Topic of the Week: United Gets Ready to Make SFO Work Better


We’re finally getting toward the end of United’s tough times at SFO. For awhile now, the operation has been split between its home in Terminal 3 and Terminal 1. When the E gates (formerly occupied by American until they moved into Terminal 2) reopen here shortly, United will again be all in one terminal. Anyone have any horror stories of the split terminal? Does this make you more comfortable connecting in SFO?

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25 comments on “Topic of the Week: United Gets Ready to Make SFO Work Better

  1. Is this typical? I would have assumed 10 gates could handle more than 50 departures (and 50 arrivals).

    “Boarding Area E will offer 10 gates for United customers and will be able to accommodate more than 50 departures each day.”

    I only had to connect 3 to 1 or vice versa a couple of times. UA and SFO have it set up pretty well, no problem unless you have a really tight connection. I also found the bus route through the airport kind of cool.

  2. Its been better since they switched to having (mostly) UA Express flights at T1 – less pax, less chance having to switch terminals. Still not ideal, but better than having a bank of full A320s causing crowds of pax to run to a smallish Shuttle Van that often gets stuck behind Alaska pushing/taxiing in and out of 20/22 (who thought putting mainline flights in T1 would work?). Looking forward to seeing “T3e” – SFO seems like they are very excited with signs everywhere. The real questions is when will they re-do T1 – cramped, very limited food options and only one Pete’s Coffee that always has a huge line in the morning of WN pax.T1 hasnt changed much since the old TWA/Eastern days.

  3. At least you know when airlines spend the money for this type make over, you know it’s because they are loosing business to other carriers or that the airport if very important to their wallet. For UA, SFO must ‘shine’ to be as nice as airports in Asia can be so as not to loose traffic to other carriers using the newer International terminal or traveling to beyond points via other airports all together.

    Plus with the amount of north/south domestic traffic UA carriers via SFO, it must operate smoothly.

  4. Recently a couple of times arriving on domestic flights due to the shortage of gates @ T3 & T1 United have dumped me in international instead. OK if you only have carryon – baggage was however sent to belts in T3 – what a hassle.

  5. Congrats to UA for their new digs-looking forrward to seeing the revamped space. In answer to the second question-“does this make you more comfortable connecting in SFO”-No. The problem with SFO being a hub is not so much what gates you have to run between-but has been pointed out several times in other topics-the runway config, and the weather. When I lived in the Bay Area, I spent many a Sunday Afternoon sitting off the end of Runway 1R in the now long closed viewing area, and watching the planes take off, and watching the fog line covering 28L and R, and watching all the airliners pop out the top of the fog as they did go-arounds. Until SFO decides to spend many billions to plop some new runways into the Bay-I will avoid using SFO as a connector.

  6. One headache over split terminals at SFO ends…an even bigger headache over split terminals begins (AA/US Air)…

  7. Not related to SFO, but related to United and terminals: is it known when the terminal-splitting in BOS will end? This far into the merger, I was surprised to still see flights to CLE, EWR, and IAH operating out of one terminal and flights to ORD, IAD, etc. opearting out of another.

    1. UA is consolidating in to a terminal B area which is under construction/expansion. Last I heard, the timetable was for completion in 2014.

      1. Sounds similar to what they did in San Diego. UA ran a split operation with flights to EWR/IAH at the old Continental gates in Terminal 2, while flights to SFO/DEN/IAD/ORD went out of the old United gates in Terminal 1. They waited for SAN to finish it’s “Green Build” expansion last year which added additional gates to Terminal 2, and UA has now consolidated their flights into Terminal 2.

  8. I wonder how they propose to get rid of the fog and the small distance between runways so that takes off and departures are not affect.

    Not that fog occurs often at SFO anyway!

  9. I connect to United International from Terminal 3 for
    Sydney and Hong Kong all the time
    Easy to get off in Terminal 3 and use special
    walkway from Term# 3 into International Terminal.
    Now will have to walk out of 1 and then go through
    Security again to get into International…
    Not looking forward to the extra hassle.

  10. What I’m curious about is when will they drop “Continental” from “UnitedContinental Holdings” Continental is gone…. (I also find it funny that they list US Airways as “U. S. Airways” on the sidebar on the website….)

      1. Umm, why not? Continental is gone, having it as the name of the holding company is stupid.

        AA/US was sane and made the holding company American Airlines Group. The American Airlines bit is clear where it comes from, and the construction of the name comes from the US Air days, when it was US Air Group.

        1. For one thing it is almost exclusively CO executives running the company, they are the ones who bought united. These things are usually board room deals. Doug Parker of America West has a long history of reverse merging airlines to enrich himself and he couldn’t care less about the actual name. Whereas other airline execs/egos actually want the rememberence of the former glory.

  11. This upgrade really should have been at IAD first (I don’t believe there are any actual improvement plans in the works for IAD at all) but I think this is a good thing and have always found SFO one of UAs “smarter” airports. (Minus the runway/weather issues)

  12. Each of us here can probably comment about hundreds of various airports, as well of how each airline at an airport is operating, i.e., using various terminals, some adjacent, some not. In some cases we have lots of experiences at an airport either enplaning, or deplaning, often only on one airline, but sometimes on several airlines. In some cases we only experience the act of transiting or connecting, sometimes on-line, other times off-line.

    My question is what percentage of the total number of travelers at any given airport is originating (enplaning)? What percentage is transiting or connecting (from one plane to another)? What percentage is terminating (deplaning and going no farther by air)?

    Is there such data kept by DOT? Do airports maintain such data? Each airline at each airport?

    Take the whole shebang: In the US, on any given day, xx% of air passengers make a change of aircraft at some intermediate point, whereas xx% do not.

    For each airport, like at SFO: on any day, xx% of UA’s air passengers are there to enplane, xx% are there to deplane, and another xx% are there only to connect, from one airplane to another.

    Sure would be interesting to know.

    1. JayB – Those numbers are readily available in the DOT data, but I don’t have time to dive in right now. It should be pretty easy to get a ballpark, however. Big cities that are hubs will be closer to a split in traffic. Small cities that are hubs will have a ton of connecting (like Charlotte). And everyone else will be largely originating. I seem to recall something about LAX having the most arriving passengers (as opposed to connecting). That could be an old number. San Francisco will have more connections because it has more connectivity via United’s hub.

  13. It’s really SFO paying the bills for this project, other than the Club and new GS lobby. At IAD, they would need to pay.

  14. About a year ago I had it and refused to connect through SFO on UA and their partner SkyWorst. The computers would allow a 45 min connect when reserving despite the fact the SkyWorst is one of the worst performing regionals. After getting screwed twice and one more close call I started flying Alaska for west coast direct flights. Of course I had to sit in the back of the plane instead of first class but I was more interested in actually getting places.

    The only experience I have had since then was in December on a last second ticket where UA was the $500+ savings resulting in the crappy connection through SFO. First thing in the morning it was smooth (and an hour and a half connection, so no worries). Of course in the evening for last flight out it was absolute hell. I’m glad my 1k status allowed them to hold my connecting flight. The absolutely poor attitude in the temporary terminal one hell hole rivals that of their EWR hub where you have to switch to terminal A and all the New Jersey trash attitude that goes with it.

    Fortunately, I have been really lucky to have smooth travel experiences over the last two years of integration or else I would defect like many other frequent passengers have.

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