No ticket required to soak up the airfield sights from “Sky Terrace”
4:00 am PST, Wednesday, February 12, 2020
On Friday, Feb. 14, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will open the Sky Terrace, a new public, outdoor observation deck atop Terminal 2. What’s most unusual about this perch is that visitors do not need airline tickets or boarding passes to take in the superb airfield views (which you can see in the slideshow above) — access to the bright indoor-outdoor space is before security.
Plane spotters will delight in the terrace’s location, peering right over the spot on runways where jumbo jets gain enough momentum to lift off. During SFGATE’s exclusive preview of the space at around noon Tuesday, we watched a Cathay Pacific A350 roar off to Hong Kong, a Qantas 787 Dreamliner arrive from Sydney and Boeing 777s from United, Korean Air and Japan Airlines lumber through.
There’s enough room up there for 241 people, all of whom must submit to a screening process (a quick walk through a magnetometer), but the normal TSA restrictions on liquids and gels do not apply. There are several benches and chairs made of Australian jarrah wood, planters and, soon, sculptures.
The space will be open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day. The entrance is behind the Starbucks in Terminal 2 — it’s in the same corridor that passengers use to exit Terminal 2. Access is available via a staircase (up two floors) or a dedicated elevator. There are also two gender-neutral bathrooms at terrace level.
Visitors are allowed to bring food and drink, but the only nearby outlet is Starbucks, and eventually, a cafe. Smoking is, of course, verboten, with staff trained to put a stop to any attempts at lighting up.
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Like the outdoor observation deck in SFO’s International Terminal (G-side) which opened last year, the entire 1,460-sq-ft outdoor terrace is surrounded by 20 bird-proof glass panels 10.5 feet high. From the outside, the panels appear to birds to be striped bars that they will not fly into. These glass panels cost $7,500 each. Also, the drought-resistant landscaping on the triangular deck does not attract birds.
Even when the weather is inclement, aviation enthusiasts can geek out at the jumbo jet, ramp and tarmac views from an interior lobby space that leads to the outdoor deck. One floor below the deck is a big 3,000 square foot cafe space which offers almost the same views as you’ll get from the deck above. (The cafe will open later this year.)
The interior lobby of the SkyTerrace includes an SFO Museum exhibit, titled The 1954 San Francisco International Airport Terminal, which explores the history and architecture of the facility that previously existed in the area where the SkyTerrace is now located. (Check out the display and vintage photos in the slideshow at the top of this post.)
The SkyTerrace was constructed at a cost of $6.3 million, as part of a larger $59 million project which will create additional employee, airline, and lounge space above Terminal 2. The space was constructed by Turner Construction Company and designed by Woods Bagot/AE3 Joint Venture.
The deck is located on the roof of Terminal 2 (from which Alaska Airlines and American Airlines currently operate), in the area where the old control tower building used to stand. Adjacent to the public deck is Alaska Airlines’ new lounge space, which the carrier says will open “in fall 2020.”
Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s senior travel correspondent. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t miss a shred of important travel news by signing up for his FREE biweekly email updates!
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