Arrival at San Francisco International Airport, Has Anything Changed?

San Francisco International Airport is located 13 miles south of San Francisco. It is the busiest airport in Northern California, the second busiest airport on the U.S. West Coast, and the 24th busiest airport in the world.

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The exit of international arrivals at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

San Francisco International Airport is the fifth busiest airport in the United States.

In addition to linking Northern California with travel destinations throughout the United States and Canada, SFO is a major gateway to both Asia and Europe.

San Francisco Airport is a major hub for United Airlines and a secondary hub for Alaska Airlines.

70 Days Across America

The airport is also the point of entry for my epic journey across the United States, what I am dubbing “70 Days Across America“.

I have flown into and out of San Francisco International Airport many times in my life, and each time the airport has been different from the last.

As the saying goes, it will be a great airport if they ever finish it.

The Arrival …

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Passengers arriving at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Passengers arriving at San Francisco International Airport head towards passport control. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Arriving passengers walking down concourse at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Passengers walking down arrivals concourse at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

After deplaning from a Cathay Pacific Airways Boeing 777-ER, I make a left turn and start the long trek to customs.

Unlike many of the other airports I have flown through recently, there are no moving sidewalks. There are also no luggage carts. It’s a good thing I’ve only got a small carry-on bag.

Passing Through Customs …

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Passenger standing in line at mobile passport control at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

The crowd thickens as I approach customs. There appear to be two entry points, one for U.S. Citizens and one for Visitors.

That’s an improvement over my last trip through the facility, when visitors were referred to as “Aliens”, which was cause for many E.T. jokes.

Turning the corner, I see numerous mobile passport control machines, which are apparently designed to prioritize and expedite processing at the customs counters.

After working my way through the procedure at one of the machines, I am issued a paper ticket with a giant X imprinted across my data. A bit disconcerting …

Have I been rejected? I approach the nearest person in a uniform and am told that nothing is amiss. I should just get in line.

There is a solitary line weaving back and forth, and it moves VERY slowly. At some point, tickets are checked, and some people are told to wait on the left, and some people are told to wait on the right.

I am told to wait on the right. Much to my disappointment, it seems to be longer than the one of the left. I also quickly discover that it seems to be moving more slowly.

About 20 minutes later, tickets are checked again. Those without X’s and O’s are ushered straight head. Those with X’s and O’s are told to continue waiting in another direction.

There is another disappointment as I realize that the passengers that were issued tickets without X’s and O’s are allowed to go directly to baggage claim without having their travel documents examined.

I assume they have been short-listed. I am one of the unlucky few that have to have their passport examined.

The Baggage Carts …

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Free luggage carts at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

On previous arrivals at airport in the United States, baggage carts had to be rented, which was a bit of an annoyance, I thought.

It was more than annoying for arrivals from foreign countries, who might not have exact change.

So I am pleased to see that the luggage carts at San Francisco International Airport are now free.

The Baggage Claim …

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Baggage Claim at International Arrivals at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Flying Business Class, I expected to be one of the first arrivals at baggage claim. WRONG!

Because I had been issued a ticket with an X on it, my wait is longer than most of the other passenger on my flight. As a result, I am one of the last passengers to arrive at baggage claim.

But there is good news: my bags don’t have to be inspected. Instead, I am able to walk directly to the arrivals hall.

The Trip to the Hotel …

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Luxor Cab at San Francisco International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I’ve had more than a few mishaps arriving at airports. I’ve had difficulty on many occasions locating drivers that were supposed to pick me up.

On other occasions, drivers that were supposed to greet me never showed up. I have had difficult making phone calls because of incompatibility issues with roaming. The list goes on …

Prepared for the worst, I attempt to telephone the hotel where I had booked a room for the night.

Much to my relief, the call is answered on the second attempt, and I am told to catch a taxi or Uber to the hotel. My fare will be refunded in cash.

I am greatly relieved. Things get better when I discover that there is no line at the taxi rank. My trip to the hotel takes about five minutes. Let my adventure begin!

This is the fifth in a series on my epic travel journey, 70 Days Across America>>

 

 

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