A Royal (dis)HHonor: Aloft San Francisco Airport

Introduction
Aloft San Francisco Airport
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to Singapore
St. Regis Singapore
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge Singapore
SilkAir Business Class Singapore to Koh Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Koh Samui to Bangkok
Le Meridien Bangkok
Thai Airways Royal Silk Business Class Lounge Bangkok
Royal Jordanian Business Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco


Due to award availability our flight was arriving from Seattle at 4PM and leaving for Hong Kong at midnight, so we had an eight hour layover in San Francisco. When I have a layover that long I prefer to just book a reasonably priced room at an airport hotel. I value a stay credit (towards top tier status with Hyatt or Starwood) at about $60, and in this case the brand new Aloft San Francisco Airport was $100 with tax. So I was basically paying an additional $40 above what I value a stay credit at to have a place to rest for the afternoon. For that matter I’ve actually wanted to try out Aloft hotels since I’ve yet to stay at one, and I was curious what they were like given that they are “a vision of W Hotels” (which isn’t something to aspire to, in my opinion).

If nothing else, having a hotel room to relax in for an eight hour layover saves me at least 2,000 calories worth of snack mix that I’d otherwise be munching on in an airport lounge, as opposed to a hotel room, where I have a quiet place to work.

We took the shuttle from the airport, which is shared with the Westin. It took about 10 minutes to get to the hotel, and we were the only ones to exit at the Aloft.


Hotel exterior


Hotel exterior

Once inside the hotel I found the circular check-in desk to the right, where a cheery agent checked us in in less than a minute. She was extremely professional and thanked me for being a Platinum member and offered us two vouchers for complimentary hot beverages. I also requested an airport view room, which she laughed at, though gladly complied with.


Lobby


Drink vouchers

The lobby had a communal area with a pool table, as well as a huge bar, called “WXYZ Bar.”


Lobby


WXYZ Bar


WXYZ Bar


Aloft branding

We took the elevator up to the sixth floor, where our room was located. It had a funky colored lava-like floor that gushed around as you stepped on it.


Elevator floor

The hallway looked and smelled “fresh” given that the hotel is still new. Our room was about halfway down on the right.


Hallway

The rooms are basic and all identical (there are no suites). There was a fairly comfortable king size bed, and by the window a desk and a counter. I found the outlets throughout the room to be conveniently located, which sadly can’t be said for some $500+ per night hotels I’ve stayed at.


Room entrance


Room


Bed


Night stand

The highlight of the room had to be the stunning views of the terminal and runways 1L and 1R.


Airport view


Airport view

By the entrance was a dorm-style closet and the bathroom.


Closet

The bathroom featured a sink with Bliss amenities.


Bathroom


Bliss amenities

In a room next to it were a toilet and shower which was partitioned off by a glass shield.


Toilet


Shower

The shower had shampoo and body wash dispensers. In most cases dispensers drive me nuts for two reasons. One is that they don’t seem to work or dispense anything half of the time. The other is that they’re usually filled with crap products. In this case the dispensers worked perfectly and were filled with Bliss products, so I actually appreciated them.


Dispensers

Wifi in the hotel (both in the rooms and in the lobby) was fast and free.

In terms of the public facilities, the hotel has a decent size indoor pool and gym with modern equipment.


Pool


Gym


Gym

There was also a really nice outdoor courtyard.


Courtyard

My opinions confuse even me sometimes. I’ve flown international first class products that leave me feeling indifferent, though oddly I was literally overjoyed by my first Aloft stay. It’s even more confusing because Alofts are “a vision of W Hotels,” and I don’t really like W Hotels.

But every employee at this place was super-friendly and cheery, and I found the rooms to be extremely functional. I think in a way the fact that there are no “premium” rooms made my stay more enjoyable as a Platinum member — it’s fantastic for managing expectations because I knew there was no shot at a suite upgrade, and the room was exactly as advertised. And the simplicity of rooms was also great in managing expectations. The fewer “moving parts” there are to a room, the less there is to not be functioning or to be disappointing.

So while I previously intentionally avoided Aloft hotels, I’ll actually seek them out in the future. They’re like Ws minus the pretentiousness, which is my biggest complaint about Ws.

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Comments

  1. Love to see a gym with some free weights. Have you ever come across one that had a real bench press and squat rack? I hope they start to appear more often as crossfit-style fitness gains popularity.

  2. I thought the SFO Aloft is a remodel of the former Clarion, with mixed reviews for basics like Hot Water. Also that it shares the shuttle with the Westin, not the Marriott.

  3. Thanks for the heads up on the shuttle service.
    I believe the Aloft shared with the Westin in the past.

  4. Carl – No. I stay at this hotel frequently and used to stay at the Westin, watching the aloft bring built. The aloft is not a remodel. It was build fresh, from the ground up.

  5. I’ve always had great service at Aloft. Beds are quite comfortable. I just wish there was somewhere to sit other than the bed and the desk chair.

  6. @Lucky I take issue on a different level. “Pretentious” is by far my favourite word and one hell of a pocket square.

    -JRL

  7. Stayed at two different Aloft properties and really enjoyed them for mostly the same reasons listed. Decent helpful people and simple rooms…

  8. Stayed at an Aloft a few years ago when the brand was launched and found that it lacked any black out shades in the windows. Was horrible for jet lag and wrote the brand off (blacklisted).

    Have they fix this? I had similar feelings about the brand until I actually slept the night and was woken up way to early by the bright sun seeping through the poor flimsy window treatments.

    You might have a different opinion had you slept there after one of your long flights; maybe you should review hotels only if you use them for their intended purpose, i.e. sleeping…just dropping by is not very useful.

  9. @ Hillrider — Actually also stayed at the Aloft on the return for a night after landing from San Francisco, and found the curtains to be perfectly sufficient.

  10. I’ve generally been happy with Aloft, except I wish that the Platinum breakfast benefit were more clear. I generally put Aloft in the same category as Hyatt Place, which have improved their breakfast offering.

  11. @Lucky & @Hillrider I’ve stayed at this property (and stayed the night) as well as two other Alofts and have never really struggled with the curtains/shades and how well they block out light. Your review of the property matches mine and I definitely enjoy this brand. I’m not exactly the type of traveler that needs a fancy hotel though. 🙂

  12. You should check out the Aloft in KL. The staff there is the dictionary definition of “peppy”. Also it’s 30 stories, has an infinity pool on the roof along with a bar and DJ. And a full service restaurant that does a mean breakfast buffet. Very good!

  13. who is the genderless person with whom you are sharing the one bed? will all dozen installments coming mention we and never he?

  14. I really like aloft hotels. The design is modern, yet functional, staff friendly, and the one I usually stay at (YUL) also has great runway views.

  15. Have they stopped saying, “Aloha!” at every turn? It was something I found super-pretentious, and not at all related to the brand. Taking the first three letters of the hotel and turning it into a Hawaiian greeting, when the property isn’t Hawaiian, bordered on offensive. And it was stupid. And I could tell employees at the 4 or 5 Aloft properties at which I have stayed didn’t really enjoy saying it. So – are they still doing it?

  16. how late did you find and book F on CX, the reason is, i want to book F from Lax-hkg in early July but at this point nothing on the radar. also you said SFO cx flight was the best compare to other gateways. why?, i wouldnt mind take short hop from lax to catch that flight if its better experience.

  17. I have found there to be some inconsistency with Alofts (the bed at the one at YUL was quite uncomfortable), but they have done a really good job with the public spaces, especially the gyms and pools. It’s a very intelligently designed approach to putting effort into things that will really make customers happy, while cutting out things that add cost with little value (good shampoo, but get rid of the waste of a bunch of plastic bottles, for example).

  18. @Seth I agree it is enough time, but if you were going to work for much of it (and it gives you a work blog entry) it seems a reasonable choice to make.

  19. @ Wandering Aramean — Yes, though in this case I’ve been to San Francisco dozens and dozens of times (so wasn’t missing out on anything “new”) and had a lot of work I wanted to get done before being completely disconnected for the next 24 hours.

  20. @ Steve — Hah, they didn’t do that for my stay. Which is a good thing, cause I would have found it equally annoying.

  21. @ choi — I snagged this particular flight two days out. I was originally booked on the daytime flight the next day but decided to move it up a day.

    To clarify, San Francisco is better than other gateways in terms of award availability and not anything else. That’s probably because they have twice daily service and it’s not a OneWorld hub, so there’s not quite as much premium demand since most passengers are originating there.

  22. @licky @David –thanks for the update on the shades. IIRC I stayed at the second property in the USA, so they probably have tweaked things–and my feedback to them was as brutal and direct as I was cranky tired due to the issue!

  23. @ Alan — The number is somewhat arbitrary but figure you have to make 25 stays to earn top tier status. At $60 per stay credit that’s $1,500, which is about what I value top tier status at with Hyatt or Starwood, not factoring in the benefits you get from actual stays.

  24. i stayed at the aloft@sfo once and loved everything they offered, except that their morning airport schedule was bad. once every hr after 9am..

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