Review: Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge San Francisco

The JAL Sakura Lounge is undoubtedly the worst oneworld lounge in all of SFO, with its boring design, lack of amenities, and abysmal F&B selection.

Japan Airlines operates out of San Francisco International Airport Terminal A, where oneworld has three different lounge options:

  • British Airways Lounge
  • Cathay Pacific Lounge
  • Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge

The Sakura Lounge was the only option for my 1.55 p.m flight to Tokyo Narita. The British Airways Lounge doesn’t open till 1.30 p.m, and the Cathay Pacific Lounge is closed until further notice.

Now, SFO is home to some great lounges like the United Polaris Lounge and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, places I’d gladly hang out for hours. The Sakura Lounge? You couldn’t pay me to go back. 

🍸 tl;dr: JAL Sakura Lounge SFO
The JAL Sakura Lounge is undoubtedly the worst oneworld lounge in all of SFO, with its boring design, lack of amenities, and abysmal F&B selection.
👍 The Good👎 The Bad
  • The crappiness of the catering means you won’t spoil your onboard meal 
  • Ugly décor and cramped confines
  • Awful food and beverage selection
  • Basically a glorified waiting room, with no productivity pods, nap areas, showers, or other frills
⏱️ 17 hours in San Francisco

Access and Operating Hours

The Sakura Lounge at SFO is located in International Terminal A, just after security. Turn left after the TSA checkpoint and look for the six video monitors advertising the opening times for the various lounges. 

Lounge display

The first hint that you should temper your expectations are the drab, industrial-park corridors leading to the lounge. It feels like a generic office building. 

Corridor to lounges

But then again, there are airlines who make the best of it. Cathay Pacific’s lounge, for example, is an attractively-decorated Ilse Crawford-designed space with modern white marble. Japan Airlines? Well, “90s-era condo function room” is probably the best description of its design philosophy. 

Sakura Lounge SFO entrance

The JAL Sakura Lounge in SFO is currently open from:

  • 1055 to 1325 hours on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
  • 0905 to 1325 hours on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

The timings are meant to align with JAL’s SFO flights, and may change according to the schedule. In general, you can expect the lounge to open three hours before departure and close half an hour before. 

Access to is available to:

  • JAL or oneworld passengers departing in First and Business Class
  • oneworld Emerald or Sapphire members departing on a JAL or oneworld flight, in any cabin 
  • Passengers arriving on an international long-haul (>5 hours) oneworld flight in First or Business Class and connecting to a same-day short-haul flight, in any cabin

First Class passengers and oneworld Emerald/Sapphire members may bring one guest with them, departing on the same flight. 

Sakura Lounge Overview

Lounge reception

The lounge is basically divided into two rooms, where seating density is high with very little space provisioned between chairs and tables. The main area had seating for about 45 guests.

JAL Sakura Lounge SFO seating
JAL Sakura Lounge SFO seating
JAL Sakura Lounge SFO seating

I suppose the least you can say is that this lounge does enjoy abundant natural light and a view of the tarmac. Those interested in plane spotting might want to grab a seat at the communal table running the length of the windows of the main room.

JAL Sakura Lounge SFO seating

The annex is similar to the main room, just with fewer windows. More anonymous furniture, more walls sparsely adorned with mass-produced art, more meh. 

JAL Sakura Lounge SFO seating
JAL Sakura Lounge SFO seating

Running along the wall of the annex is another long table divided into sections by tiny frosted glass partitions. Unlike the main room, this table lacks a view except on the extreme left. 

JAL Sakura Lounge SFO seating

While past reports have mentioned there’s a separate seating area for First Class passengers, I wasn’t offered anything during my visit. I spotted a cordoned-off area at the rear of the annex, but doubt it would have made a substantial difference anyway since you get the same F&B as any other guest.

First Class area?

Power & Productivity

An access code for the Sakura Lounge’s Wi-Fi network is printed on your boarding pass. Speeds clocked in at a respectable 12 Mbps down and 55 Mbps up, so no complaints here. 

The lounge had an adequate number of power outlets, built into table tops and positioned between chairs. Outlets were not universal, but could accommodate Type A, B and C plugs (basically the plugs you’d use in Japan and the USA). I even spotted a dial-up port, which suggests just how old this lounge is. 

Power outlets
Power outlets

Unfortunately, there were no USB ports or wireless charging pads. 

Food & Beverage

Buffet service area

The Sakura Lounge has a staff-served buffet area, where two members plate food and pour drinks for guests. 

Now, it’s no secret that the Japanese have high standards for food. I mean, that’s why everything tastes so good over there, whether it’s an onigiri at 7-Eleven or an omakase at an upscale sushi-ya.

That’s why the catering quality at the Sakura Lounge was nothing short of abysmal. There were only two hot items available: a mangled-looking ratatouille, and greasy Japanese fried noodles. 

Sakura Lounge menu

The other food options consisted of cold sandwiches and pre-packaged snacks. That’s bad enough for a Business Class lounge, let alone one meant to serve First Class passengers. 

Sandwiches
Chocolates and snacks
Crackers and chips

In terms of drinks, the chiller held assorted soft drinks, Asahi beer and fruit juice. 

Soft drinks and juices

There was also a choice of a red (Esser Vineyards) or white wine (Roasted Slope Vineyards), which are probably best described as “table” options, some spirits, and a couple bottles of choya, and a sake. No sparkling wine was available. 

Alcohol selection
Alcohol selection

I don’t know what else I can say about the catering for this lounge, other than you’ll find better choices in the main terminal. 

JAL Sakura Lounge SFO food

Toilets

JAL Sakura Lounge SFO toilets

The Sakura Lounge has its own male and female toilets, each with two stalls. No shower facilities are available. 

JAL Sakura Lounge SFO toilets

Bathrooms were only cleaned at the start and end of each lounge opening, so they did get progressively filthy as time went on. Given the lounge’s clientele, I was surprised they didn’t have at least a bidet hose.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge is the worst oneworld lounge in SFO, period. It’s such a disservice to the quality of the product that JAL offers in the air, and there’s no reason to spend any more time here than you have to. 

It’s bad enough for a Business Class lounge, let alone First Class. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Jani P

I suspect we may be spoiled by lounges in Asia: the JAL Sakura Lounge looks considerably better than any of the non-Polaris United Clubs at SFO, where you typically get no hot food options (perhaps a soup if you’re lucky) and alcohol is pay per drink. Here’s the food selection last time: https://www.instagram.com/p/BrWdhftH-oL/

Jani P

There’s an international United Club at SFO as well (for riffraff like *G’s who can’t get into Polaris) and it’s pretty dire too, although admittedly not quite as bad as the domestic ones.

Avi

Even if you pay me – I won’t enter that hell hole you call the United Club. The only thing there to consume are the pretzels and the coke. The toilet / cubicles there give the Greyhound toilets at PABT NY a run for their money. Last time I went, there was a toilet paper trail running across the entire length of the room..

The Sakura Lounge is a step above. Close but no cigar

Futoshi

I totally agree with you. When I visited there last April, a lady who is more like Japanese hot spring hotel waitress greeted me. Japan airlines lounges for domestic in Japan are so poor too. As a Japanese, but as emerald member of CX, I feel shamed of their poor service.

Steven L.

You didn’t miss anything with the closed First Class area. My one pre-pandemic visit revealed… a a small, boxy room with some chairs lining the walls. Other than the added privacy, it was arguably *worse* than the main part of the lounge.

Kelly O

Does anyone know if the BA lounge at SFO is still operating during the morning hours? I am looking for an alternative to the JL lounge but looks like most OW flights operate in the afternoon and evening.

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