Tag Archives: sfo

Lounge Review: Emirates Lounge San Francisco Airport (SFO)

This next trip from the depths of my photo archives occurred in February 2015. I had a wedding to go to in Jakarta, so I decided to make a pit stop in Singapore–one of my favorite food cities in the world–on the way there. To get to Singapore, I flew Emirates first class, booked with 100k Alaska miles (this award would now be 180k miles).

When you fly Emirates in business class or first class cabin, you get a complimentary chauffeur service to the airport–that is, if you’re booked through Emirates or Qantas ticket stock. It was just a couple of weeks before my flight that Emirates announced that tickets issued through partners would not be eligible for the complimentary chauffeur service, but I was lucky in that my pre-booked chauffeur service was not retroactively canceled on me. This was what I had waiting outside of my office for me on the day of departure.

Chauffeur drive pick up

Chauffeur drive pick up

It was a relatively quick drive to the airport, and then I was off to the Emirates Lounge at SFO. The lounge is located a level down from the main concourse in Terminal A, and first and business class passengers share this lounge.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

I was honestly very pleasantly surprised by this lounge, and I think it’s the best lounge I’ve been to at SFO (other lounges I’ve visited at SFO: the Cathay Pacific lounge, Amex Centurion lounge, United Club, and American Admirals Club). It’s perhaps not as stylish as the Amex Centurion lounge, but it’s much less crowded and has more extensive food options.

Upon entering the lounge, I was happy to see large windows overlooking the apron and lots of seating. There’s a business center and showers to the left of the entrance, but most of the seating and the food is to the right.

View of the apron

View of the apron

Business center

Business center

Shower

Accessible shower

Shower room

Shower room

View of the lounge

View of the lounge

Seating

Seating

Seating

Seating

Magazines

Magazines

This sounds silly, but one thing I was impressed by was all of the plants everywhere. There were just so many plants scattered throughout the lounge. And given that Emirates only has one flight a day (granted, it’s an A380, but it’s still only one flight), it’s even more impressive (excessive?) that they have such a nice lounge with all of these plants.

There are a variety of self-serve drinks on offer, including Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Tea

Tea

Liquor and snacks

Liquor and snacks

Wines

Wines

Beverages

Beverages

The food options in this lounge are also extremely extensive. When I visited, here’s a sample of the foods on offer: green pea panna cotta, chocolate creme brulee, grilled tuna, king prawns and squid, strawberry tarts, Arabic mezze, cheeses, palak paneer, Indian curry, penne pasta, potato gruyere gratin, chicken in tomato sauce, grilled beef filets, poached pacific salmon, lobster and potato cakes, green beans, and zucchini soup. The food isn’t award-winning, but I was more than happy to eat it. I also appreciated the variety of vegetarian options (assuming you like Indian food), and the creme brulee was delicious.

Buffet

Buffet

Buffet

Buffet

Soup

Soup

Buffet

Buffet

Dining room

Dining room

Buffet

Buffet

Buffet

Buffet

Buffet

Buffet

My minor quibbles with the lounge were the relatively slow wifi (I was only getting 1 Mbps down), and there didn’t seem to be enough power outlets. But as I said before, I think this is my favorite lounge at SFO. The lounge never got too crowded, it’s a pleasant space to relax in, and the food options are both good and extensive. Overall, I was extremely impressed with this lounge.

New(ish) Yoga Room and Airside Terminal 1 and 2 Connector at SFO

This is maybe old news to other people, but it’s relatively new news to me: there’s a new yoga room at SFO, and there’s an airside (i.e. post-security) connector between Terminal 1 (gates 40-48) and Terminal 2. The yoga room is located along this corridor.

To get to the airside connector from Terminal 2, just look to the right immediately after you clear security. From Terminal 1, look left immediately after you clear the security checkpoint for gates 40-48.

View of the airside connector from Terminal 2

View of the airside connector from Terminal 2

The connector itself is a nice place to plane watch. Great views of SFO. The yoga room is about halfway down the connector.

Entrance to the new yoga room

Entrance to the new yoga room

Pretty basic room

Pretty basic room

Variety of equipment available

Variety of equipment available

It’s a basic room, but they have mats, pillows, bolsters, and foam rollers. I tried using the old yoga room once, but there were a couple of people trying to sleep in there, so I felt a little awkward. This time around, the room was empty, perhaps because I think it’s not very obvious that it exists.

The best part about the airside connector, though, is that you can now potentially use the SFO Admirals Club if you’re flying US Airways. The Admirals Club is in Terminal 2 while US Airways flies out of Terminal 1. Before the connector, you would have to clear security twice if you wanted to use the Admirals Club before your US Airways flight, but now it’s possible to clear security in T1, walk to T2 for the Admirals Club, and walk back to T1 for your flight. But I don’t think it’s guaranteed that your US Airways flight will leave out of one of the accessible Terminal 1 gates, so it’s possible that you’ll still be stuck in Terminal 1.

FAQs About the Amex Centurion Lounge at San Francisco Airport (SFO)

Q: Where is the lounge?
A: Terminal 3, near Gate 74. It’s right beside the airside connector between Terminal 3 and the International G gates, and it’s where premium security at SFO used to be for United.

Entrance to the Centurion Lounge at SFO

Entrance to the Centurion Lounge at SFO

Q: Can I access this lounge even if I’m not flying United?
A: Yes! Any boarding pass at SFO will get you airside at any terminal. Note that only Terminal 3 and the G gates of the International Terminal are connected airside, which means that you will have to clear security twice if you want to use this lounge and you’re not flying out of Terminal 3 or the International G gates. You want to leave plenty of time to reclear security, as you’ll need to take the AirTrain to get to your terminal.

Lounge reception

Lounge reception

Q: What are the access policies?
A: Free access for Amex Platinum and Centurion card holders, and they get two guests or immediate family members for free. Otherwise, you need an Amex card to have the privilege of buying a $50 one-day pass. If you buy a one-day pass, kids under 18 get in free with you, but those over 18 will need to have their own one-day passes.

Q: How can I visit this lounge if I’m not actually flying?
A: Buy a fully refundable ticket, get a boarding pass, and then cancel the flight once you’re airside. Or if that seems morally dubious to you and you have a different lounge membership, you can often get access to the club even if you’re not flying. For example, for American Admirals Club members, you can call and they’ll arrange to have a fake boarding pass ready for you at the check-in counters which you can use to get airside. You can also arrange these boarding passes for other people. See AA’s Admirals Club FAQ page for more information. Note that you’re supposed to have a business purpose for this.

Q: What are the hours?
A: 5am to 11pm.

Q: How’s the food?
A: The food is significantly more elevated than most options that you would find at an airport. Bread was tasty, liked the salad, pumpkin was good. Overall, decent options for vegetarians. The rice was terrible, though. It was left out too long so the top got really crunchy. I didn’t try the meat entrees, but my friends enjoyed them. Desserts were solid. But there seemed to be issues with keeping up with demand, as every time I went up to the buffet there was at least one thing missing. See the food menu here.

Savory foods

Savory foods

Salad

Salad

Desserts and bread

Desserts and bread

Seating in dining area

Seating in dining area

Dining room

Dining room

Q: How about the drinks?
A: Lots of wines on offer, and you can get a code to taste up to 5 pours (your alcohol consumption is not limited at the bar). Cocktails were good, according to my cocktail aficionado friends. See the drinks menu here.

Wine dispensers

Wine dispensers

Bar

Bar

Q: Shower situation?
A: There’s only one shower suite, but it’s pretty nice as far as domestic airport showers go: spacious, good water pressure and temperature, and there was a normal-sized bar of organic olive oil soap (I can’t remember seeing bar soap in any other airport lounge). The towels are pretty ratty, so hopefully they replace those. While there isn’t a physical divider between the shower floor space and the floor space of the rest of the shower room, water did not get everywhere.

IMG_1255

Bar soap! (but poor quality towels)

IMG_1256 IMG_1257

Q: How is the lounge for getting work done?
A: Many of the seating options have built-in electrical outlets, which is a nice touch. The lounge isn’t that big, and even on day 1 of operation it was quite crowded, so it might be hard to find a quiet place to work. Wifi is fast. No real quiet areas if you need to take a call.

IMG_1244 IMG_1253 IMG_1243

Q: Any other amenities?
A: There’s a family room, which is good for people traveling with children. They also have luggage lockers.

Family room

Family room

Luggage lockers

Luggage lockers

Q: Conclusions?
A: Overall, a nice lounge, and one that tempts me to reapply for an Amex Platinum card. But I don’t fly United any more, and I generally get to the airport with less than 10 minutes to spare before my flight boards, so I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to come here even if I had an Amex Platinum card. But it’s probably a better place to grab a drink and a meal than anywhere else at SFO.

Thailand 2014: Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco (SFO)

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


We got to the airport about an hour and a half prior to departure. I’m kinda loving UberX nowadays, since an UberX from my apartment to the airport is now only $25 or so. Considering that BART is $8.50 and takes twice as long, I’m finding myself take Uber more and more frequently…

Anyway, after checking in and going through security (I’m so unused to non-precheck that I had almost forgotten what normal security is like), we made our way to the Cathay Pacific lounge. I had read mixed reviews about the lounge, particularly with regards to overcrowding, but that didn’t seem to be a problem at all the day that we were there.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge. Am I the only one who finds the cardboard people to be a little creepy?

The lounge is a series of rooms with a couple of different seating areas. The lounge features Cathay’s Solus chairs, which I think are pretty cool. In general, I enjoyed the decor of the lounge and found it tastefully designed. There’s no separate first class section of the lounge, but the lounge attendant did seem to be extra friendly to us when we got to the lounge and thanked us for flying first class.

Seating in the lounge

Seating in the lounge

Seating

Solus chairs

Seating in dining area

Seating in dining area

Unlike typical domestic lounges, the Cathay lounge offers a decent spread of food. Since we were taking the day flight, the food spread was mostly breakfast food of things like hash browns, scrambled eggs, and congee, and there’s a noodle bar where you can order made-to-order noodles. At the noodle bar, they’ll give you a buzzer that buzzes once your noodles are ready.

Cold food options

Cold food options

Hot breakfast spread

Hot breakfast spread

Noodle bar

Noodle bar

Drinks

Drinks

More drinks

More drinks

I decided to order some dan dan mien since I love dan dan mien, but I was honestly pretty disappointed with it. This might have just been due to a difference between Taiwanese and Hong Kong dan dan mien, but I didn’t really recognize what I was eating and only took a couple of bites before deciding that I’d rather wait to stuff myself with more caviar on the plane.

Dan dan mien

Dan dan mien

The service in the lounge was good. There were people constantly going around to clear empty plates and glasses. There was also a short delay for our flight, and the lounge attendants went around to each person in the lounge to personally inform passengers of the delay and ask if there was anything that they could do.

Computer area

Computer area

Honestly, the worst part of the lounge was this crazy loud woman who spent the entire 2 hours before the flight talking on the phone. She was so loud that I purposely sat as far away as I could from her in the lounge and I could still hear her yakking away.

Overall, it’s a nice lounge, and it’s definitely much better than most lounges you’ll find in the US. There’s no point in arriving extra early to go to this lounge, but it’s a nice place to wait for the flight and the food options are pretty good. They do have showers available if you want to shower before your long flight, but there aren’t really enough power ports.