Only Air New Zealand operates non-stop direct service from San Francisco International Airport to a destination Downunder: Auckland, New Zealand. Through a variety of code-share agreements and airline partnerships, flights from airports across the US and Canada connect to these non-stop flights. Additionally, Southwest also flies into San Francisco, which adds even more possibilities for connecting to the direct flights to New Zealand.
Note: Non-stop flights to Australia no longer depart from San Francisco; connections are possible either with an additional flight from Auckland to Australia or by flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles to connect to a direct flight to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
Chances are you’ll be arriving at San Francisco on a connecting flight. As this airport has the largest international terminal of any airport in the United States you may miss some of its features. We’ve prepared some tips to help you find your way – and pass the time if you’re facing a long layover between flights.
The airport has four terminals, laid out in a circular pattern. Terminals 1 – 3 in the east are for domestic flights; Terminal 4 in the west is for international. Arrivals are on the ground floor of Terminal 4, with check-in and gates up the stairs (or elevator) on the first floor. For Air New Zealand (and United Airlines code-shares operated by Air New Zealand), you will find your gates to the left as you enter the main entrance (Boarding Area G, Gates G91 – G102).
Most United Airlines domestic flights arrive and depart in Terminal 3 – a short walk over to the International Terminal.
Some of United’s domestic flights are arriving in Terminal 1. The airport prepared a map and guide for these United passengers to help find transportation to United’s staffed counters in Terminal 3 and the international flights in Terminal 4.
If you’ve checked in for your flight to New Zealand at your departure airport, your luggage will be checked through to Auckland and you’ll have your boarding pass. Allow about an hour to go through security and find your gate.
If you’ll be checking-in for your New Zealand flight at San Francisco, allow at least two hours as you’ll have to stand in the airline check-in line to get your boarding pass and drop off your luggage before heading over to security and the gate. Flight information displays are located at numerous places in the terminal.
All of the terminals at San Francisco Airport are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
San Francisco Airport has an ongoing renovations program which includes temporary closures of runways to improve their facilities. Boarding Area E between Terminals 2 and 3 is closed for renovations until the end of 2013.
Luggage trolleys are available throughout the airport. Those arriving in the international terminal can use them for free; those going to or from other areas will need to pay a fee. If you need to pick up your baggage to transfer to your next flight, you will find claim areas in each of the terminals. Follow the signs to claim your luggage before proceeding to the international terminal.If you need to transfer from a domestic flight to your international one, then you can walk to Terminal 4 through the ‘connecting flights’ doors at the left of Terminal 1 (towards Gate 20), or the right of Terminal 3 (near Gate 75).
Even though you are able to walk inside to all the terminals, the walkways are an unsecured area of the airport and you will still have to go through security upon arrival at the international building.
If you are transferring to a domestic or international flight upon arriving in Terminal 4, go through the arrivals hall and through the ‘connecting flights’ doors. If you need to re-check baggage for a connecting flight, there’s a checked luggage transfer facility right outside the doors.
Rather than walking between terminals – especially if you have a lot of luggage – you can use AirTrain, the San Francisco Airport free train service. It runs roughly every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
There are two routes, the Red Line and the Blue Line; the only difference is that the latter also travels out to the furthermost parking garages at the airport. Both routes connect to all terminals. You’ll see signs in each terminal for the AirTrain entrance.
If you have a lengthy layover in the airport, there are things you can see and do to pass the time. Check our detailed guide to what you’ll find inside the airport.