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SFO Terminal 2 opened today!

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Terminal 2 Ticketing (Love the light fixtures!)

Terminal 2* in San Francisco International Airport opened today for flights. Formerly the terminal for international flights, it closed in 2000 when the new international terminal opened. It’s expected to be one of the greenest terminals in the nation and houses domestic American Airlines and Virgin America flights. It’s also estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1667 tons each year.

From Michael McCarron, Director Community Affairs at SFO:

Moreover, the design of the renovated terminal is a departure from the traditionally designed airport terminal in that it is customized for today’s modern traveler. Design features include club-like seating in the waiting areas, a food marketplace offering locally grown and produced food, hydration stations for filling water bottles, major works of public art, and a retail street with restaurants, stores, a wine bar and spa.

Terminal 2’s Hippie Brownie Points

(Paraphrased from SFO’s site.)

  • Energy Efficiency – Energy efficient lighting and efficient machinery will reduce energy use and natural gas consumption.
  • Water Efficiency – Uses reclaimed water for toilets and other uses throughout the airport. Also the new fixtures use 40% less water.
  • Hydration Stations– You can fill up your own water bottles at hydration stations (formerly know as water fountains).
  • Indoor Air Quality– “Displacement ventilation” system that introduces fresh, filtered, cool air into the rooms near waist-level, pushing the older, warmer air to rise to the exhaust points. It, apparently, uses 25% less energy to provide fresher air.
  • Food Marketplace– The country’s first airport food marketplace that places an emphasis on mostly organic, locally grown and produced food.
  • Modern Technology– Paperless ticketing systems.
  • Old-Fashioned “Technology”– Open floor plan maximizes the ample ambient light’
  • Zero Waste–Food vendors will use biodegradable tableware and source separate all food service wastes to composting facilities.
  • Transportation– Terminal 2 will feature preferential parking for hybrid cars and a pedestrian bridge to AirTrain and BART.
  • Sustainable Building Materials— Terrazzo flooring with recycled glass chips, recycled-content carpet, wall systems, bathroom tiles, ceiling tiles, furniture and innovative and efficient use of structural steel.

*I refuse to call it T2 as SFO’s marketing crew is pushing me to do.

Photos of Terminal 2 (I didn’t have the energy to go through security to get concourse photos.) View SFO’s official photos here.

8 things that make SFO my favorite US airport

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

 

SFO International Terminal Main Hall (Nighttime so dark photo.)

I tend to love the smaller airports. The car-to-gate time for small airports tend to be under twenty minutes; the vibe is chill and the staff is friendly.
That said, nothing beats a large airport for spectacular people watching, good food and amenities. My favorite large airport in the US is San Francisco International Airport (SFO). It’s also my home base since 2007.
Touted as the “gateway to the Pacific,” SFO is one of the world’s 30 busiest airports. SFO opened in 1927. In 2003, the long-awaited Bay Area Rapid Transit expansion finally connected SFO to the BART line. (In the ’90s, we had to take BART, walk to a bus terminal then take a bus to SFO. Not fun.)

Enduring Designs of Josef Frank Exhibit

Artwork: Thoughtful, interesting exhibits are strategically placed in SFO. Connecting corridors house a spectacular model plane exhibit, waiting lounges house displays of Japanese tea accoutrements. You’ll often see people slow down to take in the pretty.
Where: Exhibit Location Map

Terminal 3 and International Terminal G Connector

Inter-terminal connector: Nothing sucks worse than having to go through security again. I love that you can get from the International Terminal G gates (G-gates for United and most Star Alliance airlines) to Terminal 3 via a post-security corridor (United and American domestic, Air Canada). It’s airy, bright and filled with art and benches.
Where: Between Gate 75 (Terminal 3) and Gucci (International Terminal G)

Perfect Emporio Rulli cappuchino

Emporio Rulli: Hands down the best coffee in SFO. It’s the one place I am guaranteed a cappuccino with stiff foam, no added milk and espresso with rich crema on top.

Where: International Terminal, pre-scurity, Main Hall Arrivals Lobby, Main Hall North Food Court (near Boarding Area G) and Main Hall South Food Court (near Boarding Area A)

Toiletries for sale at Freshen Up!

Freshen Up! & Baggage Storage: Long layover? Drop off your bags at baggage storage and take a quick shower at Freshen Up!

Where: International Terminal, Main Hall just past the escalators

Open 7 am- 11 pm

Standard shower $11 (20 minute shower includes soap and towel)

Deluxe shower $15 (30 minutes, includes shampoo, lotion, shower shoes, plush towel, upgraded soap and 20 minutes in a massage chair)
Discounts for flight crew.

Baggage storage prices vary but suitcases are about $10-20 per 24 hours.

BART Entrance

BART: The Bay Area Rapid Transit station is in the International Terminal. Take BART into the city or connect to Cal Trans. It’s perfect for getting to your hotel or just to get out of the airport for a few hours. SF is only 30 minutes away.

Where: International Terminal Main Hall just past the Berman Reflection Room

Roundtrip adult fare to Powell Station: $16.20

Berman Reflection Room

Berman Reflection Room: Next to the BART station, this tranquil space is perfect to get away from the hubbub. There is no eating, sleeping or talking on cell phones so you can be assured some quiet time contemplating planes taxiing silently by.

Where: International Terminal Main Hall


Buena Vista Cafe

The Buena Vista Cafe: If you didn’t get a chance to go to Buena Vista at the Fisherman’s Wharf, stop in and get a Irish coffee here. The atmosphere isn’t as divey and cool but the barkeeps are still old school and the drink is a classic. Food’s good. You can catch the game or people watch.

Where: Terminal 3, Boarding Area F near Gate 82, post-security

Making Tornadoes

Kids’ Spot:  It’s an interactive play station with weather related exhibits from the Exploratorium.  Plenty of space and activities for the kids to burn up some energy (as long as some douchebag isn’t standing in the middle of it having an obnoxiously loud phone conversation).

Where: Terminal 2, Boarding Area D near Gates 54A and 58B, post-security  and Terminal 3, Boarding Area F near Gate 87A, post-security



London Heathrow Airport: Yotel Pod Hotel

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Yotel Video Signage

I have a thing for unusual hotels. I’ve yet to stay at one but I so,so want to.

On my last trip to the UK, I had a ten hour layover until my train for Edinburgh. I knew that I’d want a shower and possibly a disco nap so I looked for day rooms that weren’t going to cost me $100 for a few hours. I discovered that LHR has a pod hotel called Yotel.

Located in London Heathrow‘s Terminal 4, Yotel is a pod hotel with everything you’d need to freshen up. If you’re facing a long layover between flights, this would be an ideal break from the airport din.

Pod hotels, also called “capsule hotels,” have rooms called “pods” that are fairly small but contain your necessities: bed, ensuite bathroom and even a desk. They are mostly concentrated in Japan but are beginning to gain popularity in Europe.

Yotel’s Premium Pod contains a double bed and is 12′ x 8.5’.  The Standard Pod contains a twin bed and is 7′ 4″ x 9′ 4″. All pods are soundproof and come with wifi, a flatscreen TV and toiletries.

The Brits love their mood lighting.

Heathrow’s Yotel has 32 pods. I recommend booking your pod well in advance. They were at full capacity when I tried to book the night before. They have a 4 hour minimum but no maximum.

You’ll find Yotel at London Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol Airports as well. In March of this year, you’ll find Yotel in New York’s Time Square.

Premium and Twin Pods start at £40 and Standard Pods start at £25 for the first 4 hours. Each hour thereafter starts at £6.50.

London Heathrow Airport: Showers & Storage

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

"Silly, tourist. She's taking a photo of Left Baggage!"

The last time I flew to London, I arrived at 7 am and had 10 hours to kill until my train departed for Edinburgh. Even if you’re sitting in business class and your luggage consists of a roller bag that fits under your seat and a purse, you’re still going to land feeling like a homeless lady wheeling a shopping cart.

I packed for a week trip in this houndstooth bag and a tote bag.

Luckily Heathrow’s got it all figured out.

Get Refreshed

You can take a shower at LHR. If you don’t have access to an airline lounge, go to Terminal 4 for a free shower. The showers are located post security near the Express Abbey entrance.

Free shower stall @ LHR.

You’ll need your own toiletries and towel but you get a private changing area and shower space. The space is clean and big enough for you to open a large suitcase and get yourself refreshed.

It's old but it's clean.

Stow It

Next stop is  Baggage Storage and Shipping.  Without the specter of 9/11 haunting them, LHR still has on-site luggage storage at every terminal. Each bag is £8.50 per 24 hours. I opted to take my bags to Kings Cross Station where my Virgin train to Edinburgh was departing. They have the same set up — bags are scanned and stored but left baggage is £8.00 per bag for the first 24 hours then £4.00 per 24 hours thereafter.

"Silly, tourist. She's taking a photo of baggage storage!"

Now, you’re free to go do something fun!

London Heathrow Airport: The Tin Goose

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

The Tin Goose in Terminal 1 @ LHR

I spent a lot of time at London Heathrow Airport (LHR). With a cousin in the UK and a sister whose route includes London more often than not, I find myself flying to London fairly often.

Airline employees have the privilege of flying standby to anywhere their airline flies. Flying standby means you get a seat if there are any available after all revenue passengers have boarded. Often you can get a first or business class seat. (Don’t worry, you will get your upgrade before I get that empty premium class seat.)

The downside to standby flying is that you’re not guaranteed a seat. Also, most airlines grant seats based on the employee’s seniority status. Should a group of Area Codes* decide to fly to Rome together on your flight, you may be sitting in the gate area waving goodbye to the plane.

Getting to London from the US is usually pretty easy. Coming from London to the US is more challenging, especially if it’s summer. I don’t go east past Denver from October to April.

So I spend a lot of time in LHR, going from gate to gate, all day, hoping to get a seat on a flight anywhere: California, Illinois, New Jersey, Japan, wherever.

Deserted gate area at Heathrow. It was über early in the morning and the 2nd day of trying to get out of London.

My favorite place to decompress between bouts of Gate Pong is the Tin Goose in Terminal 1.

Billed as a restaurant with “smiley American service,” it has cute decor and good food. The Brits don’t quite get American customer service. I always realize how much I take it for granted when I take a train in the United Kingdom. The service is smiley, but wholly not American. There needs to be the specter of “not tipping” for good old-fashioned American hospitality.

The bar in Tin Goose

One wall of the Tin Goose is floor-to-ceiling glass. You can watch planes taxi and ground crew scuttle about making sure your flight is ready to go.

After a week of British food, I am always happy to have my usual here: Greek yogurt, fruit compote and granola with a cup of strong coffee, rock sugar and real cream. Once served, you’re free to linger and wile away your layover.

Greek yogurt, granola, fruit compote and coffee.

You have the option of paying with pounds, Euros or dollars. Pay in pounds or via credit card. The dynamic currency converter on the bill tends to be on the high side.

What’s your favorite hideout at Heathrow?

*At my company, our employee number is six digits. Area Codes employee numbers are three digits and it means they’ve been flying almost as long as the Wright Brothers.

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