The $1 billion Sacramento International Airport expansion opening Thursday should come with a traveler's warning: This is more than a mere face-lift.
Fliers will find themselves navigating an entirely new airport with a big-city feel. It includes double-decker roads, a four-story terminal and a separate concourse building in the north airfield. An automated people mover shuttle system bridges the gap between the two buildings.
First-time users may find themselves confused. With that in mind, we offer a Sacramento Bee user's guide to the new facilities:
Getting your bearings
If it's your first time flying out of the new terminal or picking someone up, the best plan is to show up early. Airport officials suggest travelers give themselves 15 minutes more than usual to get their bearings.
Volunteer guides in red shirts will be stationed in the buildings the first few weeks to assist. There is an information booth on the ground floor in the baggage area.
Before you head to the airport, check the website at www.smf.aero for the latest departure and arrival updates and other airport information.
What to call the new facilities
The new main building is called Central Terminal B. The new boarding gate building is called Concourse B. The shuttle between those two buildings is the automated people mover.
Terminal A retains its name and will function the same as before, but with different airlines. The former Terminal A parking garage is now simply called the garage, because it serves both terminals.
Where's my airline?
Almost all airlines will play musical chairs the night before Thursday's opening. The biggest move: Southwest Airlines, which carries 52 percent of Sacramento's fliers, switches to the new terminal.
Here's the Thursday lineup:
Terminal A Continental, Delta, United, US Airways.
Terminal B Aeromexico, Alaska/Horizon, American, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest.
The changes start on the entrance roads. After exiting Interstate 5 onto airport property, you'll hit a fork. Terminal A and the garage are to the right. You take the left fork if you are dropping someone off at the new terminal or if you are headed to the hourly B parking lot.
That fork to the new terminal splits as well. To drop someone off, take the road marked "departures." It ramps up to the new terminal's second level. The "arrivals" road, for picking up passengers, is at ground level.
Dropping off, picking up
There are two drop-off zones at the new terminal, both on the upper "departures" road. The first zone is for people taking Southwest. If you're dropping someone off for another airline at the new terminal, you drive past the first drop-off zone and loop around the back of the building to the drop-off area on the opposite side.
If you become confused, it is OK to stop at either side of the building regardless of airline; your passenger will just have to walk a few extra steps to his ticketing counter.
For those picking up, the airport encourages using the free wait lot also called a cellphone lot to await a call from arriving passengers before heading to the pickup curbs. The turnoff for that lot is just past the airport gas station, and is marked by signs.
The multilevel garage will do double duty, serving both terminals for daily parking. There is a pedestrian bridge to the new terminal from the garage's fifth floor. It's on the opposite side of the garage from the bridge to Terminal A.
The garage is mainly for daily parking, but there is an hourly section with its own entrance on the ground floor. There also is a large daily parking lot just before the garage, with shuttles taking fliers to both terminals.
For shorter parking periods at the new terminal, there is an hourly B parking lot. From that lot, you'll see an elevator tower and pedestrian bridge into the new terminal. You can use the pedestrian bridge to access the terminal or just walk across the "arrivals" road into the terminal's ground floor and take an escalator or elevator up one level to ticketing and baggage check.
The economy lot for long-term parking still exists, offering shuttle service to both terminals.
Taxis, Super Shuttle and limousines drop off upstairs.
For those leaving the airport, the taxi queue is outside the west doors on the ground floor.
Airport shuttle buses are outside the east doors on the ground level. Yolo Transit buses pick up there, as well.
Sacramento Regional Transit buses do not serve the airport.
Inside Central Terminal B
The ground floor is baggage claim. The second floor has the ticketing counters, kiosks and baggage check. The third- floor "transfer level" is where fliers catch the automated people mover to the concourse building. The third level also has restaurants, stores and seating areas.
There are several escalators. They are flanked by two glass-walled elevators. Warning: Some escalators take you up or down one floor, some take you two floors. Check the signs above the escalators before stepping on to avoid having to backtrack.
The pedestrian bridges from the garage and hourly B parking bring you in on the third level. If you have carry-on luggage, you can get your boarding pass at kiosks on that level just after you emerge from the bridge, rather than go down to the ticket counters.
Automated people mover
The two shuttles arrive every 90 seconds at twin stations on the third level. The ride from the terminal to the concourse building takes about 45 seconds.
Airport officials ask passengers to wait for the shuttles on the platform between the two stations. That way, you can hop on whichever shuttle car comes first. The platforms on the outside of the stations are for people exiting the shuttles.
The federal security checkpoint is not in the terminal building. It's in the concourse building. You get in the security line after exiting the people mover.
Arriving passengers can take escalators directly from the third floor to the first-floor baggage claim area. If you are having someone pick you up, remember there are pickup curb areas on both sides of the building. Instruct your pickup person to take the "arrivals" road and stop on the west side if you fly Southwest, and on the east side if you fly another airline.
If there is confusion about which side you are on, note that each exit door is numbered. You can tell the person picking you up which numbered door you're near.