journalism at 15 years old as a staff writer for The Advocate at Contra Costa College before becoming editor-in-chief as a high school senior. Outside of journalism, he is probably camping on a road trip, playing water polo, riding his bike or dancing at concerts. He also goes by the nickname “Biscuit.”

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