Get ready for a rocky week at San Francisco International Airport if you're flying abroad. But the gain will be worth the pain, officials say.
Starting Tuesday, incoming and outbound foreign flights will begin shifting to the airport's giant new international terminal, with all the moves expected to be complete by next Sunday.
"It's going to be a challenge," Mike McCarron, assistant deputy airport director, said last week. "We have a ton of signs we're putting up and changing daily." He hopes the signs on freeway offramps and airport roads, extra staff and notices to taxi and van drivers will help sort out the chaos.
The payoff: An $850-million, 2.5-million-square-foot structure, billed as the largest international terminal in North America, with 26 gates (versus 10 in the old terminal), able to process 5,000 passengers per hour (versus about 2,000 at the old terminal) through U.S. Customs and Immigration. Aiding the flow, the 168 check-in counters, while generally assigned to specific airlines, can be reassigned as needed as traffic changes. (The old terminal will reopenin about two years for domestic travel.)
The new terminal, although more than doubling the airport's size, will not help domestic traffic flow, McCarron said. That awaits a proposed expansion into San Francisco Bay, designed to space runways farther apart to reduce frequent weather-related delays.
Domestic and international passengers alike may want to spend some time in the new terminal. It has a museum of aviation; four art galleries; 16 restaurants, cafes and bars, including the Restaurant Qi & Water Bar (Asian-influenced cuisine); and 21 shops selling everything from golf equipment to Napa Valley wines. Telephone (650) 876-2377, Internet http://www.flysfo.com.