SFO – The Travelers Guide To San Francisco's Airport

Clean, convenient, and modern, the San Francisco International Airport is one of the best air transportation hubs in the country. Also known by its airport code, SFO, this busy airport just went through several phases of renovations over the past few years that makes it a even more comfortable and user-friendly than other airports.

For many of us, air travel can be exhausting and burdensome, but luckily for visitors to this city, SFO meets and even exceeds most expectations for air travel. To help you in navigating this large airport, we've put together a guide to San Francisco airport. First off, let's find out how to travel between the airport and downtown.


From the Airport to the City and Back Again

BART map

Easily accessible by public transportation, the San Francisco Airport is a stop for the BART Rapid Rail, Caltrain Commuter Rail, and SamTrans Public Bus Service. It would probably be useful to your planning if you take a moment to read our guide to public transportation in San Francisco. Also be sure to check our guide to San Francisco Airport transfers.



The BART offers rapid rail service to nearly the entire Bay Area including northern San Mateo County, San Francisco and the East Bay directly from SFO. At the airport, you'll find the BART station on the Departures/Ticketing Level of the International Terminal near Boarding Area G.

The fastest and easiest way to get to the BART connection at the airport is by riding SFO's AirTrain to the Garage G/BART Station stop. There's no charge for the AirTrain, and it's simple to pick up BART tickets at the BART Station on arrival.

But be careful when you're arriving to SFO via the BART. The airport is not the last stop on the train. Visitors have been known to miss the BART station because they have fallen asleep or just weren't paying enough attention. (And those rumours about us are simply not true!)



If you need to take Caltrain into the city, you'll have to take the BART to Caltrain's Millbrae Station. To go between San Francisco and San Jose, take the Caltrain, which provides rail service at least once an hour.


SamTrans Bus Service

There's a bus service from the airport that can be useful, depending on where you're going. The SamTrans Public Bus Service provides 24-hour bus service connecting the San Francisco Airport with San Mateo County and part of San Francisco. Buses stop directly at the airport terminals, at the Rental Car Center, and at the Airport Business Center, so it's easy to catch a ride no matter where you are. Bus transportation is not the fastest way to arrive to your destination, but it might get you closest to your hotel.


Car Rentals

The San Francisco Airport's Rental Car Center provides a quick and convenient place to pick up and drop off your rental car. To get there, take the AirTrain Blue Line from any of the terminals directly to the Rental Car Center. (The Blue Line also gets you to the terminal parking garages and SFO's BART station.) Nine brand-name car rental companies are found in the center. Some less expensive, lesser-known car rental companies are available off-airport and are served by free shuttle-bus service from the SFO Rental Car Center.


Comings & Goings at SFO

SFO at night

Repeatedly ranked as one of the busiest airports in the world, 36 million passengers pass through the San Francisco Airport each year. With non-stop flights to more than 44 international cities and 78 cities in the US, SFO is the Bay Area's largest airport.

SFO is one of the main major entry points for travelers going to and coming from Asia. Whether you're coming from Beijing or Singapore, you'll find this a fast gateway to America. Air travel to Canada is also among the top international destination. For domestic travelers, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York are the most popular cities to fly to.

San Francisco Airport Amenities

San Francisco Airport

Now for the most important part of an airport these days — WiFi. SFO provides upgraded, free WiFi with no advertising. To help you stay up-to-the-minute with arrival and departure information, SFO provides airport maps and electronic placards that are updated frequently.

At the airport you find a unique collection of shops, dining options, and cultural exhibitions. You can buy everything from organic cosmetics to hip new gadgets. Likewise, the dining options run the gamut from San Francisco's favorite clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl to delicious and fresh street tacos. There are plenty of things to do — meditate in a meditation room, take the kids to the children's area for them to play around. If you've got more time, the airport also mounts cultural exhibitions and art shows.


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San Francisco Airport – History & Renovations

San Francisco Airport

Described as "The Gateway to the Pacific", the San Francisco International Airport opened back in 1927. At that time, it was known as the Mills Field Municipal Airport, taking on its current name in 1931. For decades, Pan American Airways used the airport for cross-Pacific flights. During and after World War II there was a large-scale increase in domestic flights to SFO because Oakland International Airport across the bay was taken over by the military. Later on, SFO was the first major airport in the USA to fully automate its integrated baggage system, making check-in quick and convenient.

Today, SFO's rich history can be gleaned by reading the historical placards scattered throughout the airport. If you have time on your layover, be sure to go on a self-guided walking tour in the airport for an interesting history lesson.

In the past few years, San Francisco Airport has undergone some extensive renovations. A newly-renovated terminal like American Airlines now provides comfortable, modern, designer-name chairs that look like they're from an episode of Star Trek, as well charging ports galore for all your gadgets. Not to mention the many lounges that you can get access to with the right credit card.

Terminal 1 is undergoing a $2.4 billion dollar renovation project that is slated to be done in 2024. All these efforts are to ensure that SFO remains one of the country's leading airports for now and for years to come.

Whatever airline status you have, you'll be well-taken care of, even if you're just curled up on one of their fancy chairs in between a grandma on her way back to Portland and a business executive catching a direct flight back to LAX.

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