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TravelInside Alaska Airlines’ new terminal — and new lounge — at SFO...

Inside Alaska Airlines’ new terminal — and new lounge — at SFO T1


This week, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) wraps up the phased opening of the $2.4 billion Harvey Milk Terminal 1.

There are new amenities for all, but it’s Alaska Airlines passengers who will reap the most benefits.

On Wednesday, Alaska Airlines will move its SFO hub operations from Terminal 2 to Harvey Milk T1.

On that day, all of Alaska’s flights to and from SFO will begin arriving and departing from the T1 gates. The airline’s check-in and bag drop activity will shift to the shiny new T1 lobby. All Alaska’s baggage delivery will take place in T1 as well.

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New lobby offers self-service bag tag and bag drop

With the opening of its new T1 lobby, Alaska becomes the first airline at SFO to offer automated bag drop, a service the airline has been piloting at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC).

This should help reduce congestion in the SFO T1 lobby and prevent long lines, according to Neil Thwaites, Alaska’s regional vice president of California.

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To use the automated bag drop, you’ll need to check in online and get a boarding pass on a mobile device. At the airport, you will then scan your boarding pass at one of the bag tag kiosks in the new T1 lobby. The machine will print out a peelable bag tag for you to affix to your luggage. Then you’ll take your bag up to the counter.

There, instead of handing your bag over to an airline employee, you’ll scan your bag tag and put the bag on the belt. Cameras will read your bag tag and measure the bag’s size, and scales will weigh the bag before sending it along on the conveyor belt, through the airport baggage system and to your plane. If you need to pay a bag fee or if your bag is oversized or overweight, the machine will prompt you to pay up.

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The bag tag kiosk will soon have a biometric ID check, but at roll-out airline staff members will be checking IDs. If you don’t want to go the self-service route for your bag drop, no worries. Thwaites says customer service agents will always be standing by to help you out.

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Easier access to Oneworld partners

In addition to the new ticket lobby and automated bag drop, Alaska Airlines is touting the terminal switch as a win-win-win in terms of amenities, access and convenience.

The new Terminal 1 post-security area has amenities that include SFO’s third yoga room, a wide variety of seating configurations, plentiful charging stations, lounger chairs, inclusive restrooms, children’s play areas, new museum galleries and new restaurants and shops. Starting Tuesday, there will also be a new all-access lounge, The Club SFO.

There’s also a “bonus” Transportation Security Administration checkpoint. Terminal 1 has a new mezzanine-level security checkpoint that is accessible from the AirTrain system. And the completion of the Terminal 1 connecting walkway means all terminals at SFO are linked post-security. So there’s now no need to leave one terminal, take the AirTrain to another and go back through security when making some connections.

In Harvey Milk T1, Alaska Airlines is now near its Oneworld alliance partner American Airlines and is right next to the International Terminal. “So, connectivity for guests traveling on to a long-haul service on our Oneworld partners such as British Airways, Qantas, Cathay, etc., is a much-improved proposition,” said Thwaites.

Alaska Airlines will open a T1 flagship lounge at SFO in July

Alaska Airlines is putting the final touches on a new lounge in Terminal 1 set to open sometime in the second half of July.

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The new 11,000-square-foot Alaska Airlines lounge will have 55% more seating than the Terminal 2 lounge offers, with many of the same amenities. You’ll see lots of loungers; a barista-staffed coffee bar; complimentary wine, beer, craft brews and cocktails; a pancake maker; and a changing menu of snacks and small meals. San Francisco-themed touches carrying over will be the sourdough bread cart from the Acme Bread Company and the self-serve candy station featuring Ghirardelli chocolates, jelly beans, M&M’s and fortune cookies made by the Oakland Fortune Factory.

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About 90% of the seating in the new lounge will have power outlets for charging gadgets, and there will be two “talk boxes” for private conversations. Locally themed artwork will include a “candy wall” with San Francisco-made candy. Unfortunately, the charming kids room decorated with San Francisco Giants baseball memorabilia will not be moving over to the new Terminal 1 lounge, said Liz Vernon, manager of lounge programs for Alaska Airlines.

Until the Alaska Airlines lounge in Terminal 1 opens, Alaska Lounge and Lounge+ members, as well as first-class passengers traveling on flights over 2,000 miles, will be able to use the Alaska Lounge in Terminal 2, which is a 10-15-minute walk from the new Alaska gates in Terminal 1. Lounge+ members also have access to the Admirals Club in Terminal 1 by Gate B13.

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