SAN FRANCISCO — On Valentine’s Day, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) opened its second observation deck. Unlike the first, which opened one year ago at the International Terminal G-Gates, this second location at Terminal 2 is open to the public pre-security.

“We are very excited to open an outdoor observation deck that everyone can enjoy,” said SFO Airport Director Ivar C. Satero. “For many of us, coming to SFO with the family to watch airplanes helped inspire our love for aviation.”

Photo: Ben Wang

Indeed, on opening weekend, in addition to the expected crowd of enthusiasts and airport workers, a large number of families were seen enjoying the new space.

A spacious, $6.3 million SkyTerrace


Officially called the SkyTerrace, the 1460 square-foot observation deck was constructed at a cost of $6.3 million.

Photo: Ben Wang

As this is the location of the original observation deck, SFO Museum has a small exhibit and photos devoted to SFO’s early days as an International Airport.

Photo: Ben Wang

Tall windows extended from the floor surround the open-air deck, which sits between the D-Gates (Alaska and American) and E-Gates (United).

Photo: Ben Wang

The windows provide protection from the chilly sea breeze typically found at SFO. On an unusually warm winter day in February, a jacket was not unnecessary due to still air warmed by the sunshine above.

Photo: Ben Wang
Photo: Ben Wang

Ample seating areas are available both inside and out of the SkyTerrace.

Photo: Ben Wang

Planespotting photography


A drawback for photographers is the need to watch for glare. Photos also tend to get overexposed, so stepping down to -2/3 is recommended. The two sides paralleling the concourses make for good photo opportunities for aircraft parked on gates E4, 5, 7, 9 and D12, 14, 16.

Photo: Ben Wang
Photo: Ben Wang
Photo: Ben Wang

However, the two sides come to a “V” with the vertex pointed directly towards Runway 28s and parallel taxiway, making glare-free photography towards that prime movement direction particularly challenging.

Photo: Ben Wang

How to get to the SkyTerrace


The SkyTerrace is open seven days a week from 7 am to 10 pm. Located in Terminal 2, the entrance is located on the left side before TSA security checkpoint, behind Starbucks. Take the elevator or walk up to level 4.

Photo: Ben Wang

Visitors go through an easy security check by walking through a special scanner; just hang on to your bag to the side. There is no need to remove anything – just walk right through. Food and drinks are welcome; smoking is not allowed. A café will open at the level below at a later date. Restrooms and water bottle filling stations are available.

Photo: Ben Wang
Photo: Ben Wang

By regularly sponsoring Spotting Days at various locations around the airport, promoting Spotting Rooms at the on-airport Grand Hyatt Hotel, and now with the opening of a second observation deck, SFO is to be commended for spreading on-going love to the aviation enthusiast community!