SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco International Airport began operations at the new Boarding Area B, the southern-most concourse of the airport, and the main section of the newly-named Harvey Milk Terminal 1.

This replaces the former Boarding Area B, which is currently home to Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines. The new Boarding Area B first broke ground on June 29, 2016. It will be completed in three different stages. Stage 1 has been completed and has now opened.

The Harvey Milk Terminal

Stage 1 features the main atrium of Boarding Area B—the focal point of the post-security part of Terminal 1. It features a large wall commemorating the life and work of Harvey Milk, the terminal’s namesake.

Part of the wall commemorating Harvey Milk (Photo: Ben Wang)

In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors—the first openly-gay man elected to office in the United States. Prior to that, he was an important figure in the LGBT community of San Francisco, fighting for equal rights in business, housing, and employment.

The mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, was on hand for the opening of the terminal, and spoke highly of Milk: “Harvey Milk, for over 40 years, has been giving hope to so many people—not just members of the LGBT community, but people from around the world, who sometimes felt as if they didn’t have a voice, who sometimes felt as if they didn’t matter. He stepped out on faith, to be this incredible public figure.”

Travelers learning more about the life and legacy of Harvey Milk (Photo: Ben Wang)

The memorial to Harvey Milk is actually featured on a construction wall, which will be removed with the opening of the third stage of the design. However, airport officials clearly stated that it will be moved to a permanent home at that time.

Part of the wall commemorating Harvey Milk (Photo: Ben Wang)

Boarding Area B’s Features

Boarding Area B currently features 9 gates (B6-8, B12-14, B17-18). Six of these gates will be used by Southwest Airlines. The airline has been gradually growing at SFO after returning to the airport in 2007.

Two of the concourse’s gates will belong to JetBlue Airlines, including gate B6, which entertainingly matches JetBlue’s IATA code. JetBlue has been occupying common-use gates in SFO’s International Terminal A since it began service to the airport in 2007.

Part of the gate area of Boarding Area B (Photo: Ben Wang)

The final gate will be a common-use gate, which will be shared between both airlines. Southwest will use the gate during the day, with JetBlue using it in the later hours for their red-eye flight bound for the East Coast.

The old Boarding Area B, formerly pier F/FF, featured a two-satellite design, which was very indicative of the 1960s. The new Boarding Area B now resembles a linear pier concourse in shape, very similar to International Terminal A.

In order to make room for this, the layout of the surrounding parts of the airport had to change. First, the old TWA hangars next to Runway 1L/19R had to be demolished. In its place came two taxiways to connect International Terminal A with the rest of the airport.

Additionally, a new taxiway was created on the south side of Boarding Area B to facilitate the gates on that side of the concourse. These changes will help make aircraft ground movements at SFO more efficient.

Designers of Boarding Area B wanted to bring back “the romance of travel” with various passenger comfort features. The windows of Boarding Area B are equipped with “smart-glass technology”.

When the sun hits the windows directly, the windows turn to a blue tint, thus blocking the harsh sunlight from entering the interior of the concourse. When the sun angle becomes less direct, the windows become clear.

An example of the new “smart-glass” windows (Photo: Ben Wang)

Chaise lounge chairs have been set up along many windows, allowing AvGeeks the opportunity to relax and watch planes. Boarding Area B will feature a Yoga Room, the third in the airport.

Lounging and watching planes: an AvGeek’s dream! (Photo: Ben Wang)

With hundreds of power outlets, travelers are sure to remain connected at all times. The concourse also features all-gender restrooms, the first-ever in an airport.   

Power ports are located throughout the seating area of the terminal (Photo: Ben Wang)

Future Plans

Stage 2 of Boarding Area B will open in 2020. It will add 9 more gates to the west end of the concourse (B19-27).

American Airlines is expected to move from Terminal 2 to these gates once they have been completed. Once American Airlines vacates its gates in Terminal 2, United Airlines is expected to take over these gates to grow its hub at SFO.

Currently, United is building a secure corridor between Terminals 2 and 3 to facilitate connections. With Stage 2, a centralized check-in area will be created for all of Terminal 1 as well.

Stage 3 will be completed by 2023 with the destruction of the old Boarding Area B.

This final stage will add nine more gates to the north side of the concourse and one to the south side (B1-5, B10-11, B15-16). These gates will be international swing gates and will connect to International Terminal A through both a secure corridor and a FIS corridor.

Layout of the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 once all three stages are complete.

International growth at SFO has been massive in the past few years, with international traffic up 40% since 2015 with the addition of 18 international carriers.

The added gates in Boarding Area B will be a great addition to the airport to decrease gate wait times, which can be up to 90 minutes in the busy summer season.

Saying Goodbye

With the addition of the new concourse, a piece of SFO history will fall to the wayside. The old Pier F/FF was constructed in 1963 as a result of the rise of the jet aircraft. It was the long-time home of Trans World Airlines and Western Airlines until their respective mergers with AA and Delta Air Lines.

SFO’s Terminal 1 c. 1970 (Photo: SFO Museum)

In the 1960s and 1970s, it was also home to San Francisco Helicopter Airlines, which offered helicopter and hovercraft service to various Bay Area cities. In the 21st century, the concourse was home to a hodgepodge of airlines like Continental Airlines, US Airways, Midwest Airlines, America West Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Air Canada.

SFO has come a long way in the past few years, and with the immense growth of the airport, the changes are just getting started.