One of the setbacks for being a very busy airport is the long lines, traffic jams, and complicated security rules. San Francisco international airport is certainly not an exception to this rule. The airport uses the services of Covenant Aviation Security, which is a private contractor company of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). CAS operates both passenger and baggage screening, and it incorporates all the traditional security screening measures outlined by the TSA.
TSA Security Procedures
TSA Security screening consists of but is not limited to Carry-on baggage screening, where you will have to remove all your metal-made belongings and electronic devices and place them in a special bin provided by the TSA officers while the bag with all the rest of the content goes through the scanning system. Checked baggage screening is a relatively simple procedure, and you are not required to take anything out of your baggage unless the TSA officer decides to do so for additional screening. Usually, the passengers are required to go through a metal detector body scanner, which might be followed by a pat-down.
Please, note that the rules and procedures are different for domestic and international flights at San Francisco International Airport. They might also vary according to the rules and guidelines of different airline carriers. Therefore it is the passenger’s responsibility to carefully review the terms and conditions of the airline and rules concerning the content of carry-on baggage. The same applies to checked baggage and clothing.
TSA security screening is a long and tedious process, especially for international flights with a large number of passengers. Therefore, plan accordingly and be at the airport a couple of hours earlier before the flight departs. 2-3 hours seems reasonable considering the traffic jam that usually occurs at the airport.
Connection between Terminals
Once you have gone through the security screening, it is possible to connect through certain terminals (not all of them) without leaving the building and having to go through the security again. For example, it is possible to connect through Harvey Milk Terminal 1, Gates C2 through C11 and Terminal 2, gates D1 to D18 without leaving the building. The same type of connector is available at the International Terminal, gates G1 through G14 and terminal 3, through E13 and gates F1 to F22.
At the entrance of every single boarding area, there is a security checkpoint where only ticketed passengers are allowed to cross.
It is possible to enroll for TSA Pre-check online. Passengers can make an appointment online on TSA Website and then have an in-person screening at the TSA Pre-site at SFO located in the international terminal, close to the BART Station.
Security checkpoints require legal identification, which can be documented by a valid driver’s license, state-issued ID or residence card for domestic flights, and passport for most of the international flights.
Post-security passengers can transfer between terminals by taking a walk or riding AirTrain, which is SFO’s automated transit system between terminals.
Be careful with the departure times. They might sometimes change due to weather conditions or for any unexpected reason. Therefore, passengers are advised to pay attention to departure boards with the flight number and departure time provided at the respective terminal, or they can check the flight status on SFO’s user-friendly website, which allows you to filter flights with flight numbers, airlines or the location.