Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
San Francisco International Airport
For other uses of SFO, see SFO (disambiguation). This is the most common use of SFO.
San Francisco International Airport is located in San Mateo County adjacent to the cities of Millbrae and San Bruno, 13 miles (21 km) south of San Francisco, California. The airport has flights to destinations throughout the Americas and is a major gateway to Europe, Asia, and Australasia.
San Francisco is the largest airport in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a major hub of United Airlines, and is expected to become the main hub of Virgin America once the airline begins operations (an estimated date has been early 2006).
The airport has the IATA Airport Code SFO and the ICAO Airport Code KSFO. While the exact reasons that the airport is named SFO have been lost to history, it's widely believed that it is because it once serviced both San Francisco and Oakland.
The airport was first opened on May 7, 1927 on 150 acres (607,000 m²) of cow pasture. Starting in 1935, Pan American World Airways used the facility as the terminal for its "China Clipper" flying boat service across the Pacific Ocean. Domestic flights did not begin en masse until World War II, when Oakland International Airport was taken over by the military and its passenger flights were moved to San Francisco.
After the war, United Airlines took up residence at SFO, using the Pan Am terminal for its flights to Hawaii and other U.S. cities. In 1954, the airport's Central Passenger Terminal opened. Jet service to SFO began in the late 1950s: United built a large maintenance facility at San Francisco for its new Douglas DC-8s. In 1974, a new terminal was built for domestic flights, and the CPT became an international terminal.
SFO has expanded continuously through the decades. Most recently, a new $1 billion international terminal opened in December 2000, and an extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system to the airport opened on June 22, 2003. Passengers can now board trains directly at the airport terminal bound for San Francisco or points in the East Bay. BART trains also offer a quick trip to the nearby Millbrae station, where passengers can board Caltrain commuter rail trains bound for San Jose and the Peninsula and SamTrans bus service bound for the Peninsula. In 2003, the AirTrain shuttle system opened, conveying passengers between terminals, parking lots, the BART station, and the rental car center on small automatic trains.
It is not uncommon for SFO to experience significant delays in adverse weather, when only one runway can be used a time. Airport planners have floated proposals to extend the airport's runways further into San Francisco Bay in order to accommodate the next generation of super-jumbo aircraft. In order to expand further into the bay, the airport would be required by law to restore bayland elsewhere in the Bay Area to offset the fill. Such proposals have nevertheless met resistance among environmental groups, fearing damage to the habitat of animals living near the airport and bay water quality.
As such, San Francisco International Airport will probably remain popular but stagnant while its two neighbor airports (Oakland International Airport in Oakland and San Jose International Airport in San Jose) will continue to grow. However, unlike Oakland and San Jose, San Francisco enjoys the advantage of being directly connected to its adjacent freeway, U.S. Highway 101, as well as to the BART system.
One of the four hijacked airplanes that crashed on September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93, was headed to San Francisco from Newark International Airport. SFO had previously been targeted by Project Bojinka, a failed terrorist plot, in 1995.
Formerly known as South Terminal, it consists of Rotunda A, Boarding Area B, and Boarding Area C. Rotunda A will be torn down upon completion of Terminal 2 renovation. Removing this concourse will free up space for new gates in the International Terminal A's east-facing side.
Rotunda A (gates 1-17)
moving to Terminal 2 upon completion of renovation
Boarding Area B (gates 20-36)
- Air Canada (Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver)
- Alaska Airlines (Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle-Tacoma, and Vancouver)
- America West Airlines (Boston, Las Vegas, New York/Kennedy, Phoenix)
- ATA (Chicago/Midway, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Lihue, and Maui)
- Continental Airlines (Cleveland, Houston/Intercontinental, and Newark)
- Frontier Airlines (Denver)
- Horizon Air
- Mesa Airlines dba America West Express
- Sun Country Airlines
Boarding Area C (gates 40-48)
- Atlantic Southeast Airlines dba Delta Connection (Salt Lake City)
- Delta Air Lines (Atlanta, Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, Honolulu, and Salt Lake City)
- Hawaiian Airlines (Honolulu)
- Northwest Airlines (Detroit, Memphis, and Minneapolis-St. Paul)
- SkyWest dba Delta Connection (Salt Lake City)
Formerly known as the International Terminal before the new international terminal opened, the 1954 terminal was closed in 2000 and is currently being renovated. It will reopen as a domestic terminal, replacing Rotunda A. It currently serves as a walkway between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. SFO Medical Clinic is located on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim level (lower level).
Boarding Area D (no gates operational)
- None at the moment. Virgin America is speculated to open operations here, but no official announcement has been made to confirm this.
Formerly known as North Terminal, it is made up of Boarding Areas E and F. This side of the airport is dominated by United and American, chiefly by United.
Boarding Area E (gates 60-67)
- American Airlines (Boston, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Kahului, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/Kennedy, and St. Louis)
- American Eagle (Orange County-Santa Ana)
Boarding Area F (gates 68-90)
- Ted (Cabo San Lucas, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Puerto Vallarta)
- United Airlines (Anchorage, Atlanta, Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Burbank, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Honolulu, Houston/Intercontinental, Kona, Lihue, Los Angeles, Maui, New Orleans, New York/Kennedy, Newark, Orange County-Santa Ana, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), San Diego, Seattle-Tacoma, Vancouver, and Washington/Dulles)
- SkyWest dba United Express (Austin, Bakersfield, Boise, Burbank, Chico, Colorodo Springs, Eugene, Eureka, Fresno, Medford, Modesto, Monterey, Redding, Redmond-Bend, Reno, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara)
SFO's international terminal, which opened in 2000, is the largest international terminal in North America, and the largest building in the world built on base isolators to protect against earthquakes. It replaced Terminal 2, which was the old international terminal. The boarding area has two levels, with shops and restaurants on the upper level and departure lounges on the lower level. An interesting thing that an air traveler might notice is that there are none of the customary fast-food chains in the International Terminal. Instead, all restaurants in SFO are leading restaurants in the Bay Area that have opened up fast-food versions of their establishments.
For lack of space, the terminal was constructed on top of the airport's main access road at enormous expense; the advantage of this location was that it completed a continuous "ring" of terminals around the airport's main loading/unloading loop. The disadvantage was that the terminal required its own elaborate set of ramps to connect it with Highway 101.
Note that international gates have letter prefixes A and G for their respective boarding areas. The prefix is most likely used to avoid confusion between international's Boarding Area A and domestic's Rotunda A. The two areas are adjacent to each other. The letters might be dropped when Rotunda A is torn down.
Boarding Area A (gates A1-A12)(south side, opposite Boarding Area G, next to Rotunda A)
- Air France (Paris/Charles de Gaulle)
- AirTran Airways (Atlanta)
- Alaska Airlines (Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta)
- ATA (Cancun)
- British Airways (London/Heathrow)
- Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
- China Airlines (Taipei)
- Japan Airlines (Tokyo/Narita)
- KLM (Amsterdam)
- Korean Air (Seoul/Incheon)
- Northwest Airlines (Tokyo/Narita)
- Philippine Airlines (Manila)
- TACA (San Jose and Costa Rica)
- Virgin Atlantic (London/Heathrow)
- WestJet (Calgary)
Boarding Area G (gates G91-G102)(north side, opposite Boarding Area A, next to Boarding Area F)
- Air China (Beijing)
- Air New Zealand (Auckland)
- All Nippon Airways (Tokyo Narita)
- Asiana Airlines (Seoul Incheon)
- EVA Air (Taipei)
- Lufthansa (Frankfurt and Munich)
- Mexicana (Mexico City and Morelia)
- Singapore Airlines (Seoul Incheon)
- United Airlines (Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City (via Hong Kong), London Heathrow, Mexico City, Nagoya, Osaka, Paris/Charles de Gaulle, Seoul Incheon, Shanghai, Sydney, and Tokyo Narita)
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