SAN FRANCISCO —  San Francisco International Airport (SFO) broke ground on a renovation of its South Terminal, which the airport now calls “Terminal 1,” on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

The airport held a ceremony with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, retiring Airport Director John L. Martin, his replacement Ivar Satero, construction company representatives, and labor leaders in attendance.

Ivar Satero, new SFO Airport Director. (Credits: Author)
Ivar Satero, new SFO Airport Director. (Credits: Author)

The $2.4 billion project will be built in phases over the next several years in order to maintain operations during construction. The first step in this process is to build an Interim Boarding Area B, with nine fully-operational gates.

“The renovation of Terminal One is another milestone in our City’s effort to keep SFO a world class airport, and on this day we also celebrate another milestone for SFO in Airport Director John L. Martin’s final public appearance before his retirement,” said Mayor Ed Lee, before wielding a ceremonial sledge hammer against a wall to symbolically start the reconstruction.

SFO Mayor Ed Lee (Top Left) wielding a sledgehammer in the ceremony of the reconstruction of the airport. (Credits: Author)
SFO Mayor Ed Lee (Top Left) wielding a sledgehammer in the ceremony of the reconstruction of the airport. (Credits: Author)

“For more than 20 years, John’s leadership has transformed SFO into a world-class airport, reflecting all that is great about the San Francisco Bay Area.  The renovation of Terminal One is a perfect retirement gift, and the completed facility will serve as a tribute to his visionary leadership” Lee said.

Maintaining flights requires construction of a temporary boarding area using a portion of the old “Pier F/FF” dating from 1963.

In September 2016, Interim Boarding Area B will open with 9 gates, numbered 20-28, to serve Southwest, Frontier and other carriers as needed. Gates 20 and 21 will share a super long jet bridge to minimize conflicts with construction work. Construction crews will close and demolish the west side of the old pier to begin building Stage 1 of new Boarding Area B.

SFO temp gates

Concurrently, the old TWA hangar and associated infrastructure will be demolished to accommodate the relocation of taxiways Hotel and Mike. This work must be completed to make room for the full build-out of the new Boarding Area B.

In December 2018, Stage 1 will be completed. With the completion of the taxi lane construction, 9 gates will open along with the south half of Terminal 1, including a new security checkpoint and baggage handling system. Demolition of the east rotunda of the interim Boarding Area B will occur during this stage.

Work on Stage 2A will commence during Stage 1 construction, approximately June 2017. Stage 2A, consisting of an additional 8 gates for total of 17, will open in June 2019 and will extend the concourse lengthwise. Although one might assume that Southwest and Frontier will be using the new boarding area, specific airline gate allocation is yet to be finalized.

Boarding Area B and Terminal 1 construction will be finished in September 2020, as Stage 2B is completed with an additional 7 gates for a grand total of 24 gates. This work includes demolition of Interim Boarding Area B, construction of the north side of Terminal 1 and the sterile connector to International Terminal, which will include 6 gates that can accommodate international arrivals by providing direct access to the U.S. Customs & Border Protections Federal Inspection Area.


Meanwhile, Boarding Area C work is in the planning stage, with construction and phasing to occur sometime after the completion of Boarding Area B and Terminal 1. This work will conclude in approximately mid-2024.

“With the renovation of Terminal 1, my role at SFO comes full circle,” said Airport Director John L. Martin, who is retiring after 20 years as the airport’s director.

SFO Airport Director John Martin will leave his office after 20 years of service. (Credits: Author)
SFO Airport Director John Martin will leave his office after 20 years of service. (Credits: Author)

“When I assumed this position, the face of the Airport was changing dramatically, with the construction of a new International Terminal. Over the course of 20 years, it has been my pleasure to continually take our airport experience to new heights. The Terminal 1 renovation will once again surprise and delight travelers at SFO, delivering on the goal to create an exceptional airport experience” Martin said.

The completed terminal will feature a new central area with improved spaces for passenger check-in, a consolidated security checkpoint, a “re-composure” area, a new common use baggage handling system and baggage claims and a new mezzanine with connections to the AirTrain and the central parking garage.

A welcome improvement will be connecting walkways located post-security that will provide easy access to International Boarding Area A and Boarding Area C.

The South Terminal originally opened in September 1963, as airline traffic dramatically increased during the early Jet Age. There were three boarding areas, then called “piers,” including Pier G, which housed the airport’s international gates and was located at approximately the location of today’s Boarding Area A.

SFO South Terminal Lobby, circa 1983. (Credits: Author)
SFO South Terminal Lobby, circa 1983. (Credits: Author)

Pier F/FF, which will be replaced by the new Boarding Area B, was the long-time home of Trans World Airlines and was also used by Western Airlines. Pier E, used for about 20 years by American Airlines, was built as an add-on to the 1954 terminal and incorporated into the South Terminal when the latter opened in 1963; it was replaced by the present Boarding Area C in the 1980s.

Now the current project should help SFO maintain its position as the Bay Area’s premier air travel gateway.

The author wishes to thank to Doug Yakel, SFO Public Information Officer and the SFO Museum staff for their assistance with the article.