Note: The United Global First Lounge at San Francisco International Airport has been downgraded to a temporary business class lounge.
Business and First Class passengers may use the temporary club by gate 98, while Star Alliance Gold passengers and United Club members may use one of the domestic United Clubs in Terminal 3. For more details, see our blog post.
While it’s starting to show its age, the United Global First Lounge at San Francisco Airport, open to passengers departing and arriving in international First class, is still widely considered as one United’s best facilities system wide. It is obvious that United put a lot of thought into the design of this lounge back in the day and intended for it to be a showcase facility. While time has passed and the design has faded and the furniture is in dire need of an upgrade, the place remains a haven.
United Global First Lounge SFO design
The United Global First Lounge is located at International Terminal G close to the boarding gates (closer than the international United Club which is located next to security), on the ground floor below the concourse level. Make your way downstairs from the reception area and you’ll hit a customer service zone with individual service desks — it looks posh, it hasn’t been staffed for years as far as we know. The space then opens onto a large living-room like seating area.
The décor is Asian inspired, featuring artwork reflecting the destinations served by United from San Francisco. Recessed lighting gives the space a soothing and pleasant vibe. The large windows, equipped with wooden blinds, offer close-up views of the wide body aircraft parked outside.
The Global First lounge is by far United’s largest First Class lounge worldwide, and given the restrictive access policies, it is typically extremely quiet. Passengers who connect from an early morning flight or depart on a late flight may occasionally have the lounge to themselves. Even at peak times, the facility remains quiet and feels very private.
It’s unfortunate that much of the furniture is still original. It’s comfortable, and power outlets are widely available, but worn out upholstery with the occasional stain don’t scream first class.
United Global First Lounge SFO amenities
The United Global First Lounge at San Francisco airport offers a number of basic amenities including a business center with individual work cubicles and an (unsecure) bag storage location. There is also a dark napping room which is quiet yet looks ancient and offers little privacy. United could turn easily turn it into a much more attractive place with new furniture and simple curtains.
Two elegant shower suites are available upon request and come with a sink, toilet, shower, Cowshed branded bath amenities, and towels. The suites are spacious and well appointed, though the plumbing is in dire need of an upgrade.
The buffet offers a selection of snacks, appetizers, finger sandwiches, salads, cold entrees, as well as small hot plates. The selection is a mixed bag. At peak times when it’s replenished, it is substantial enough for an enjoyable albeit simple meal on the ground. Unfortunately, the buffet is mostly left unattended outside peak times, and especially late evenings past dinner time. What’s left to late Australia bound passengers is often a sad set of stale leftovers that gives a bleak impression of Global First service. The drink selection includes beer, Champagne and various liqueurs and spirits.
Service is an area in which the Global First lounge lacks. The customer service agents at the check-in desk have earned a rather poor reputation over the years. Expect to occasionally have to negotiate your way in even if you’re eligible to use the lounge — for example, Singapore Airlines First Class passengers are often sent back to the inferior Silver Kris lounge. The travel assistance desks downstairs haven’t been staffed for several years. Wait staff is few and far between and dirty plates and utensils often accumulate. While departing flights are announced, United’s passengers are not escorted to their aircraft. (ANA and Lufthansa, which also use the lounge, typically do come meet their customers, though.)
United Global First Lounge SFO bottom line
If one is willing to turn a blind eye on the lacking service and tired design, the United Global First Lounge at San Francisco airport is a pleasant place to relax, eat, work or socialize prior to a long flight, though it doesn’t quite meet the standards of premium facilities worldwide.
For information on possible alternatives, other lounges at SFO and rankings, check out our Definitive Guide to the SFO Lounge Scene.
The following is a typical sample selection. Actual choices may vary. All food and drinks are complimentary. Some options may only be available on demand -- place your order with a server.
- Veggies and dips
- Shrimp cocktail
- Cheese and crackers
- Smoked salmon
Appetizers and small plates
- Chocolate cake
- Finger sandwiches
- Quiche Lorraine
- Instant noodles
- Smoked salmon
- Surf and turf
- Asian prawns
- Chicken soba
- Ramen noodle soup or miso soup
DrinksSoft drinks and hot drinks
Beer, wine, Champagne
- Bottled water
- Soda and juices
- Coffee, espresso, latte, cappuccino
- Hot chocolate
- Beer (local and imports)
- White wine
- Red wine
- Veuve Cliquot Champagne
- Ketel One
- Grey Goose
- Bombay Sapphire
- Cuervo Gold
- Patron Silver
- Patron Reposado
- Jim Beam
- Canadian Club
- Jack Daniels
- Crown Royal
- Woodford Reserve
- Johnny Walker Red Label
- Dewar’s White Label
- Chivas Regal
- Glenfiddich 12 year
- Courvoisier V.S.O.P
- Henessy XO
- Grand Marnier
- Captain Morgan
- 10 Cane
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