Skip to main content

Firepits, fitness rooms and bioluminescence: Inside SFO’s super-fancy, $75-a-person lounge

The image showcases a modern lounge area with a central cone-shaped fireplace, surrounded by seating options, including sofas and armchairs, with people dining in the background.
A faux fireplace marks the entrance to The Club SFO, a new lounge now open to the flying public inside Harvey Milk Terminal 1. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

Bioluminescence isn’t just for fireflies or algae in the Caribbean anymore. Now, you can experience it at the airport—specifically at The Club SFO, a new lounge inside the refurbished Harvey Milk Terminal 1, now open to the flying public from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Strictly speaking, it’s not actual bioluminescence, nor does it resemble what visitors to Tulum might be familiar with. Rather, the lounge’s three reservable “bioluminescence rooms” come with two light settings—a warmer-toned Relax and cooler-toned Energize—that supposedly help travel-weary users to adjust to a new time zone or wind down ahead of a long flight. 

“First of its kind,” said Chris Gwilliam, a senior vice president for Airport Dimensions, which created The Club SFO and 65 other such airport oases worldwide. “We don’t think there’s another lounge out there that has this feature.”

The image shows a modern bar with a stylish, illuminated ceiling, tan leather chairs, and high stools at the bar, where two people are working. Two TVs display news.
In the bar area—and everywhere else—nearly every seat has ready access to a power outlet. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard
The image shows two small, modern rooms with armchairs, muted lighting, textured white walls, and colorful ceiling lights, one orange and one blue. Signs read "LUMINESCENCE."
The luminescence rooms are programmed with warm lighting to help people relax (left) and cooler tones to help wake people up (right). | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

The rooms, which come complimentary with the $75 entrance fee—free for Priority Pass members—are only one of the 12,000-square-foot lounge’s wellness amenities. There’s also a workout room with weights, yoga mats and preprogrammed Lululemon fitness mirror-screens. After working up a sweat, three private showers are available for an additional $25 (the only perk that costs extra). A lactation room for nursing moms is free.

The most visible highlight may be the faux fireplace with water-vapor “smoke” and radiant floors just opposite the concierge desk at the top of the stairs. Open to the rest of the lounge, it’s a degree or two warmer in this area, enough for Airport Dimensions and design partner Corgan to rebrand it as a “microclimate.” This theme of the Bay Area as a forested, high-tech utopia pervades throughout the lounge, with a punched-metal ceiling creating a fog-dappled light effect, plenty of requisite reclaimed redwood—gotta get that LEED Gold certification!—and a lot of deep green and rust colors. 

The image shows a modern, well-lit lounge with a decorative ceiling featuring small, illuminated dots and a unique chandelier. People are socializing and working at tables.
The punched ceiling over the lounge's dining area creates a dappled effect on the tables beneath. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

The image shows two women sitting and talking at a café, with a large mural of a tree in the background. A man walks by in a blur, adding a sense of motion.
This large-scale wallpaper is meant to evoke a Northern California redwood forest. | Source: Courtesy Matthew McNulty/Corgan

On the more practical side, there are electrical outlets everywhere; about nine out of every 10 seats have easy access to power. There are three soundproof, first-come-first-serve “Zoom Rooms” for taking a call. A family room with a TV in one corner can keep children occupied while parents do parent things, and tucked behind the elevator bank is a quiet room with lounge chairs and reading lamps.

The image shows a modern cafe with a round table featuring a polished wood and black design, surrounded by black chairs with red cushions, and a plant centerpiece.
Made from a live oak tree, this large table is the focal point of The Club SFO's dining area. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

The image shows three green recliner chairs with footrests in a modern lounge, featuring wooden slat paneling, side tables, overhead reading lights, and a framed picture of a bridge.
A semi-hidden quiet room, perfect for reading or napping, is tucked behind the elevators. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

Then there’s the food, which spans the entire healthy-to-who-cares spectrum, from bowls of carrot coconut curry to towering trays of brownies. The menu is available via QR code, while a full bar lets adults recapture the feeling of Jet Age air travel—which is to say, knocking back a few stiff martinis before boarding. It’s all complimentary, too: food, drinks, all of it.

The image shows a bar counter with three cocktails, backed by a display of liquor bottles, a wine cooler, beer taps, and a wall-mounted TV playing a tennis match.
The Club SFO is open to the flying public, meaning anyone past security can make a reservation. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

A modern lobby features a person descending a central staircase, a person seated on a green bench looking at their phone, and a warm wooden wall backdrop with plants.
Once inside, a stairway leads from the concourse level of Harvey Milk Terminal 1 to the lounge upstairs. There's also an elevator. | Source: Courtesy Matthew McNulty/Corgan

The Club SFO can accommodate 249 travelers, making it Airport Dimensions’ largest to date. Centrally located near Gate B4, it’s a short walk past security, with its own internal elevator to ferry people upstairs. You don’t even have to be flying out of Terminal 1 to get there: A post-security walkway now connects it to the International Terminal.

The image shows several plates of various dishes on a table. The foreground has French toast with powdered sugar. Other plates feature diverse, colorful foods.
Beyond helping themselves to pre-plated options, lounge-goers can also order food via QR code. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

A wooden bowl is filled with shiny, red and green apples, some wrapped in plastic, placed on a kitchen counter near an oven.
Individually shrink-wrapped apples notwithstanding, The Club SFO is committed to sustainable design and won a LEED Gold certification. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

Granted, a $75 price tag isn’t for everybody, even though nothing at the airport comes cheap. And there are a few drawbacks—such as humdrum views out the window. Instead of the soothing diversion of watching jets take off and land, attendees gaze down onto a mall-like concourse with only the faintest glimpse of the tarmac beyond. And for all the hue and cry about energy-efficient air-filtration systems and food with soul, there is still some wastefulness, like the bowl of individually shrink-wrapped apples anchoring the pre-plated food options—a suffocating airline meal as still-life.

If mistreated fruit gets you down, there’s always bioluminescence to soothe the spirits. Spend 30 minutes fiddling with the music volume in that yellow light, have a martini at the bar and you’re as ready for that 16-hour trans-Pacific odyssey as you’ll ever be.

Astrid Kane can be reached at

Filed Under