Review – JAL Sakura Lounge – SFO

After a hellacious day of travel, we finally made it to San Francisco (SFO). JAL operates out of a separate terminal from where we arrived, so we had to exit the terminal and take the tram over to the International Terminal. The International Terminal  departures hall was massive and not well marked, so it took us some time to locate the JAL check-in desk. Once we did, we were given our boarding passes along with an invitation for JAL’s Sakura Lounge.

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Once we cleared security, we made an immediate left turn towards the area where several airlines, including JAL, had their lounges.



We took the elevator up and made a right hand turn down a long hallway upon exiting.



It is worth noting that the Sakura Lounge is poorly marked, but you know you are on the right path when you start to see the posters for Japan.


Once we located the lounge, we presented our boarding passes to the agent at the counter, who informed us that there was a private room for First Class passengers.


While I initially thought that was a very nice touch, I quickly discovered it was like being sent to time out. The First Class area is located behind a sliding door on the left hand side of the lounge. The pictures I took of the area did not turn out unfortunately, but trust me when I say you are not missing much.

When we walked in, we were the only non-Asian businessmen in the lounge. The room was small with about 10 or so chairs arranged throughout the tiny room with one small window. The chairs are all up against the walls, so everyone faces each other. It was also hot in the lounge and even hotter in the First Class section. I am not sure if they just did not have the air on or what, but wow was it uncomfortable. It was so quiet in the First Class section that I actually felt awkward even whispering to my girlfriend about going to check out the food and drinks spread.

Once we walked out of the First Class area, I noted just how small the lounge was and just how packed it was. The JAL 777-300ER’s have 8 first class seats and 49 business class seats. Since all first and business class passengers have access to the lounge, it gets crowded fast. I think I saw maybe 3 open seats total in the whole lounge around 2 hours before departure. I try to respect people’s privacy and since the lounge was packed I did not take any pictures. I did find this photo though to give you an idea of the basic setup with rows of leather seats.


The food and drinks spread was dismal at best. They had a few finger foods, some sushi (that did not look good at all), some small snacks, some instant noodle cups and that was about it.



The liquor, beer and soft drinks selections were also minimal, though it is somewhat understandable given that there are only 1 or 2 flights a day for JAL out of SFO.


After snapping a few quick pictures and grabbing a glass of water, we both decided we would rather sit literally anywhere else than the time out room First Class section of the Sakura Lounge, so we packed up our bags and headed for the gate to relax a bit before our 12 hour flight to Tokyo.


Final Thoughts

Overall, I was pretty unimpressed with the Sakura Lounge. While I understand that JAL does not have a strong presence at SFO, the lounge really made me consider flying into Tokyo-Narita instead in the future as at least airports like New York JFK and Chicago-O’Hare have some better lounge options. Unless you really like being packed in like sardines in a hot room with minimal food and drink options, I would avoid the Sakura Lounge at SFO.

Have any of you been to the Sakura Lounge at SFO? What were your thoughts on it?

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