Airport hotels, long decried for their gloom and lack of imagination, are finally having their moment of glory. I’ve always been a fan of airport hotels, and I’ve written a lot about them: how to accommodate travelers in transit is one of the purest forms of hospitality; how it’s more exciting than it looks to stay right in the middle of a major international airport; how airport hotels can be appreciated for their 24-hour, “no time zone” feel.
But even with my fascination with airport hotels, I wasn’t quite ready for the Grand Hyatt at SFO. Perched on the AirTran inter-terminal line at San Francisco International Airport, the Grand Hyatt is the closest hotel to the SFO terminals. While other airport hotels are close, they’re always a wait and a shuttle, and when you’re on a short layover to eat and rest, that’s a bonus.
It’s also nice that the Grand Hyatt brand was selected by SFO (who owns the property; Hyatt operates it under contract) when the property was announced in 2016. Grand Hyatt sits between the upscale and luxury tiers of the Hyatt family of brands, so guests could expect plenty of upscale amenities and quirky artwork right off the bat — nice touches to have, breaking up a long day of travel (Dallas International Airport /Fort Worth has also opted for the Grand Hyatt brand for its own property in the terminal).
From its dedicated AirTran stop, descend the escalator and enter the bright lobby with the catbird seat just above the SFO International Terminal. It’s hard not to be distracted by a jumbo jet airliner lazily taxiing behind the front desk agent during check-in, but the process is quick and friendly.
I arrived just before the restaurant, Quail & Crane, was due to close for the evening, so they were even proactive enough to take my bags upstairs while I went down one level for a bite to eat before finishing my evening. Hyatt takes food seriously, so it’s always a treat to have time for dinner, and a quick bite on tangy fried chicken wings and decadent crab fried rice while watching the plane move. through the two-story windows was rightly in order.
My junior suite was actually a corner suite, with a view of the airplane apron, neighboring Burlingame, and the San Francisco Bay. Rooms, which are well soundproofed, seem designed to accommodate, rather than ignore, aircraft activity. I guess being part of the airport meant the hotel was designed with a sense of place, keeping travelers engaged in the idea that their stay is part of a journey.
On the bed was waiting to welcome me a small stuffed airplane with a friendly smile. More for kids, perhaps, but the staff must have intuitively understood my love for cute gear that works as a pleasant antidote to the often isolating feeling of traveling. Customers are also encouraged to take in the view with the binoculars and plane-spotting guide on the table next to the couch closest to the window facing the terminal.
the main dish, however, was the deep soaking tub in the suite’s huge bathroom, also located right next to the plane-spotting window. Oh, what a paradise for aviation enthusiasts!
These same large bathrooms with marble fixtures, adorned with potted bamboo plants, also have rain showers (low-flow water pressure was a minor issue given the ongoing water issues in California) and high-tech Japanese dressers that with more dash settings than many automobiles.
In short, the rooms have all the amenities one would expect from the Grand Hyatt, and these are also perfect for the short stays of weary travelers: mini-fridges, Nespresso machines, complimentary bottled water in plastic bottles. reusable metal (and I reused – having forgotten my own water bottle, one of the bottles was essential during my two weeks in French Polynesia), bathrobes and slippers – even a rolled up yoga mat in the closet for stretch in the bedroom.
For breakfast, there’s room service, the 24-hour Twin Crafts Market for grab and go (it also offers bar service in the evening), or Quail & Crane. After enjoying it so much the night before, it was a no-brainer for me, so it was back to the “big window on airplanes” for good coffee, crispy bacon and a well-turned omelette.
On my trip home I had a nearly six hour layover after an overnight flight – just in that space where it’s just a bit too long to be comfortable camping in the terminal, but not long enough to justify the expense and schlep of getting a day room in a hotel. But I had enjoyed the Grand Hyatt so much on my outbound trip and knew it was only minutes away on AirTran, so I happily paid the $169 plus tax (which gives you six hours between certain hours of the day) to get several hours of sleep before my connecting flight.
Hello, new favorite.
Right in the terminal, this deliciously upscale hotel has all the amenities needed for weary travelers on a short stay.
I’ve seen overnight rates around $291 plus tax.
These bathtubs are sure to attract attention.
The world of Hyatt
Good to know
Day use rates are not available online – call the hotel directly for availability.
Guests arriving from an off-airport property have a separate entrance on the lower level.
The restaurants offer a nice selection of vegetarian options, as well as meatless alternatives.