Here’s A Sneak Peek Inside Alaska’s New Terminal At SFO


One of the largest hub airports for Alaska Airlines is about to look a lot different.

Starting June 19, Alaska Airlines flights to and from San Francisco International Airport will operate out of the airport’s newest terminal, Harvey Milk Terminal 1.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines — which up until now had gates in Terminal 1 — will swap into Alaska’s old gates in Terminal 2.

Alaska’s arrival marks the final phase of the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 opening. The three-phase terminal opening kicked off in July 2019, with the debut of nine departure gates. The second phase, completed in May 2021, added seven new departure gates plus a new post-security connector to one of SFO’s international terminals. It also entailed a new museum gallery and exhibit honoring Harvey Milk, who was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S.

With the final phase comes new technology and a more streamlined airport experience. Here’s a peek inside the final touches of the new terminal.

Automated bag tag and drop stations

Alaska Bag Tag SFO

(Photo by Sally French)

Check-in should theoretically run faster, given new Alaska bag tag stations that replace traditional tagging kiosks.

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(Photo by Sally French)

  1. Check-in online and download your boarding pass to your mobile device.

  2. Scan your boarding pass on a tablet at the check-in area, where you’ll be prompted to pay for checked bags, if applicable. A printer adjacent to the tablet prints out your tags, which you affix to your bag.

  3. Bring your bags to a counter, where a machine scans the bag tag before it is placed on the belt. From there, place your bag on a conveyor belt, upon which it’ll be whisked away and loaded onto the aircraft.

Alaska Airlines customer service desk at SFO

(Photo by Sally French)

No human touch is needed, in theory.

Though for the folks who blunder through sticking together bag tags or or otherwise prefer to speak to a human, Alaska’s regional vice president of California, Neil Thwaites, says there will be plenty of staff members available nearby, too.

Alaska Airlines bag tag print

(Photo by Sally French)

The technological addition makes Alaska the first airline at SFO to offer automated bag drops.

A new post-security connector

Technically, you don’t have to go through Terminal 1 security to get to an Alaska gate. Yet another security connector will open, this one connecting Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 via a walkway on the other side of security.

SFO Harvey Milk Terminal 1

(Photo by Sally French)

That means every SFO gate will now be connected post-security, Thwaites says.

That’s convenient for travelers connecting to flights on other airlines. It will also make it possible for travelers to access SFO airport lounges, like those in the Priority Pass network, in other terminals without having to clear security twice.

A new lounge (soon)

Alaska Airlines lounge SFO concept art

(Photo by Sally French)

Then there’s a new Alaska lounge, though it won’t open until mid-July. It’ll offer 230 seats — that’s about 55% larger than the current Terminal 2 Alaska lounge. The 11,000-square-foot lounge will feature two private booths for calls, lounge chairs and bistro seating. Expect a barista-staffed espresso bar, Alaska’s signature pancake machine, salads, hot foods, local wines and craft brews.

Though most refreshments are complimentary, premium spirits and food items are also available for purchase.

The existing Alaska lounge will close once the new lounge opens.

The bottom line

The new Alaska gate experience is part of a $2.5 billion investment Alaska pledged to make across its hubs and focus cities, which include San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and Anchorage. The airline also stated its goal to get passengers through the lobby and to security in five minutes or less.

Alaska Airlines automated bag drop

(Photo by Sally French)

Passengers traveling through SFO should expect an easier experience navigating the airport, given that every gate at the airport will soon be fully connected post-security. Particularly for travelers with international connections or who are flying with a Oneworld alliance partner, it’ll be convenient to not have to clear security again if flying.

For now, Alaska will have 10 dedicated gates at SFO, but that could change.

“We’re leaving plenty of room to grow over time,” Thwaites says.

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