Priority Pass SFO: Your Lounge and Restaurant Options at San Francisco’s Airport

Travelers with Priority Pass can visit two lounges, two restaurants and get killer fried-chicken sandwiches.

Sally FrenchJan 12, 2021
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Priority Pass is an airport lounge program that allows members access to more than 1,300 airport lounges and restaurants worldwide. Four of those Priority Pass locations are at San Francisco International Airport.

Of those four Priority Pass “lounges,” two aren’t lounges at all; they’re restaurants. In lieu of a lounge, both restaurants offer you and a guest a $28 credit per person (for a total of up to $56 off the final bill), which in some cases can be even more appealing than a full lounge.

Here are the two lounges and two restaurants you’ll find at SFO:

  • Air France - KLM Lounge (lounge): International Terminal Concourse A, Level 3.

  • Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (lounge): International Terminal Concourse A, Level 5.

  • San Francisco Giants Clubhouse (restaurant): Terminal 3 Concourse F, near Gate F13.

  • Yankee Pier (restaurant): Terminal 3 Concourse F, near Gate F4.

Priority Pass lounges worldwide swing wildly in quality depending on where you are. At some lounges, you’ll be lucky to get a free bag of pretzels, while others offer up what’s closer to VIP treatment. Across SFO’s four spots, you’ll find a bit of everything: two generally good (but not great) lounges, a Giants-themed restaurant to keep fans entertained preflight and a Korean fried-chicken sandwich worth showing up to the airport early for.

At SFO, holding a Priority Pass membership is a home run, just as long as you know how to use it correctly.

Note: Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, some lounge benefits and/or hours of operation may be temporarily altered. Always check directly with the lounge or Priority Pass website for the most updated details on availability.

Accessing SFO’s Priority Pass lounges

You can theoretically get into all four of SFO’s Priority Pass locations in one day, but it requires some work. Here’s what you need to know about lounge hours, guest policies and accessing lounges in a terminal you’re not actually flying out of:

How do you get into SFO’s Priority Pass lounges?

You’ll need Priority Pass membership to get access to SFO’s four lounges, which typically costs between $99 and $429 annually. Perhaps a better deal: Score complimentary membership through many top-tier travel credit cards.

Each of SFO’s four Priority Pass lounges is located airside (past the security checkpoint), so you’ll need not only your membership, but a same-day boarding pass and valid ID to get past security and into a lounge.

Can you hop between terminals at SFO?

Even if your flight is departing from a different terminal, you more than likely can still access the SFO Priority Pass lounges before your flight, but it’s not always the easiest process.

While all of SFO’s terminals are connected by both a walking route and AirTrain, they’re located outside of the security checkpoints. In most cases, you’ll have to fully exit the terminal, walk or ride AirTrain to another terminal, and re-enter security to access lounges in other terminals.

A Transportation Security Administration spokesperson confirmed to NerdWallet that TSA allows travelers to enter any terminal in an airport, as long as you have your ID and a valid boarding pass for a flight that day. However, TSA lines are often managed by airport or airline employees (not TSA), so you might have to explain to the line manager why you’re in the “wrong” terminal.

Only a couple of SFO terminals are connected after the security checkpoint:

  • Terminal 1, Gates C2 - C11 connects to Terminal 2, Gates D1 - D18 (though there are currently no Priority Pass lounges in either terminal).

  • International Terminal, Gates G1 - G14 connects to Terminal 3, E1 - E13 and F1 - F22 (this allows International Terminal passengers from G gates to access San Francisco Giants Clubhouse and Yankee Pier).

The good news: It’s a fairly quick hop between terminals (if you’re agile, walking tends to be faster than AirTrain). SFO even has solid signage indicating how long the walk is between terminals, so you can decide if the hike is worth a free preflight Prosecco.

If you opt to terminal-hop, leave enough time to re-enter security. You might want to consider expedited screening programs like Clear or TSA Precheck to speed things up (these credit cards even reimburse your TSA Precheck application fee).

Can you visit lounges in terminals you’re not departing from, and are there any other restrictions for entering?

Even though you can visit a terminal you’re not actually flying out of (keep in mind, you might have to go through security again), you might not actually be able to access the lounge.

Each lounge sets its own policies:

Air France - KLM Lounge: The official lounge policy is that it’s accessible only for passengers on flights departing from Concourse A. Anecdotally, we’ve successfully entered on numerous occasions with boarding passes for flights departing from different terminals — and never been turned away, either. But given the rules, understand that your mileage may vary. Maximum three-hour stay.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse: Maximum three-hour stay, and smart casual dress.

San Francisco Giants Clubhouse: The restaurant may exceed what Priority Pass says is “their seating limit” (and that doesn’t necessarily mean every table is full). Priority Pass says “access to the restaurant is at their sole discretion,” so keep in mind that the restaurant may turn you away, even if it’s only slightly busy.

Yankee Pier: Like Giants Clubhouse, Yankee Pier has a “seating limit,” so you might not get seated, even if there are empty tables.

What are the SFO Priority Pass lounge hours?

Even though some lounges may be “open” throughout the day, some lounges restrict hours that Priority Pass members can enter. Here are the hours that Priority Pass members can access the SFO lounges:

Air France - KLM Lounge: Guests are limited to a maximum three-hour stay and hours vary by day. Check the official Priority Pass webpage for the most updated information.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse: 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Note the very small window of accessible time.

San Francisco Giants Clubhouse: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Yankee Pier: 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

SFO Priority Pass lounge details

Air France - KLM Lounge (International Terminal, Concourse A, Level 3)

Of SFO’s four Priority Pass lounge locations, it’s hard to say the Air France - KLM Lounge is the best in a specific category like food or atmosphere. But we love its mix of healthy food coupled with tasty treats you’d only eat on vacation (because vacation calories don’t count). There is seating aplenty, it’s fairly easy to find an outlet and the atmosphere is at least somewhat calming. It’s a worthy contender in pretty much every category, making this our favorite Priority Pass lounge at SFO.

Restrictions to be aware of: Maximum three-hour stay, and flights departing from Concourse A only (although this may or may not be enforced).

Breakfast at the Air France - KLM lounge is delightful. (Photo by Sally French)

What the food is like: For breakfast, there’s usually a yogurt bar with decently fancy toppings including pumpkin seeds, berries and granola plus cereal, small sandwiches, fruit and even hot items like waffles.

When morning ends, breakfast food is swapped out for lunch with hot items that typically include penne pasta, meatballs in marinara sauce, fresh vegetables and soup. Pair all that with some greens from the salad bar.

KLM also doesn’t skimp on the snacks. There’s usually charcuterie and cheese (think a supermarket-quality brie), bread and crackers, Nutella, dried snacks like banana chips and raisins, and sometimes even a caprese skewer.

If all that good stuff doesn’t sound good enough, there’s usually a stack of ramen noodles in styrofoam cups next to a hot water pot. All due respect to ramen noodles, but it does seem slightly out of place next to all the fresh offerings.

Why we love it: At the KLM Lounge, you can load up on a complete meal. The fresh veggies are a healthy way to fill up before vacation starts, but we’re in it for the long dessert menu, including cheese platter, spongy pound cake and Nutella. And, if you time it right, an employee may come by offering you a fresh-baked cookie or macaron.

How it could use some work: The atmosphere needs improvement — maybe booth seating for a bit more privacy, color on the mostly white walls or classy French music. Right now, the lounge feels like a nice doctor’s office, which is certainly pleasant, albeit sterile.

Nerdy tip: The KLM Lounge looks small upon entrance, appearing to be just one room with a small food station that’s not bad on its own, but don’t stop there as a lot of people do. Even though it appears that the guest area has ended, head behind that refreshment bar and you’ll discover a whole other room of not just more seating, but significantly better food.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (International Terminal, Concourse A, Level 5)

It’s only open in the mornings, but if you’ve got an early flight, then the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse’s big windows overlooking the runway are one of the best spots to watch the sunrise.

This lounge wins best in terms of atmosphere. It’s where you want to head if you’re hoping for peace and quiet, as long as you don’t mind dining on mostly prepackaged snacks while you’re at it.

Early morning light peaks in through the big windows overlooking the runway from the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. (Photo by Sally French)

Restrictions to be aware of: Maximum three-hour stay, and smart casual dress.

What the food is like: Temper your expectations about the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse food. While it’s all-you-can-eat, the options are pretty basic. Think cereal, bananas, oranges, prepackaged bagels, pastries, breads and yogurt.

Why we love it: The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is the newest lounge to join the Priority Pass network in SFO, perhaps not surprising from its shiny aesthetic. Big windows overlook the runways and bring in natural light. An array of seating includes plush chairs, small corner tables, booth-style seating or traditional tables and chairs. We’d work out of this lounge any day.

How it could use some work: Aside from the Greek yogurt, expect to chow on a lot of mediocre carbs for breakfast. Hot food (or at least more substantial, protein-packed snacks) would be welcome. Plus, extended hours beyond the morning would be ideal.

Nerdy tip: If you like a big breakfast, eat up before you arrive. If you really have time, you might even consider stopping at the Air France - KLM Lounge first to eat, and heading here to work afterwards. This lounge is just a short elevator ride up.

San Francisco Giants Clubhouse (Concourse F, near Gate F13)

Of SFO’s Priority Pass locations, the San Francisco Giants Clubhouse wins for best food, hands down. It’s a traditional table-service restaurant that also serves normal, non-Priority-Pass-toting travelers, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the food is better than what you’d find in most lounges. People rave about the Korean-style fried-chicken sandwich, served with Sriracha aioli and turnip jalapeno kimchi on toasted brioche.

Rather than the all-you-can-eat style typical in most lounges, this restaurant allows Priority Pass members a credit for $28 off their bill (not including tip). You can also bring a guest, so together you can order up to $56 worth of food and not pay anything besides gratuity.

How it works: Flash your Priority Pass card and boarding pass with confirmed same-day travel for the host at check-in. Typically, they’ll print you a receipt indicating you’re a Priority Pass member, which you’ll then pass on to your server before ordering. As long as your bill is less than $28 (or $56 for two meals), you’ll owe nothing besides the tip.

Restrictions to be aware of: According to Priority Pass, “the restaurant may exceed their seating limit at certain times of the day & access to the restaurant is at their sole discretion.” That basically means that if it’s slightly crowded, the restaurant may turn away Priority Pass cardholders and prioritize full-paying customers.

What the food is like: Almost everything on the menu is good. People love the spicy fried-chicken sandwich, but don’t overlook the McCovey Cove Sandwich, which is a seared ahi tuna burger, served with crispy, wasabi-dusted onion strings, smashed avocado and a jicama slaw on toasted brioche.

Why we love it: Airport food doesn’t have to be a sad boxed sandwich, and at this baseball-themed restaurant, the food is far better than the kind of food you’ll find at any ballpark.

Between the above-average food options, big portions and the Giants theme, this restaurant is a home run.

How it could use some work: Sometimes the service can be a bit rough, especially toward Priority Pass cardholders. We suspect it’s because some diners don’t tip. The meal is free, so leave some cash for the waiter who took your order and served it to you — and set a good precedent for future Priority Pass members.

Nerdy tip: Come here to eat, not to focus and do work. While you technically can whip out your computer and send emails while noshing on garlic fries, realize that you’re still in a full-functioning restaurant where waiters are working around you (and other diners might be waiting for a table). It’s a fine place to work if you’re eating during a nonpeak hour, but be cognizant that this might not be the space for you if you’re looking to minimize distractions.

Yankee Pier (Concourse F, near Gate F4)

Yankee Pier is SFO’s second Priority Pass restaurant. Like at Giants Clubhouse, Priority Pass cardmembers are entitled to a credit for $28 off their bill (not including gratuity). You can also bring a guest, so together you can order up to $56 worth of food. You’ll be on the hook for anything beyond those amounts, plus the tip.

How it works: Flash your Priority Pass card and boarding pass with confirmed same-day travel for the host at check-in. Typically, they’ll print you a receipt indicating you’re a Priority Pass member, which you’ll then pass on to your server before ordering. As long as your bill is less than $28 (or $56 for two meals), you’ll owe nothing at the end besides the tip.

Restrictions to be aware of: According to Priority Pass, “the restaurant may exceed their seating limit at certain times of the day & access to the restaurant is at their sole discretion.” That basically means that if it’s slightly crowded, the restaurant may turn away Priority Pass cardholders and prioritize full-paying customers.

What the food is like: Yankee Pier is all about the seafood, so whet your appetite for clam chowder, fish 'n' chips, lobster rolls, steamed mussels and popcorn shrimp. It’s on the pricey end if you’re paying with cash, but your Priority Pass will cover the cost of most items on the menu.

Why we love it: Service is generally pretty speedy. If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal at Giants Clubhouse, we like that you can order takeout from Yankee Pier. Freshly made items tend to come out within about 10 minutes of you placing your order.

If you’re really in a hurry, Yankee Pier has a section of its menu called the “Speedee Meal” with options including a cup of chowder plus a fish or grilled-chicken sandwich. Presumably, you’ll get that even faster than anything else on the menu.

How it could use some work: Yankee Pier is kind of mediocre at everything, but it doesn’t win at anything. The prices are pretty high, so pay attention to the $28 limit, as you’ll owe the difference in cash for anything beyond that (plus you should tip on the full price of your meal, not the price post-Priority Pass discount). The food is just fine, but the portion sizes on most items are small.

Nerdy tip: It’s a seafood restaurant, but we’re here for the scrambles served during breakfast, especially if you want to get food to grab and go before your flight. Order from the takeout counter, and they’ll fill up a big to-go box with a hearty egg scramble plus a side of breakfast potatoes and send you on your way.

The bottom line

San Francisco International Airport has two lounges and two restaurants in the Priority Pass network. Among those options, there’s something for everyone: the buffet lover, the peace-seeking busy bee, the foodie and the person who just wants some complimentary takeout for their flight.

Considering many airports have only one or two Priority Pass locations (if any at all), having four locations to visit makes SFO one of the best U.S. airports for Priority Pass members.

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Top photo courtesy of San Francisco International Airport.