The British Airways Lounge San Francisco re-opens after an extreme makeover

British Airways is in the process of remodeling airport lounges worldwide, as part of a broad investment in premium cabins which includes new seats and upgraded catering.

Out of the nine British Airways lounges in the US, two have already received the royal treatment: the new Boston lounge features dramatic views and a private First Class dining zone, while the renovated New York JFK location boasts a complimentary spa.

The other clubs are not bastions of modernity, but perhaps nowhere were renovations as urgent as at San Francisco airport, where the grim decor of the Terraces Lounge was only a match for its general lack of upkeep. The appearance of the club revealed years of neglect, compounded by chronic crowding.

After an eight-month hiatus during which passengers were accommodated at the nearby China Airlines Dynasty Lounge, Cathay Pacific Lounge, and and Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge, the club makes a come-back this week with a new name, a revamped design, and new amenities.

British Airways Club Lounge San Francisco design

Dubbed British Airways Club Lounge (the airline has dropped the “Terraces” moniker), the remodeled San Francisco club stretches over 7,100 square feet (665 square meters.)

The location and footprint of the lounge have not changed. The club is still situated in International Terminal A, below gates A4 and A6. While British Airways initially hinted at a possible expansion and the addition of a new floor, there is no evidence that the club has gained in size. However, the new layout utilizes the space more efficiently.

Located below the concourse level, the British Airways Club Lounge sports floor-to-ceiling windows. While the views are somewhat limited by the ground-level location, guests will enjoy the occasional close-up aircraft vistas.

British Airways Club Lounge SFO tarmac views

The new club does away with the concept of a separate First Class Lounge, so Business and First Class passengers share the same elegant space.

The decor features hardwood floors, Earth tones, and artwork by Bill Jacobsen, Doug Hall, Katherine Sherwood, and Ruth Root. The layout strikes a reasonable balance between space efficiency and privacy—though the seating area is definitely compact.

British Airways Club Lounge San Francisco seating area

At the epicenter of the club is a granite feature bar, which serves as the focal point of the design and as an informal social area.

British Airways Club Lounge San Francisco bar

Guests have their choice of seats including spacious chairs with side tables, dining tables, workstations, and bar stools. Unlike the previous incarnation of the lounge which was furnished with sofas, the new club is primarily designed for solo travelers.

British Airways Club Lounge SFO workspace

One of the more convenient aspects of the British Airways Club Lounge at SFO is the ability to board directly from the lounge. (However, the west side of International Terminal A cannot accommodate the Airbus A380 aircraft, so the evening flight to Heathrow typically boards on the opposite side of the lounge.)

For an immersive virtual tour of the new club, check out British Airways’ 360-degree interactive video.

Amenities at the British Airways Club Lounge San Francisco

The remodeled British Airways Club Lounge at San Francisco airport delivers on all the basics, with complimentary Wi-Fi, power outlets throughout (80% of the seats are equipped with a plug, according to the airline), and wireless printing facilities.

Available for self-service is a broad selection of soft drinks, beers, worldwide wines, and spirits. The food offerings are decidedly more modest, though, with a charcuterie board, salads, a pasta bar, local cheeses, and sweets.

Pasta does not exactly strike us as a premium product, and the focus is definitely on comfort foods. Then again, San Francisco to London Heathrow flights are long enough that most passengers probably expect to eat on board and do not require a full meal on the ground.

British Airways Club Lounge San Francisco charcuterie board

While the new lounge does away with the concept of a separate First Class Lounge, British Airways is introducing a luxurious touch exclusively for First Class passengers: the aptly-named First Class Boutique Dining Room.

In the elegant—but windowless—rear room adorned with velvet seats, guests can enjoy an a-la-carte menu featuring a local seafood cioppino, rigatoni with heirloom cherry tomato Sauce, ricotta and parmesan, a mezze plate, and a selection of cheeses and delectable desserts, along with wine pairings.

There’s a trick behind the “First Class Boutique Dining Room” moniker: technically, it’s a dining area for First Class passengers, and not a First Class Lounge. And thus, oneworld access rules do not apply: Emerald status passengers do not have access. Incidentally, this makes the Boutique Dining Room the most exclusive space at San Francisco airport.

British Airways Club Lounge SFO First Class Boutique Dining Room

British Airways giveth, and British Airways taketh away. A casualty of the remodel of the Club Lounge at San Francisco airport is the removal of the shower suites, presumably in an attempt to make more space. The decision goes against the latest trend for business class standards, and is difficult to justify when passengers may be coming to the airport from work, with a 12 hour journey ahead. Fortunately, thanks to British Airways’ oneworld membership, guests can head over to the Cathay Pacific Lounge to freshen up.

British Airways Club Lounge SFO access rules

The British Airways Club Lounge at San Francisco airport is open daily around British Airways departure times (mornings and evenings.)

The club welcomes the following guests:

  • British Airways First and Club World (Business Class) passengers.
  • British Airways Silver and Gold Executive Club members.
  • oneworld First and Business class passengers, including Iberia business class passengers.
  • oneworld Emerald and Sapphire customers.

Only British Airways First Class passengers have access to the First Class dining area.

British Airways premium passengers and oneworld Sapphire and Emerald customers may also use the gorgeous Cathay Pacific Lounge and more modest Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge, which are both located a short stroll away.

Korean Air does not use the British Airways lounge anymore. Going forward, KAL passengers are invited to use the Cathay Pacific Lounge.

Bottom line

The remodeled British Airways Club Lounge at San Francisco airport is a dramatic improvement over the legacy Terraces Lounge. Looking at the new sleek decor, timeless color palette, striking bar area, and convenient workstations, it’s difficult to remember that the space used to be haphazardly furnished with stained sofas and inoperative lamps.

The former British Airways Terraces Lounge at San Francisco airport

The addition of the new First Class Boutique Dining Room is a luxurious touch for the lucky few and a definitive upgrade over the former First Class Lounge which was nothing more than a cordoned-off area.

However, the removal of shower facilities feels like a major step backwards, and the overall food menu fails to impress, even in First Class. And considering that British Airways’ schedule sometimes sees back-to-back A380 and Boeing 747 departures, crowding is likely to remain an issue.

The tables have turned at San Francisco airport. United, whose ground product was uncompetitive until 18 months ago, now sets the standard with an excellent Polaris Lounge which leaves oneworld passengers longing for more.

Next on British Airways’ to-do list is the Johannesburg lounge. The club will receive a face lift later this year.

Photos courtesy of British Airways

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