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Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge network with over 1,200 lounges in 143 countries. The Priority Pass program makes lounge access available to any traveler who has a membership. This means that lounges are no longer just for airline elites and passengers traveling in premium cabins.
San Francisco (SFO) has three Priority Pass lounges — one traditional lounge and two restaurant lounges. My husband JT and I had a chance to visit all three during a recent layover at SFO. Here’s what you need to know about the Priority Pass program as well as the airport’s three Priority Pass lounges.
SFO: A Quick Overview
SFO is a major hub and Pacific gateway for United Airlines. The airport is connected to downtown San Francisco and Oakland by the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) while the three domestic terminals and the International Terminal are connected outside by the AirTrain.
Unfortunately for passengers, only some of the gates are connected airside from terminal to terminal. There are four distinct terminals:
- International Terminal A (Gates A1-A12)
- International Terminal G (Gates G91-G102) connects to Domestic Terminal 3 (Gates 60-90)
- Domestic Terminal 1 (Gates 40-48) connects to Domestic Terminal 2 (Gates 50-59)
- Domestic Terminal 1 (Gates 20-28)
Priority Pass Membership
Although you can buy a few different types of memberships from Priority Pass directly, it’s generally a better value to sign up for a credit card that offers Priority Pass membership as a benefit. But note — you’ll need to enroll explicitly in Priority Pass after signing up for most of these cards. Here are some of the cards that provide Priority Pass membership:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express: Priority Pass Select membership is provided to primary card holders and authorized users, meaning that each member can bring two guests. The personal card has an annual fee of $550 (See Rates & Fees), but you can add up to three authorized users for $175 per year (See Rates & Fees). The business card has a $595 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Priority Pass Select membership is included for card holders and authorized users, meaning each member can bring two guests. The card’s annual fee is $450 for the primary card holder and $75 for each authorized user.
- Citi Prestige Card: Priority Pass Select membership is included for primary card holders and authorized users. But, this membership differs from other Priority Pass Select memberships in that members can bring their immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18 years of age) or up to two guests. The card’s annual fee is $495 for primary cardholders and $75 for authorized users.
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Priority Pass Select membership is included for the primary card member, who can bring two guests. The card has a $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Priority Pass Select membership is included for the primary cardholder, who can bring up to two guests. The card has a $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card: This card includes a Priority Pass membership, but this membership offers just 10 free visits per year. So, you can visit by yourself ten times, once with nine guests, or any intermediate combination. After that, you’ll have to pay a $32 fee per person, per visit. This card has a $95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
Location: Concourse F, near Gate 82 across from public restrooms
Hours: 5am to 11pm daily
Credit: $28 per person for cardholder and one guest (not including gratuity)
Menu: Inspired by the food offerings at the Giants’ stadium, the menu includes sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, salads and a full bar
Wi-Fi: Limited to general airport free Wi-Fi. Signal was decent in the restaurant though; a speedtest measured 12 ms ping, 15.9 Mbps download and 55.1 Mbps upload.
Our Service Experience: The restaurant was about 90% full when we arrived at 9:20pm. An irritable hostess said we’d need to swipe a Priority Pass at the welcome kiosk before being seated but otherwise didn’t say a word. An equally unfriendly server took our order several minutes after we were seated, but he returned a couple of minutes later and simply said “No more” while tossing a menu on the table in front of me. I correctly interpreted this meant they were out of the sandwich I’d ordered, so I asked for The Classic (a plain hot dog, $10.95) instead. JT’s McCovey Cove Sandwich (seared ahi tuna, $21.25) arrived just seven minutes after we ordered — before my beer ($6) had even arrived. My beer arrived a minute later, and my hot dog arrived two minutes later. JT finally got a glass of water 12 minutes after his meal arrived. At the end of our meal, the server was willing to charge a credit card for $0.01 so we could leave a tip on the card.
Our Dining Experience: The McCovey Cove seared ahi tuna sandwich was excellent — the tuna was fresh, plus the slaw and sauce perfectly complemented the tuna. The Classic hot dog was made of high-quality beef and came with a toasted, buttered bun. For some meals you can upgrade the plain fries that come with the meal to garlic fries for a small surcharge. JT upgraded to garlic fries, and they smelled wonderful. If you like garlic, can handle a small amount of spice and don’t mind your fries being served “wet,” the garlic fries are worth the upgrade.
Overall Take: If you can get over the grumpy service and like ballpark-style food, the food at this restaurant is excellent. We had $56 to work with, but our meal — two entrees and a beer — only came to $42.37 after tax but before tip.
Location: Concourse F, near Gate 72
Hours: 5:30 am to 10pm daily
Credit: $28 per person for cardholder and one guest (not including gratuity)
Menu: A casual, New England-themed eatery featuring dishes such as clam chowder, salads and fresh seafood
Wi-Fi: Limited to general airport free Wi-Fi. Signal was okay in the restaurant; a speedtest measured 10 ms ping, 11.4 Mbps download and 61.2 Mbps upload.
Our Service Experience: When we arrived for dinner, the restaurant was about 40% full and most unoccupied tables were clean. There was limited seating at the bar, two- and four-top tables near an open kitchen and additional tables in a glassed-in patio with wicker-style chairs. We were given a Priority Pass instruction card and menu when seated. A server came by quickly after we were seated to take our drink orders and returned a few minutes later to take our food orders. Our drinks — a beer ($6) and a water — came out shortly after we ordered them and our food came out 11 minutes after we placed our order. The waiter wasn’t willing to charge a small amount to a credit card so we could leave a tip on that amount — so make sure you have some cash on hand for a tip.
Our Dining Experience: I ordered the popcorn shrimp appetizer ($14) and a side of Parmesan truffle fries ($6.50). The shrimp tasted fresh and was lightly breaded and fried. The Parmesan fries were crisp and lightly topped with Parmesan and parsley. JT ordered the poke bowl ($21.95), and we both agreed that the tuna wasn’t the best. I’d definitely order the popcorn shrimp and Parmesan fries again but we’d try something besides the poke bowl next time.
Overall Take: This restaurant was quiet and the staff were generally friendly. The menu has a wide variety of food, even for those who don’t like seafood. We had $56 to work with and our meal — an appetizer, an entree, a side and a beer — came to $53.74 after tax but before tip.
Location: Concourse A, Level 3; make the first left after the TSA checkpoint
Hours: 7:30am – 11:30am; 3:30pm – 6:30pm and 8:30pm – 12:45am daily
Lounge Layout: The lounge is composed of two rooms after the entrance desk. The front room is for relaxing or working, while the back room is for dining. There’s a small room with artwork on the walls located just off the front room but it wasn’t open during my visit. The lounge was about 75% full when I visited shortly before closing. The dining room had no empty tables and seating in the front room was about half full.
Amenities: There are a few TVs in the lounge, as well some magazines and newspapers. There’s lounge-specific Wi-Fi, but it took a few tries before it would stay connected. Once it remained connected it performed well with 4 ms ping, 27.2 Mbps download and 22.5 Mbps upload.
Power in the lounge is limited, but it is available at bar-chair seating along the edges of both rooms as well as at a high counter in the middle of the front room. There are four stalls in the women’s bathroom as well as a changing room, but there aren’t any showers available.
Food and Beverage: There’s a small snack bar in the front room, but most of the food and drinks are available in the back room. The food buffet was substantial enough for a small meal, offering chicken noodle soup, pasta and meatballs, cooked vegetables, two types of sandwiches, fruit platter, assorted cheeses and a self-serve salad bar.
The alcohol was self-serve. There was a wide variety of spirits including Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label, Skyy Vodka, Captain Morgan rum, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey and Beefeater gin. There were also two types of red wine, two types of white wine, one rosé wine, and eight types of beer. There were also a variety of sodas available for mixing.
- Passengers must be departing on a flight from Concourse A
- Children under two are admitted free
- Alcohol is only served to guests 21 and older
- The maximum stay is three hours
SFO has three Priority Pass lounges — one traditional lounge and two restaurant lounges that accept Priority Pass and provide a food and beverage credit. If you’re looking for a traditional lounge, the Air France-KLM Lounge provides adequate food and some decent working spaces with power and lounge-specific Wi-Fi. The lounge can become crowded and no shower facilities are offered.
If you’re looking for a restaurant meal, both restaurants that accept Priority Pass provide quick service and have menu prices that fit the $28 per person credit provided through Priority Pass. Both restaurants are located in the same terminal, so the best restaurant for you will depend on what type of cuisine you’re craving and what type of dining atmosphere you’re going for — the Giants Clubhouse serves ballpark food in a busy atmosphere with TVs while Yankee Pier serves New England-style dishes in a calmer environment.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Ascend Card, please click here.
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