Leaving SFO over a layover...how much time should I afford?
I land at 9.30 AM and take off again at 12.45 PM (on United; Terminal 3, I believe). I've never let an airport for Chow, but I'm really hankering for In-N-Out. I understand there's one just off the Millbrae station. Plenty of time to get there before they open at 10.30, but as I've said, I've never let during a lay over. Can I get a separate boarding pass and jump straight to security? Do I have to wait in the ticketing line again? You can tell that I'm a simpleton who doesn't travel much.
I've never *not* had a separate boarding pass for each plane I board. You can leave the airport and go straight back through security. For that matter, you should be able to check in online (usually as much as 24 hours before your flight), print out all your boarding passes, check any baggage at the curb, and skip the whole ticketing area completely.
So go for the chow!
If you're on the same airline, you will already have a boarding pass for the second flight, so yes, you'll be able to go straight to security when you come back. You should be back to the airport by 11:45 at a minimum, and I'd give yourself at least 30 minutes travel time each way there and back on BART (for getting out of the airport to the station, waiting for a train, etc.), so you should try to be at the Millbrae BART station coming back by 11:15 at the latest and probably 11 to be safe. So, you have time, as long as your first flight it delayed, just barely.
I fly out of SFO almost every week and say that you'd be cutting it close. Maybe about 30-60 min cushion of safety. It all depends on how comfortable you are with running for flights and sweating. This is coming from a guy who tries to minimize his time at the airport.
- Your flight might get delayed incoming
- Deplaning - if you're sitting in the back, add on 30 min before your're out of the plane
- Cabbing and getting to Milbrae
- Security on the way in. You just never know.
Like others have pointed out, you'll have a different ticket. Also, like Windy pointed out, there are other food options at the airport. Terminal 3 has a decent selection (relative), though pricey.
So if you feel like you can deal with the variables, go for it.
I think you just barely have time, but only if you truly land at 9:30 AM.
From the time you leave security to the time you are back in line at security, I think it will take 1.5 hours (assuming you get your food 'to go' and eat it once you're back at the airport). This includes the little train to BART, buying ticket on BART, getting to Millbrae, walking to IN N OUT, and then the reverse.
If you eat at IN N OUT, allow a bit more time obviously.
So if you land at 9:30 on time, if you get off the plane fast, you could be on BART by 10, at IN N OUT by 10:30. Then you'd be back by 11:15 or so, which is enough to time to get back through security.
But like many people say here, I think 9:30 is about the latest I would do this....if you don't land till 10, I wouldn't risk it.
re: Dave MP
I just ate at the In-n-Out Burger at Millbrae. Granted, it wasn't 10:30 am, but it was 11:45 and the line was out the door. I waited a good 10-15 minutes after ordering for my burger. If you want to do this, I'd take a taxi (it isn't far). When you get there, you can decide whether it appears quicker to do drive-thru or inside. Either way, it's going to be tight.
Okay, maybe I'm too cavalier about flights, but it seems to me that a lot of the advice here is overly cautious.
But let's not push things. Let's work through this backward, looking at actual times. Your plane is scheduled at 12:45. United says to arrive at the airport an hour before your flight if you are checking bags. So to be safe, let's say that you need to be back at the airport by 11:45.
That means that if you're taking BART on a weekday, you need to be on the 11:33 train from the Millbrae station, which arrives at the airport at 11:44. (For schedules, go to http://www.bart.gov.) Figuring preliminarily that you'll need a little more than half an hour for your lunch, there's a 10:39 train from the airport will put you at Millbrae station at 10:52.
It's about 200 yards from the station to the restaurant. That'll take 2-3 minutes to walk each way. Call it 5 minutes total. That leaves you 36 minutes to wait in line (at 11:00, it won't be long), order your double-double animal style, wait for it to be cooked, and scarf it down. Not exactly a leisurely dining experience, but you won't be rushed for time either.
So you should have plenty of time. Even if you don't get in until 10:30 you can get on the AirTrain and ride to the BART station to see if you can catch the 10:39. Or just grab a taxi and take it through the drive-thru; it's about a 3-mile round trip, so you're probably good until close to 11:30.
The thing that I think that you're forgetting, though -- it can take a while to get from BART to the security line in the airport, I'd give yourself at least ten extra minutes for that, so arriving at the airport on the train that gets there at 11:44 means that you may not get to the security line until five to 12 or later.
The airline recommendation is to get "to the airport" an hour before departure, not to get to the airport in time to clear ticketing and be in the security line an hour before departure. And ticketing can take quite a bit longer than it takes to get to Terminal 3 on the AirTrain.
The 60-minute rule is intended to cause people to err on the side of caution, so building in extra cushions is unnecessary. Just MHO, but I've taken a lot of flights and never missed one yet from showing up too late. But anything that gives the OP indigestion makes the meal not worthwhile.
Alan -- you may be correct in your time calculations, but the thing you're missing here is that there is absolutely no room for error. What if the BART breaks down? Or is delayed? What if the In-n-Out is incredibly backed up? It *may* work, but the OP will need to decide whether In-N-Out is worth the risk of missing his flight.
There certainly is room for error. Plenty of it. Nearly an hour. It's the time between OP's arrival back at the airport and the time the cabin door closes. And if the OP is delayed by something like a BART breakdown, my experience is that s/he and all the other people who are at risk of missing their flights as a result will be bumped to the front of the security line.
Of course leaving the airport isn't a risk-free proposition. BART could break down, trapping a train full of people for hours. The OP could get run over by a bus on Millbrae Avenue. The whole airport could get locked down because of a terrorist threat. And don't rule out alien abduction. But the question is whether there's an unreasonable risk that the OP will miss the plane. S/he is the only one who can make the call as to that reasonableness, but given that BART is generally fairly reliable transportation, an hour seems like more than enough cushion.