A Guide to UA/CO at SFO

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Rob, Feb 8, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    1. Getting to the airport

    SFO is served directly by BART (www.bart.org) and SamTrans for public transit. Using BART, it's straightforward (but expensive) to transfer to Caltrain at Millbrae (usually with a BART->BART transfer at San Bruno) or to Muni at many San Francisco stations. If you arrive on BART, you're arriving at the International Terminal on the G side. While there's the AirTrain automated people mover, I find it easier to just walk to G or Terminal 3 if I don't have a lot of bags. SamTrans KX and 292 lines arrive at the arrival levels of courtyards A and G and curbside at Terminal 3 but has restrictions on transporting luggage. If you're driving in, there's parking onsite in the middle of all the domestic terminals or by International Terminal G and offsite parking at a bunch of places (I prefer ParkSFO as they have a variety of coupons and discounts, as well as good shuttle service). If you're getting dropped off at Terminal 3, get dropped off in the middle if you have no elite status, or at the last couple of doors if you do have elite status. If you're getting dropped off at the International Terminal, go towards the end. If you're getting dropped off at Terminal 1, get out at the middle of the terminal.

    It costs $8.10 per person to go from downtown San Francisco to SFO on BART or $5 per person on the SamTrans KX bus. A taxi will probably run somewhere around $40.

    As of 2/8/11, UA operates out of International Terminal Area G and Terminal 3. It's not unheard of for domestic flights to operate out of, or arrive into, the International Terminal. Air Canada operates out of Terminal 3 gates 61 and 68, Continental operates out of Terminal 1 gates 32-36 and are supposed to move to Terminal 3 gates 88-90 by June 2011 (http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/sfo-ops-in-case-you-cared.938/). US Airways operates out of Terminal 1 gates 26-30.

    I specifically haven't mentioned the independent shuttle vans as every experience I've had with them has been terrible and I've sworn off of them (as have others). There's also a cell-phone lot if someone's picking you up and wants to wait in their car.

    2. Checking in and getting through security.
    There are elite check-in desks in both Terminal 3 (at the end closest to the International Terminal) and International Terminal G. There are also bag drop off points in Terminal 3 (there might be some in IT-G as well, but I'm not sure), and Easy Check-In units are scattered all over the place. There's a Priority Security checkpoint at the end of Terminal 3 closest to IT-G which is open from 4a.m. to 6p.m. (they close at or just before 6p.m. with no exceptions any time I've tried). Since T3 and IT-G are connected airside, if lines at one security checkpoint look long, try one of the others (even the American Airlines checkpoint at the end of T3 closest to Terminal 2). The IT-G checkpoint has the nude-o-scope scanners. The T3 checkpoints do not. T1 has an elite line for security.

    3. Lounges
    There are two Red Carpet Clubs (soon to be United Clubs) airside at SFO. The one in T3 is in the main rotunda near the moving walkways and is open 5a.m. until 11p.m. The one in IT-G is to the right after you pass through security near the walkway to T3 and is open 8a.m. until 11p.m. There's also a Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge that used to allow access to Star Alliance Gold passengers departing on any Star Alliance flight from SFO but which people report now only allows access to *G passengers departing on an international *A flight. Its hours fluctuate depending on Singapore Airlines' departures and arrivals. Landside in Terminal 1 Continental has a Presidents Club to the right of their checkin area, open 5:30a.m. until midnight:30 (except on Saturday when it closes at 10p.m.). There's a First International Lounge (IFL) in IT-G between gates 98 and 100, open 8a.m. until 10:30p.m. Lastly, there's an Arrivals Suite in Terminal 3 landside on the lower level near the baggage claim, open 8a.m. until noon:30. There are showers in the IFL, SQ SKL, and Arrivals if you have access. There is speculation that United will replace the current American Airlines Admirals Club with a United Club once American moves to Terminal 2, but nothing definite.

    Star Alliance Gold passengers (except UA/CO/US *Gs) get access to the Red Carpet Clubs and Presidents Club (and sometimes the SQ SKL). Priority Pass members can get access to the International Terminal Red Carpet Club or the Presidents Club. Amex Platinums will have access to the Presidents Club until it either goes away or October 1, 2011, whichever comes first.

    4. Gates and connections
    There is an airside connector between Terminal 3 and the International Terminal Area G. There's also a shuttle bus that runs between Terminal 3 and Terminal 1, though I've never taken it. According to http://www.united.com/page/article/0,,1121,00.html the Terminal 3 pickup point is at gate 92 and the Terminal 1 pickup point is at gate 32, every 20 minutes from 6a.m. to 10p.m. The Continental and US Airways gates are in the same secure area in Terminal 1. Aside from Continental, US Airways, and Asiana, every other Star Alliance carrier (plus EVA Air) are handled out of International Terminal G or Terminal 3. Asiana is in International Terminal Area A.

    SFO is known for its morning fog caused delays. Generally speaking, departures will go just fine, but arrivals will be subject to flow control. If you're connecting in SFO in the morning, it's a good idea to get a slightly longer connection time. In the afternoon and evening, operations usually run pretty smoothly and it's not necessary to pad the connection time.

    United Minimum Connection Times
    Domestic->Domestic 50m unless you're connecting between flight numbers 1 and 999, in which case it's 35m
    Domestic->International 1h
    International->Domestic 1h45m
    International->International 1h45m

    If you're connecting from an international flight, you'll have to clear immigration at SFO and go through security again. If you have checked bags, you'll also need to clear customs and then re-check your bags (take an immediate left after exiting customs and the re-check area is right there). If you're heading to a CO or US flight, head right after clearing immigration or re-checking, and then left down the walkway to Terminal 1. If you're heading to another Star Alliance flight, head left after clearing immigration. You might need to turn left and go up the escalator to go to the IT-G area, or right down the walkway to T3.

    5. Food, shops, and other amenities
    The restaurants at SFO are known for being pretty good. There's even one (landside), Ebisu, that is an iDine restaurant for those who want to earn more points while eating.
    There are showers in the International Terminal landside near the Area G checkpoint at Freshen Up!, open 7a.m. until 11p.m.
    There isn't a hotel on airport property, although the airport was trying to get someone to open up a pod hotel but it hasn't happened yet.
     
  2. FriendlySkies
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    FriendlySkies Gold Member

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    The UA general security checkpoint does not have Nude-O-Scopes..
     
  3. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    Thanks; I updated the original post.
     
  4. iceman77_7
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    iceman77_7 Silver Member

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    With regards to getting to/from SFO, KX is also by far the cheapest way to get in/out of the city and to/from Palo Alto ($2 SFO-PA and PA-SFO, $4 SF-SFO, $5 SFO-SF). Actual ride time is the same as BART to SF and about 20 minutes longer than Caltrain to Palo Alto, the only caveat is that it does not run as frequently (every hour or so). I always keep this option in mind when flying into SFO.
     
  5. gba
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    gba Silver Member

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    KVS says MCT at SFO for Domestic-Domestic is 50 minutes
     
  6. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    True, however if I go on united.com right now and search for a one-way LAX-SEA on 3/3/11, one of the one-stop options given is United 712 connecting to United 62 with an arrival at SFO at 9:57pm and a departure from SFO at 10:40pm, for a connection time of 43 minutes.
     
  7. ifly153
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    ifly153 Gold Member

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    Great Thread! For public transportation to/from SFO from downtown SF, the absolute cheapest method is SamTrans 292. It's $4 from downtown to SFO and $2 from SFO to downtown. However, 292 takes 1 hour to reach SFO compared to 30 minutes by the KX. Also KX is not an option if you having a 6 AM flight or 12 midnight arrival since KX doesn't run at these time, you are stuck with 292.

    For me, I always take KX over BART and save $3 since it takes practically the same amount of time.

    For parking, the cheapest is Burlingame Airport Parking which is has specials that run from $6/day, $40/weekly off season and is normally $8-10/day otherwise. They use the same shuttle as Hilton. Their shuttles seems a bit slower than others, but at most, you are waiting an extra 10 minutes.
     
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  8. Very importantly:

    The nearest In-N-Out to SFO is in Millbrae, walking distance from the Millbrae BART station (one stop from SFO). From the east side of the tracks, walk two blocks east on Millbrae Ave and then cross the street. In-N-Out is tucked into a small shopping complex on the southeast corner of the intersection of Millbrae Ave and Rollins Rd.:http://goo.gl/maps/srI2

    Not quite as convenient as the Sepulveda location is to LAX, but still very convenient if you have a long layover at SFO, or want a bite to eat before transferring to CalTrain (which also stops at Millbrae).

    (ok, so maybe this belongs in a different forum? Still, I believe no guide to a CA airport is complete without this information)
     
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  9. iceman77_7
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    iceman77_7 Silver Member

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    Totally forgot about the 292, that's truly the cheapest option. However, the longer travel time does suck.
     
  10. ifly153
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    ifly153 Gold Member

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    I'll take the KX if its available, but because I often fly early and arrive late, I often get stuck with 292.

    Also, the SamTrans stop is much closer than Bart at T3 since the stop is right next to baggage claim. Even if you are flying domestic, turn left towards the model airplanes in the direction of the international terminal. Once you get to the top of the escalator, the domestic elite security line is right there.
     
  11. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    Called UA and finally figured this out. Apparently the MCT is 50 minutes for pretty much everything, unless you're connecting between flights that have a flight number between 1 and 999, in which case the MCT is 35 minutes.

    Added 292 to the original post
     
  12. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Everyone should know where their closest In-N-Out is in case of an emergency. Should the cabin suffer a loss of air pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Slip the mask over your head, breathe normally, and be thankful that you will be landing sooner than you expected, reducing the delay until your next 4x4 Animal Style.

    Seriously. When I was still driving between Orange County and the Bay Area during my college years, I knew every In-N-Out along I-405, I-5, and US-101.
     
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  13. SFO is in the process of terminal upgrades, but I have no idea what the plan is.
    Some airport staff were telling me in December, but I think it really gets going this year.
    Maybe someone can enlighten me.
     
  14. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    As far as I know, nothing is happening to UA's areas. T2 (the old International) is being opened for AA in a month or two. When that happens, CO's gates from T1 should move over to AA's old spaces next to UA in T3.
     
  15. Pat89339
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    Here is a link with information to the T2 upgrade
     
  16. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    You'll pay dearly for the (delicious) burger. $4 o/w on BART SFO-Mill.
     
  17. mowogo
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    mowogo Gold Member

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    Not that bad, especially when you compare it to some of the fare in the terminal [​IMG]
     

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