San Francisco International Airport Terminal 2 – Review

By Paul Riegler on 19 March 2012
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Last April, San Francisco International’s shiny new Terminal 2 opened its doors to passengers as the home of American Airlines and Virgin America.   The building was originally the airport’s Central Terminal, having opened in 1954, and helped usher in the jet age as the site of the first jetway bridge in the United States in 1959.

After serving as SFO’s international terminal for some years, it was closed and underwent a $383 million renovation.

The result is not only good for passengers but it very well may be a harbinger of things to come at other airports.

Terminal 2 is the first airport in the U.S. to achieve LEED Gold status, the second-highest rating and a world-recognized standard for rating building sustainability.  It features naturally illuminated spaces with lots of windows and glass that give the terminal an unusually open and airy feel, one that is more like the lobby of a hotel or office than a secure facility.

Passengers will find a 6,000 sq. ft. recomposure zone right after going through security.  The area offers comfortable benches (to sit down and put shoes back on), as well as plants and water features inspired by Zen gardens.

Art is everywhere. If you look up (or down) right after security, you’ll see Every Beating Second (pictured), a rather large installation by artist Janet Echelman that plays with light to create real and fictional shadows.

Along the way, a slow food court offers wholesome food.  The Napa Farms Market features Acme Bread and Cowgirl Creamery cheeses and you can stop and do a wine tasting at Vino Volo (which also sells wines next door).  Local chefs including Cat Cora and Tyler Florence have restaurants here as well.

The gate areas are furnished more like living rooms with comfortable furniture including Arne Jacobsen “Egg” chairs and standing desk/work areas with lots of electrical outlets to plug laptops and mobile phone chargers into.  There’s also free Wi-Fi available throughout the terminal.

The Butteyfly Wall (a piece of art that features rising and falling mechanical butterflies) in the children’s play area attracts as many adults (including me) as children. Also available is an interactive exhibit of birds native to the region.

Many lament that the glamour of air travel is long gone, but all it takes to recapture it is a few hours at Terminal 2 at San Francisco International, where passengers can shop, work, relax, dine, and play while awaiting their flights.


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