American Will Leave San Francisco’s Terminal 2 and Alaska Will Build New Lounge There

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San Francisco’s terminal 2 is home to American Airlines and Alaska. It was the terminal where Virgin American was located prior to Alaska’s acquisition of the formerly Richard Branson-branded carrier.

American Airlines has an Admirals Club in the terminal, and Alaska club members aren’t welcome there despite a lounge reciprocity agreement. The explanation is that would make the lounge just too crowded. (Alaska flights out of the international terminal still afford club members with Cathay Pacific lounge access.)

Virgin America at San Francisco Terminal 2

The San Franciso Business Time reports (paywall) that:

  • American Airlines will move out of terminal 2 in March 2020 and “commence operations in our new Terminal 1 and Boarding Area B”

  • However Alaska Airlines will not take over the Admirals Club space. The airport wants that for retail.

  • Alaska wants to “leas[e] some of the build-back space for a potential lounge” and may be looking at a two-level club.

You might wonder, why not just use the existing American Admirals Club space for an Alaska Club once American vacates the terminal?

  1. It’s prime space right after you pass through security. All passengers pass by that area. That makes it great for retail, and airports love retail because they take a percentage of sales. Customers going inside to a club not only aren’t spending money in the rest of the airport they’re taking up space that might convert window shoppers into buyers.

  2. Passengers will make a trek through the airport to reach a club. Airport lounges are great for otherwise-less attractive parts of the airport. So they’ll convert space deeper in the terminal.

Until there’s a decided Alaska Club in terminal 2, San Francisco-based Alaska and ex-Virgin America flyers should probably get the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® which comes with Admirals Club membership.

Right now the $450 annual fee card is offering 75,000 AAdvantage miles after $7500 spend within the first 3 months of cardmembership. And authorized user cards come at no additional annual fee and get access to American Airlines clubs as well. You can have up to 10 authorized users on an account. [Offer expired]

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Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is terrible news as an AA flyer. SFO T2 is one of the nicest domestic terminals in the country and the SFO Admirals Club is one of the best in the system.

  2. I thought terminal one area B was/is getting a huge overhaul. They’re adding new gates and also new stores and retail. So hopefully by the time AA gets there it’s NOT the dump it is now.

  3. T1 is being completely gutted and transformed. T2 is nice, but it is possible that the new T1 will be just as good or even better since an airside bridge to International Terminal A will become available.

  4. What incentive does AA have for moving? As in, is SFO incenting them to leave a really nice, newish, relatively quiet part of SFO?

  5. I enjoy flying in and out of T2, and have selected AA and Virgin (RIP) flights due to the terminal. I remember getting a complementary Chromebook from Virgin to use at the terminal. This is a loss for AA, and a gain for Alaska. The sad part is that both AA and Alaska have cut back their flights to NYC from this terminal. Delta, Jet Blue and United (shudder) all have better schedules to the NYC area now; I’m taking a DL flight from SFO for the first time in about 10 years soon. It seems like airlines are increasingly ceeding the NYC market to Delta, Jet Blue and United…

  6. @ua-nyc – AA moving to T1 was always part of the plan when they commenced the renovations. T2 was slated for VX, T3 for United, and T1 for DL, AA, WN and the other small operators at the time (B6, AS, etc)

  7. While I certainly agree that T2 is, and has been so for years, the nicest terminal *currently* at SFO, T1 was built in the 1960s and is in the middle of a much-needed major remodel-and-expansion.

    From the San Francisco Chronicle’s website (SFGate), in an article dated 3/26/2108: “The massive $2.4 billion rebuild of the terminal (one) began in June of 2016, and the first phase, just nine gates and a new security checkpoint, won’t open until summer of 2019. In early 2020 the second phase will open with another nine gates along with new ticket counters at the south end of the terminal. In the third phase, in mid-2021, seven more gates open [for a total of 25] along with a new post-security connector to the International Terminal. The final phase, and project completion, won’t come until the fourth quarter of 2022 or later.”

    I think the major reason for AA’s move is simple: 7 of the 25 gates will be so-called ‘swing’ gates. This means AA (and possibly DL, as they will both be housed in T1) can bring overseas flights directly into the “home” terminal but still have a “sterile” corridor through which their passengers can go through passport controls.

    As a VX elite whose home airport is SFO, I always found it frustrating that there was no lounge here, but one at LAX. Even a Boardroom is better than nothing. Plans were announced a while ago for AS to have a two-level lounge with an outdoor seating area/deck in T2, but the clock is ticking as patience is wearing thin as no construction/groundbreaking (TTBOMK) has occurred. If AS is waiting for AA to move out before construction, their lounge probably won’t open until 2024 or ’25 at the earliest. Grrrrrrr….

  8. Two things!

    1) “Despite a reciprocity agreement” The reciprocity agreement is NOT all encompassing! If you look at the T&C on the AS website, SFO is EXCLUDED from the list of Clubs where AS paid F or Alaska Lounge Members can access. As such, your reference to the “reciprocity agreement” is irrelevant and it’s inclusion in your article suggests AA is violating the access “agreement” for AS.

    2) AA has an Admirals Club, AS has an Alaska Lounge. You referenced the “Alaska Club”

  9. Too bad SFO doesn’t use some of this construction to CONNECT ALL OF THEIR TERMINALS VS HAVING TO RE-ENTER SECURITY IF U CHANGE AIRLINES!!!!

  10. @James —> I don’t mean to split hairs, but it’s still a “reciprocity agreement,” but with one specific restriction. If it makes you happier, call it a “LIMITED reciprocity agreement.” Don’t misunderstand me: the fact that SFO is specifically excluded truly irritates the $#|+ out of me, but I have no idea WHOSE FAULT it is that SFO is “out”? My guess is that AA said “no,” but I honestly have no idea…I am just a mere mortal pawn on the corporate political chessboard of life.

  11. Couple of things.

    First, the long term plan as I recall was always for AA to return to a remodeled terminal 1.

    Second, I read another article today that made me think the area that Alaska wants to build a lounge may be completed prior to AA leaving for T1. Thus giving them the opportunity to get the lounge in earlier.

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