Airline travel has changed a lot since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Security checks are more onerous, check-in lines are longer and the time spent idling at boarding gates has grown exponentially.
Yet, while the industry has changed dramatically, airports haven’t kept up. Few have the amenities to accommodate passengers who now spend the majority of their time behind security access points.
San Francisco International Airport is hoping to meet these challenges with its newly rehabilitated Terminal 2, which will open to the public Saturday after four years and $383 million in improvements.
Of the numerous concessions at the new Terminal 2, which has been shuttered since 2000, all but one are located after the security checkpoint. Travelers will be able to relax in lounge-style seating, while kids run around on a nearby play structure.
Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International-North America, an industry advocacy group, said most domestic terminals are more than 50 years old, and few have been remodeled for a post-9/11 world.
“It’s imperative for airports to adopt new designs that fit the changing needs of passengers,” said Principato. “There are now numerous online check-in options, so passengers aren’t waiting in ticket lines. Almost all of the experience now is after the security points.”
That experience in Terminal 2 will have a decidedly San Francisco feel.
Locally grown organic products will be available at the terminal, which has placed a high emphasis on sustainable food practices, said airport spokesman Michael McCarron. Paintings approved by the San Francisco Arts Commission will be on display, and the terminal has received a gold rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
The project, paid for by revenue bonds, is expected to keep passenger levels at the airport growing by 2 to 3 percent annually, despite rising fuel costs that are increasing ticket prices. By rearranging carriers, the airport will be able to handle the extra service without any delays. The airport is still carrying 2 million fewer passengers annually than at peak levels in 2000, McCarron said.
On Saturday, the airport will host a grand opening event, which will be attended by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other local officials.
“I am very excited about the opening of [Terminal 2] for many reasons, but the jobs it has created and will continue to create, along with the participation and opportunities available for our local businesses, are at the forefront of my mind,” Lee said.
By the numbers
How SFO’s Terminal 2 adds up: