San Francisco Airport (SFO) is the second-largest airport in California and the seventh-largest in the U.S., serving 58 million passengers each year. We review the best airport lounge if you fly in First or Business Class or have a Priority Pass or relevant credit card.
San Francisco Airport has three domestic terminals (Terminals 1, 2, and 3), plus an international terminal. The airlines which fly out of San Francisco Airport include:
- Delta Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines (domestic flights)
- Aer Lingus
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air France
- Air India
- Air Italy
- Air New Zealand
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- China Airlines
- China Eastern Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- El Al Israel Airlines
- EVA Air
- Fiji Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Hong Kong Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Philippine Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Sun Country Airlines
- TAP Air Portugal
- Turkish Airlines
- United Airlines (international flights)
- Virgin Atlantic
Wherever you decide to stay in San Francisco or elsewhere, book your First or Business Class flight or luxury hotel via our luxury travel concierge. We offer free room upgrades, free breakfasts, and free perks at hotels, including the Four Seasons, Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, Marriott, InterContinental, and more. See what our clients say about us and how thrilled they are with the extra benefits we provide at no extra cost.
Typically, our free benefits at luxury hotels include:
- Room upgrade to next category
- Complimentary breakfast for two per bedroom
- Complimentary Welcome Gift
- $100 USD equivalent Hotel experiential credit per room per stay
- Early check-in / Late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Free Airport Lounge Access
If you have not paid for Business Class or First Class, you can access airport lounges for free if you have an unlimited Priority Pass or an Amex Platinum card. To get bonus referral points and advice on the Platinum American Express and other free lounge access credit cards, have a read of our best credit cards for luxury travel.
1. British Airways Terraces lounge, International Terminal
The British Airways Terraces lounge (relaunched in 2019) is definitely one of the best lounges at San Francisco airport. The airline has created a 360 degree interactive video of the lounge if you want to take a look around.
The lounge is accessible to eligible British Airways passengers, eligible fliers flying on its sister-airline Iberia, and other OneWorld alliance elites with international lounge privileges.
The new contemporary lounge is spread across 665 square meters with fantastic views of the runway, thanks to floor to ceiling glass windows that run along the lounge’s side letting natural light flow in.
The airline has created several zones throughout the lounge to cater to its customers’ needs. There is a beautifully crafted granite feature bar that forms the lounge’s centerpiece for those wanting to unwind ahead of their flight. For work, there’s a study area with wireless printing facilities.
There’s a deli bar in the main seating area where customers can help themselves to a wide range of food and drink options, plus a new exclusive Boutique Dining room for the airline’s customers traveling in First, where customers can enjoy fine wines and menus inspired by some of the world’s top chefs.
A sample of the First First Boutique Dining Room menu can be found below:
- Selection from the Charcuterie Board
- Busseto Prosciutto, Chorizo El Ray, Olli Salumeria Salame, Columbus Coppa
- Mitica Drunken Goat, Esperanza Manchego, Don Juan Mahon Served with Marcona Almonds, Marinated Olives, Cornichons, Sourdough Toast, and Fallot Grain Mustard
- Garden Vegetable, Lemon Orzo Chicken
- Seafood Cioppino with Shrimp, Scallops, Sea Bass, Haricot Vert, and Rouille
- Rigatoni with Heirloom Cherry Tomato Sauce, Ricotta, and Parmesan
Add Grilled Chicken, Shrimp or Scallops
- Mini Vine Roasted Peppers, Grilled Local Shiitake Mushrooms, Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes, Hummus Warm Pita
- Blackberry Granola Yogurt Parfait
- Cheese Platter With Fresh Pita Crisps, Fig Spread
2. The Centurion® Lounge by American Express, Terminal 3
Oh my goodness, we love an American Express airport lounge. Check out our review of the fantastic American Express lounge at Hong Kong airport. This lounge is open to American Express Platinum cardholders and Centurion members with same-day tickets, plus their guests. As a cardholder of one of these cards, access to the Centurion Lounge is complimentary. Each cardmember is allowed to bring two travel companions or guests with them into the Centurion Lounge. Also, children under the age of two are admitted free of charge.
The Centurion Lounge in San Francisco can be accessed post-security in Terminal 3 or from International Terminal. All terminals are not connected post-security at SFO. If you are flying out of another terminal, you may be able to use your boarding pass to enter through T3 security. After visiting the Lounge, you will need to exit through security, take the AirTrain or walk to your terminal and re-enter through security. Obviously, this is horribly inconvenient, but you might find this lounge is worth the effort of going in and out through security.
The Centurion Lounge at SFO is open from 5 am until 11 pm every day, and it offers a beautiful space. The lounge provides complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, a computer bar, and semi-private workspaces. The seating is stylish, and there are many seating options, although this lounge can get overly crowded.
The Napa Valley wine tasting area is a really nice and unique feature if you want to try some Californian wines. Food is mostly a la carte, and the menu offers Californian inspired cuisine designed by James Beard Award-nominated chef Ravi Kapur. A sample of the menu can be found below:
Breakfast 5:30 am – 11:45 am:
- Scrambled Cage Free Eggs | Garlic Confit, Herb Fines
- Egg Frittata | Chevre, Baby Spinach
- Pancakes Banana Foster | Rum Caramel
- Home-Fried Potatoes | Caramelized Onions, Scallion
Lunch & Dinner 11:45 am – 9:30 pm:
- Farro Salad | Roasted Broccolini, Pickled Red Onion, Feta Cheese, Dijon Vinaigrette
- Cabbage & Persian Cucumber Salad | Thai Basil, Mint, Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
- Roasted Chicken | Greek Yogurt & Cilantro Glazed
- Roasted Cauliflower | Curried Golden Raisins
- Pan-seared Baby Carrots | Picholine Olives, Capers, Preserved Meyer Lemon, Salsa Verde
- Curried Red Lentil Stew | Mushroom, Coconut Milk, Madras Curry
- Kimchi & Pork Soup | Tofu, Baby Spinach, Korean Chili Flakes
Snacks including cookies, fresh fruit, popcorn, and sandwiches are also available in the Centurion Lounge.
For drinks, you can enjoy some great beers or spirits, or you can enjoy a cocktail developed by one of the nation’s top mixologists, Jim Meehan, or explore wines handpicked by renowned wine authority Anthony Giglio. Cocktails (which are served 10:30 am to 10:30 pm).
3. Cathay Pacific First and Business Class lounge, International Terminal
The Cathay Pacific First and Business Class lounge is open to First and Business Class flyers on Cathay Pacific. It is also open to Oneworld alliance members, including those flying in premium classes on Korean Air.
The Cathay Pacific First and Business Class lounge is massive and is designed in mustard and grey color tones. It has a futuristic feel with big windows on one side. There are two dining areas, a cafe area, and loads of armchair seating.
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping views of the airport, the new Grand Hyatt airport hotel, and the mountains above San Mateo County in the distance.
The buffet offers a minimal food selection outside the hours of Cathay Pacific flights, with whole fruit, shortbread cookies, chips, and pretzels. There are also self serve spirits, wines, beers, and canned sodas in fridges and a coffee machine.
During the hours of Cathay Pacific flights, the buffet is expanded with help-yourself salads, fresh vegetarian sandwiches, cold cuts, cheeses, bread, pre-prepared salads, jams, and rolls. Hot dishes include a hot broccoli vegetable dish, stir-fried rice, burgers, chicken, and rice. There is also a noodle bar next to the buffet where chefs will cook you up some excellent noodle dishes.
The food in this airport lounge is outstanding and is definitely some of the best at San Francisco airport. There are also workstations and shower suites in this lounge.
4. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, International Terminal
Another great lounge at San Francisco airport is the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. The lounge is open to Virgin Upper Class (Business Class) passengers and premium passengers on EVA Air, China Southern, and El Al.
The look is light, bright, and colorful with great tarmac views. The staff here are excellent and will deliver drinks to you and explain the menu.
The Clubhouse Dinner Menu is delicious. Here’s a sample:
- Portobello Mushroom Soup – Roast Portobello mushrooms with barley in a creamy vegetable broth and truffle oil
- Charred Ricotta and Roast Beets – Marinated ricotta cheese tossed with leaves, roast beets, and a red wine vinaigrette
- Crispy Crab Cakes – Pan-fried crab cakes served with a red pepper mayonnaise
- Sweet Italian Sausage and San Marzano Tomato Pasta with fresh basil, shaved parmesan, and toasted bread crumbs
- Maple Glazed Salmon on wilted kale with autumn squash
- Zucchini Frittata, individual, baked frittata with topped with a salad of dressed rocket and roasted tomatoes
- Flying Club Sandwich – A traditional club sandwich of roast chicken, lettuce, tomato, and bacon, served with a side of crisps
- West Coast Apple Cobbler – Warm apples, cinnamon crumble topping, and vanilla bean ice cream
- Fresh Fruit Salad
- Artisan Cheeses
Showers are available with lovely scented Bumble & Bumble bath products. There are also a couple of computers if you need to get online.
5. United Polaris Lounge, International Terminal
The United Polaris Lounge is available to those holding a boarding pass for travel in United Polaris Business Class and those holding a boarding pass for long-haul international First or Business class on a Star Alliance member airline. If you’re flying between the US and Canada, Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean, you won’t get access.
This lounge is located at the SFO International Terminal G, near gate 1, and offers a large, two-story slick and stylish space. At 28,120 square feet, United’s SFO Polaris Lounge is the largest in the world.
There’s a dining room with a small selection of a-la-carte items and a large buffet with salads, veggies, sushi, fried chicken, seafood, mahi-mahi, a really fantastic selection.
There are also private rooms with day beds and brilliant shower rooms with plush Saks Fifth Avenue towels and Cowshed products.
6. Air France – KLM Lounge, International Terminal
The Air France/KLM Lounge is accessible to those flying premium classes on Air France and KLM and is also free to Priority Pass members. You can also get access to this lounge if you’re a First or Business passenger on a SkyTeam Alliance airline, including AeroMexico, Air France, KLM, Korean Air, Qantas, Finnair, Hong Kong Airlines, and Air Italy.
This lounge has restricted hours for Priority Pass members. Priority Pass members can’t use the lounge between 11 am and 1:30 pm, and then again between 7 pm and 10 pm, which is when Air France and KLM passengers will be using the lounge.
The lounge has rows of pastel-colored chairs facing outwards and a high table and stools against the window so you can sit and look out at the planes. There is also free Wi-Fi and newspapers in this lounge.
A small buffet area offers various soft drinks with a coffee machine with teas beside it and soda cans in the fridge. There is a big jar containing lemon water on tap (no bottled water), and for snacks, there are cakes, brownies, and pretzels.
Beyond this, in a cafe area is the main buffet with self serve spirits, wine, beer, bottled water, and snacks like olives and dried fruit. There are more cakes, desserts, and cut fruit on the counter. The savory food is also good with hot dishes, including hot sausage with vegetables, rice, waffles, chips, two soups, and noodles. There is also a salad bar with all the usual lettuce and tomato dishes to stay healthy. This is an excellent food spread for a Priority Pass lounge and an average spread for a First and Business Class lounge, although there isn’t much appealing for vegetarians other than the salad bar and snacks. It would have been nice to see a vegetarian hot dish too.
7. The Emirates Lounge, International Terminal
In San Francisco, the Emirates Lounge is accessible for First and Business class passengers on Emirates’ only flight out of SFO each day. This lounge is small and feels a bit 1990’s with mustard armchairs and lots of potted plants, but even though the look is not impressive, the food is!
The food, similar to other Emirates lounges, is great. The food options are laid out on a round table of white dishes with fruit plates, veggies, small salads, cheeses, and desserts, including delicious cupcakes with icing. There are self serve spirits, wines, and beers along with a huge array of canned sodas in fridges and a coffee machine.
There is a delicious hot buffet and some Indian options, cauliflower soup, pasta, roasted veggies, popadoms, lots of chicken in sauce dishes, pasta, beef, and so on.
There are also shower suites and a small business center.
8. Delta Sky Club, Terminal 1
This Delta SkyClub is located just past the security checkpoint for Terminal 1, on the left side. You can access this lounge for free if you hold a Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express as long as you’re flying on Delta.
This lounge is super smart with intricate design work and lighting, stylish seating, great views, and lots of power outlets. This is undoubtedly one of the best Delta ky Clubs in the world. There’s a huge variety of seating, many of which is near the large floor-to-ceiling windows. There is a long bar with bar stools and a business center with individual cubicles and communal tables.
The food and drinks are impressive here. There’s Starbucks drip coffee, a Starbucks espresso machine with whole fruit, and biscuits in glass jars, plus an extensive buffet.
Within the buffet, which is great but not as good as the Centurion lounge reviewed above. It includes veggies, fruit salad, pasta, chicken salad, spreads, cheese (both packages and cubed), a fruit salad, and mushrooms. There are also 2 bowls of hot soup to help yourself to, along with some excellent desserts. All in all, this is an incredible Delta lounge. One of the very best!
9. United Club Domestic lounges, Terminal 3
There is a United Club lounges in the International Terminal (Between Gate G6 & G9) as well as 3 United lounges in Terminal 3, Concourse F (Near Gate F11), Terminal 3, Boarding Area E (near Gate E4), Terminal 3, Mezzanine Level (across from Gate E2). These lounges welcome United Club members with same-day boarding passes, as well as other Star Alliance passengers. Terminal 3 is connected to the International Terminal airside, so this lounge is around a 10-minute walk from the International Terminal. The Amex Centurion Lounge is the better lounge if you can get entry to this one, but the United lounges have fantastic views and a full bar, complimentary snacks and drinks, and a small business center.
The lounges’ food is excellent, with the breakfast offering including scones, muffins, whole fruit, bagels, toast, sliced fruit, granola, yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal. Lunch is also fairly good with veggies, including carrots, chipotle quinoa salad, celery, soup, rolls, and cookies.
10. American Airlines Admirals Club, Terminal 2
Premium passengers on American Airlines or Oneworld airline partners’ flights have access to this lounge, as do Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members and Admirals Club members holding tickets on those airlines.
The lounge itself is small, uninspiring, and can get crowded. There are plenty of power outlets and clean, nice bathrooms. The downside is that the free food isn’t awfully good, so you may end up spending cash in the lounge if you want something substantial. The free food includes chicken enchilada soup and hummus, assorted veggies
If you get free access to this lounge, then it is worth visiting, but it isn’t worth paying a premium to use.
11. China Airlines Lounge, International Terminal
Premium passengers can access this lounge from China Eastern, British Airways, Iberia, and Icelandair. There are armchairs with plenty of outlets, tables, a buffet, and a large bar. The food is fairly poor, with chicken wings, a vegetable medley, and noodles.
12. Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge, International Terminal
This lounge is open to all Japan Airlines Business and First ticket-holders, plus most JMB members. Both the First and Business sections of this lounge are small and uninspiring. There’s a hot and cold buffet which includes fish-free sushi, soup, sandwiches, and finger foods, along with some chips and cookies. There is wine, beer, spirits, and a selection of soft drinks, water, and juices for drinks. The whole offering was “domestic” quality and a disappointment for an international airport lounge.
13. Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Lounge, International Terminal
Premium passengers on Philippine Airlines or elite members of the airline’s frequent flyer program can access this lounge, but it is one of the worst at San Francisco airport. It’s small, has a limited food selection, no windows, and looks dated and tatty. If it weren’t for the redeeming features of fried chicken substantial sandwiches and free alcohol, it would hardly be worth visiting at all…
Note: Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor.
Disclosure: Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.