San Francisco International Airport Template:Airport codes is an international airport located Template:Convert south of downtown San Francisco, California, near Millbrae and San Bruno in unincorporated San Mateo County.[1] It has flights to points throughout North America and is a major gateway to Europe and Asia.

SFO is the largest airport in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the second busiest in California, after Los Angeles International Airport. In 2009 it was the tenth busiest in the United States[2] and the twentieth largest airport in the world[3] by passenger count. It is the fifth largest hub of United Airlines. It also serves as Virgin America's principal base of operations.[4] It is the sole maintenance hub of United Airlines, and houses the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum.

SFO is owned and policed by the City and County of San Francisco, but is located in and entirely surrounded by adjacent San Mateo County. Between 1999 and 2004, the San Francisco Airport Commission operated city-owned SFO Enterprises, Inc., to oversee its business purchases and operations of ventures such as operating Honduran airports.[5][6][7][8]


The airport opened on May 7, 1927[9] on Template:Convert of cow pasture. The land was leased from Ogden L. Mills who had leased it from his grandfather Darius O. Mills. It was named Mills Field Municipal Airport until 1931, when it became San Francisco Municipal Airport. "Municipal" was replaced by "International" in 1955.

United Airlines used Mills Field as well as the Oakland Municipal Airport starting in the 1930s.[10] The March 1939 Official Aviation Guide shows 18 airline departures on weekdays— seventeen United and one TWA. The aerial view c. 1940 looks west along the runway that is now 28R; the seaplane harbor at right is still recognizable north of the airport. Earlier aerial looking NW 1943 vertical aerial (enlargeable)

After the war United Airlines used the Pan Am terminal Template:Coord for its DC-6 flights to Hawaii starting in 1947. SFO is now one of five United Airlines hubs and their largest maintenance facility.

In 1954 the airport's Central Passenger Terminal opened.[11] (It was heavily rebuilt into the international terminal c. 1984, then re-rebuilt into present Terminal 2.) The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 71 scheduled weekday departures on United (plus ten flights a week to Honolulu), 22 on Western, 19 on Southwest, 12 on TWA, 7 American and 3 PSA. Pan American had 21 departures a week, Japan Air had 5 and QANTAS had 5. Jet flights at SFO began in March 1959, with TWA 707-131s; United built a large maintenance facility at San Francisco for its new Douglas DC-8s. In July 1959 the first jetway bridge was installed, one of the first in the United States.

The first international nonstops were ANA/BCPA DC-4s to Vancouver in 1946-47; the first nonstops to the East Coast were United DC-7s in 1954. TWA's L1649 nonstops to Europe started in 1957 and Pan Am tried to fly 707-320s nonstop Tokyo to SFO starting 1960-61 (the westward nonstops had to await the 707-320B).

The airport closed following the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989, reopening the following morning.[12] It suffered some damage to runways.

Operations, expansion, retreat, and recoveryEdit

In 1989 a master plan and Environmental Impact Report were prepared to guide development over the next two decades.[13]Template:Verify source During the boom of the 1990s and the dot-com boom SFO became the sixth busiest airport in the world, but since 2001, when the boom ended, SFO has fallen out of the top twenty.[3]

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SFO has expanded through the decades. A $1 billion international terminal opened in December 2000, replacing Terminal 2.[11] This terminal has an aviation library and museum.[14] SFO’s long-running program of cultural exhibits, now called the San Francisco Airport Museums, won unprecedented accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums in 1999.[15]

A long-planned extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system to the airport opened on June 22, 2003, allowing passengers to board trains at the international terminal to San Francisco or the East Bay.[16] In 2003, the AirTrain shuttle system opened, transporting passengers between terminals, parking lots, the SFO BART station, and the rental car center on small automatic trains.

SFO experiences delays (known as flow control) in overcast weather when only two of the airport's four runways can be used at a time because the centerlines of the parallel runways are only Template:Convert apart. Airport planners have floated proposals to extend the airport's runways into San Francisco Bay to accommodate arrivals and departures during low visibility. To expand into the bay the airport would be required by law to restore bay land elsewhere in the Bay Area to offset the fill. Such proposals have met resistance from environmental groups, fearing damage to the habitat of animals near the airport, recreational degradation (such as windsurfing) and bay water quality. Such delays (among other reasons) caused some airlines, especially low-cost carriers, to shift service to Oakland and San Jose.Template:Citation needed

Since the mid-2000s recovery at SFO has been evident. SFO has become the base of operations for start-up airline Virgin America, with service to over 15 destinations. In June 2010 Swiss International Airlines began service from San Francisco to Zurich Airport; in July 2012 United Airlines announced resumption of flights to Taipei and Paris. In April 2013 Scandinavian Airlines plans to launch a new non-stop route to Copenhagen. In August 2012 China Eastern Airlines announced non-stop service to Shanghai starting in 2013. SFO set a record of 41 million passengers in 2011, and surpassed it with 44.5 million in 2012.[17]

The FAA has warned that the airport's control tower would be unable to withstand a major earthquake and has requested that it be replaced. On July 9, 2012 ground was broken for the airport's new air traffic control tower. The new tower, between terminals 1 and 2, is to be shaped like a torch and be completed in fall 2015.[18]

SFO was one of several US airports which operated the Registered Traveler program from April 2007 until funding ended in June 2009, which had allowed travelers to pass through security checkpoints quickly.[19][20] Baggage and passenger screening is operated by Covenant Aviation Security, a TSA contractor, nicknamed "Team SFO." SFO was the first airport in the United States to integrate in-line baggage screening into its baggage-handling system and has been a model for other airports in the post-9/11 era.[15]

On October 4, 2007 an Airbus A380 jumbo jet made its first visit to the airport.[21]

On July 14, 2008 SFO was voted Best International Airport in North America for 2008 in the World Airports Survey by Skytrax.[22] The following year on June 9, Skytrax announced SFO as the second-best International Airport in North America in the 2009 World Airports Survey, losing to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.[23]

In summer 2011, Lufthansa and Air France operated the Airbus A380 at SFO seasonally, the first A380 scheduled service to the airport.[24][25] As of 2013, Lufthansa operates the A380 year-round.[26] In early 2013, Emirates was considering flying the A380 to SFO[27] when they receive lighter versions of the jumbo jet with more range.Template:Citation needed Singapore Airlines flies the A380 seasonally on the Singapore-Hong Kong-SFO route, using a Boeing 777-300ER when not operating the A380.[28]

Aircraft noise abatementEdit

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SFO was one of the first airports to implement a Fly Quiet Program which grades individual air carriers on their performance on noise abatement procedures while flying in and out of SFO. The Jon C. Long Fly Quiet Program was started by the Aircraft Noise Abatement Office to encourage individual airlines to operate as quietly as possible at SFO. The program promotes a participatory approach in complying with the noise abatement procedures.

SFO was also one of the first U.S. airports to conduct a residential sound abatement retrofitting program. Established by the FAA in the early 1980s, this program evaluated the cost effectiveness of reducing interior sound levels for homes near the airport, within the 65 CNEL noise contour. The program made use of a noise computer model to predict improvement in specific residential interiors for a variety of noise control strategies. This pilot program was conducted for a neighborhood in South San Francisco and success was achieved in all of the homes analyzed. The costs turned out to be modest, and the post-construction interior sound level tests confirmed the predictions for noise abatement. To date over $153 million has been spent to insulate more than 15,000 homes in the neighboring cities of Daly City, Pacifica, San Bruno, and South San Francisco.[29]


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The airport has four terminals (1, 2, 3, and International) and seven concourses (A through G) arranged in a ring. Terminal 1 (Boarding Areas B and C), Terminal 2 (Boarding Area D), and Terminal 3 (Boarding Areas E and F) handle domestic flights (including precleared flights from Canada). The International Terminal (Boarding Areas A and G) handle international flights and some domestic flights.

Terminal 1Edit

Formerly known as the "South Terminal," Terminal 1 has Boarding Area B (including gates 20-23, 24A-24B, 25-31, 32A-32B-32C, 33-35, 36A-36B, 37-39) and Boarding Area C (gates 40-48). A third boarding area, Rotunda A, was demolished in 2007. The first version of the terminal, which cost $14 million,[30] opened in 1963 and Rotunda A opened in 1974. The terminal was designed by Welton Becket and Associates.[31] The terminal underwent a $150 million renovation designed by Howard A. Friedman and Associates,[32] Marquis Associates and Wong & Brocchini[33] that was completed in 1988.

Terminal 2Edit

Terminal 2, formerly known as the "Central Terminal," opened in 1954 as the main airport terminal. After a drastic rebuilding designed by Gensler, it replaced Rotunda A as SFO's international terminal in 1983[34][35] and was closed for indefinite renovation when the current international terminal opened in 2000. Its only concourse is Boarding Area D that has 14 gates (gates 50, 51A, 51B, 52, 53, 54A, 54B, 55, 56A, 56B, 57, 58A, 58B, 59). The control tower and most operations offices were (and still are) located on the upper levels, and the departure and arrival areas served as walkways between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

On May 12, 2008, a $383 million renovation project was announced that included a new control tower, the use of green materials, and a seismic retrofit.[36] The newly renovated terminal also designed by Gensler features permanent art installations from Janet Echelman, Kendall Buster, Norie Sato, Charles Sowers, and Walter Kitundu.[34][37] Terminal 2 set accolades by being the first U.S. airport to achieve LEED Gold status.[38] The terminal reopened on April 14, 2011, with Virgin America and American Airlines sharing the new 14-gate common-use facility.[39][40] Terminal 2 also hosts an Admirals Club

Terminal 3Edit

Formerly known as the "North Terminal," Terminal 3 has Boarding Area E (gates 60–69) and Boarding Area F has 26 gates (gates 70–72, 73–73A, 74–76, 77A–77B, 78–86, 87–87A, 88–90). This $82.44 million terminal designed by San Francisco Airport Architects (a joint venture of John Carl Warneeke and Associates, Dreyfus and Blackford, and minority architects)[41] is now used only by United Airlines.[42] Boarding area F opened in 1979 and area E opened in 1981. Boarding Area E was closed for refurbishment, and reopened on January 28, 2014.[43] The project moved one (1) gate from Boarding Area F on to Boarding Area E to provide a total of ten aircraft parking positions.[44] As part of the airport's FY 2010/11 – FY 2014/15 Capital Plan, Terminal 3 will be renovated. This renovation includes architectural enhancements, structural renovations, replacement of HVAC systems, roof repair, and new carpeting.[45] The newly renovated Boarding E reopened on January 28, 2014.[46]

International TerminalEdit

SFO's international terminal was designed by Craig W. Hartman of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and opened in December 2000 to replace International Departures from Terminal 2. It is the largest international terminal in North America, and is the largest building in the world built on base isolators to protect against earthquakes.[47] Food service focuses on quick service versions of leading Bay Area restaurants, following other SFO terminals. Planners attempted to make the airport a destination in and of itself, not just for travelers who are passing through.[48] The international terminal is a common use facility, with all gates and all ticketing areas shared among the international airlines. All international arrivals and departures are handled here (except flights from cities with customs preclearance). The BART train station is in this terminal, at the garage leading to Boarding Area G. The SFO Medical Clinic is located next to the security screening area of Boarding Area A. All the gates in this terminal have two jetway bridges except gates A2 and A10 which have one. Gates A1, A3, and A11 can accommodate two aircraft. Six gates are designed for the Airbus A380, making SFO one of the first airports in the world with such gates when it was built in 2000.[49] Gates A9 (9A,9B,9C) and G101 (101A,101B,101C) have three jetways for boarding.[50] Four other gates have two jetways fitted for the A380.[50]

For lack of space, the terminal was built on top of the airport's main access road at enormous expense, completing the continuous ring of terminals. The terminal required its own set of ramps to connect it with Highway 101. The design and construction of the international terminal is owed to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Del Campo & Maru Architects, Michael Willis Associates, and built by Tutor Perini (main terminal building), Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum in association with Robin Chiang & Company, Robert B. Wong Architects, and built by Tutor Perini (Boarding Area G), and Gerson/Overstreet Architects and built by Hensel Phelps Construction (Boarding Area A).[47] The contracts were awarded after an architectural design competition. If all gates in an airlines' designated international boarding area are full, passengers will board or deplane from the opposite international boarding area.

All SkyTeam, Oneworld and non-aligned international carriers operate from Boarding Area A (gates A1–A10, A11–A11A, A12). TACA Airlines, Asiana, and Air Canada are the only Star Alliance carriers that use Boarding Area A.

All international Star Alliance members aside from Air Canada (some flights), Asiana (some flights), and TACA use Boarding Area G (gates G91, G92–G92A, G93–G98, G99–G99A, G100, G101–G101A, G102). In 2010, some United domestic flights now utilize the Area G, as shown in the table below.

Domestic flights on JetBlue Airways, Sun Country Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines also operate from the International Terminal at boarding area A.


Aer Lingus Dublin
Delta Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu
KLM Amsterdam
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich
Qantas Ashford, Sydney
Southwest Airlines Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego
Turkish Airlines Istanbul

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