In a nutshell: after staying at the Aloft a few years ago, unable to sleep due to aircraft taking off from runways 1R and 1L, I had some reservations about using a free night certificate to stay at the Westin San Francisco Airport. It’s literally right next door, in close proximity to the airport. However, these fears were unfounded. The stay was comfortable and enjoyable, and the elite treatment excellent. However, there was one major service mishap that has me worried about staying here in the future.
San Francisco airport hotels are the worst. No, it’s not because there aren’t any nice options. The Grand Hyatt at SFO just might be my favorite hotel in the country. I’ve stayed at over 10 other area hotels as well and enjoyed a pleasant stay most of the time.
No, it is because of the rates they command. San Francisco is notoriously expensive, and the airport is often the same. It hurts to pay lots of cash or points for a hotel where the goal is pretty much just to sleep, shower, and head to the airport (or crash after an arrival and then drive home). In this case, I needed an SFO airport hotel for an early flight out the next morning. After succumbing to an initial period of “analysis paralysis”, I finally settled on booking the Westin San Francisco Airport as an award stay.
The Westin San Francisco Airport was asking $221 per night after taxes for the night I needed. Alternatively, I could redeem 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. I chose the latter option. Sure, I could have stayed down the street at the Hyatt for less. But lacking Hyatt points at the time and not interested in shelling out that much cash, Marriott points were the best option. It certainly isn’t the best value I’ve ever received for Bonvoy points, but beggars can’t be choosers.
There are other Marriott brand properties near SFO for the same number of points, but I’d not stayed at the Westin. Figured it’d be nice to try somewhere new. The Westin SFO and Marriott SFO Waterfront have both since increased to Category 6 properties, requiring 50,000 points per night for standard dates. The Aloft (next door to the Westin), Fairfield Inn Millbrae, AC Hotel, Residence Inn, and Courtyards at SFO are all still Category 5 properties. The Four Points is a Category 4. You have options.
Arriving at the Hotel
Since I was getting to SFO by mass transit, I decided to walk the short distance from the Millbrae BART station over to the Westin San Francisco Airport. Alternatively, I could have taken BART to the airport and then exited the International Terminal for ~$5 more and waited for the hotel shuttle. The Westin operates a shuttle that serves all SFO terminals at a high frequency. This is one of the best features of staying at one of the nicer/larger SFO airport hotels, as you’re not waiting 30 minutes to be picked up.
I entered the Westin’s pleasant lobby and headed to the front desk, which wasn’t all that busy this evening. The lady at the desk was friendly and pleasant, and she informed me that the hotel had been able to upgrade me to an executive suite. Glad I could put that Titanium Elite status to use one final time before I fall back to Gold Elite for 2020.
As I was departing very early in the morning on a 7:00 AM flight out of SFO, I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the breakfast benefit. I asked if there was any way they could offer this as room service. The Westin was unwilling to accommodate. I’ve never asked this before, but I figured it was worth a shot. The ideal plan would have been a 5:00 Am wake-up, 5:30 AM breakfast, and 6:00 AM shuttle to SFO. Normal breakfast hours start at 6:00 AM. While I could have tried to eat and rush over to the airport, I didn’t want to cut things that close for a 7:00 AM departure.
Westin San Francisco Airport Executive Suite
Normally I wouldn’t mind an airport view, but the Westin is very close to runways 1L/1R from which places are constantly taking off. I remember having trouble sleeping at the Aloft next door due to the elevated noise levels. Which meant I was very happy to have been given room 441, an interior corner facing away from the airport. It’s right next to the elevator landing as well.
The door opens into a triangular living room area. The shape is odd, but the space is nice. There is a couch, a small table for two, and a full-length mirror. I didn’t understand how important that last one is until we were recently traveling as a family and both my wife and daughter needed a mirror. We were down the street at the Hyatt Regency SFO, and the lack of a second mirror in the suite surprised us.
The TV is obviously programmable by the hotel like so many are these days. It was showing my name and had a number of streaming service apps up for selection. The Netflix and Amazon Prime Video aren’t offered for free, though. You need your own subscription. I was just about to sit down and watch a show when I thought better of the time and decided I really did want to get a full seven hours of sleep before my early flight.
Through the doorway is the bedroom and bathroom. I do like how the suite has a fully separated living and bedroom areas. Executive suites feature a king bed. There aren’t any suites at the Weston San Francisco Airport that offer two queens.
To make up for the lack of wall outlets, there is a ChargePort next to the bed. The work desk also features outlets as part of the desk design. At least they didn’t try to charge me extra for this “feature” like this hotel did. Next to the desk is the coffee maker and two complimentary water bottles.
At first I didn’t think the room had an in-room fridge. But it is located in the cabinet under the television. The lack of a mini-fridge was one of my main gripes during our first Westin stay ever at the Harbour Castle property in Toronto. My wife has a limited diet, as we often find ourselves cooking while traveling. The fridge is a necessity.
While the room as nice, the bathroom was perplexing. I found it odd that the lady at the front desk specifically remarked that the bathroom is not an ADA bathroom. But after taking a look, I can see why she said this. The design certainly looks a whole lot like an ADA design.
The executive suite shower at the Westin San Francisco Airport is awkward, to say the least. The space is large, but the shower head placed at roughly head height in the very middle of the wall makes no sense. I found myself standing against one of the side walls trying to shower. You can’t point the shower head directly out, as it will get water beyond the curtain. There is no lip to keep water in the shower area.
The whole thing is weird, and a really poor design. I showered just fine, but the hotel could have done a much better job. I don’t know what they were thinking when they installed these. The only explanation is that is maybe is an ADA shower that didn’t get updated with the rest of the room.
The rest of the bathroom is odd as well. There is basically no counter space. All the bath amenities are on a tiny shelf over the toilet, and the sink is not overly large.
In short, the executive suite living room and bedroom are nice. But the bathroom could use a complete remodel.
The Housekeeping Oversight
After my walk-through of the room I reached for the first water bottle to hydrate myself after my couple hours of transit getting to the hotel. Right before I took a drink, I noticed a problem: the bottle had been opened and was partially empty.
There was a second, unopened one, so no real harm. But I was very glad I’d caught on before I took a drink. A previous guest had placed it back where (I assume) the bottles are placed by housekeeping, and the housekeeper hadn’t noticed one had been used.
I did mention the oversight at the front desk. The agent apologized and said he’d follow up with housekeeping. Given the issue, this was entirely satisfactory. The rest of the stay had been fine, and I really liked the room, aside from the shower.
What I didn’t expect was a follow up email from the manager apologizing again for the issue and offering 10,000 Bonvoy points as compensation. It was a very nice gesture on his part. Moments where hotels go out of their way to acknowledge service issues drive greater loyalty in my experience. The “service rescue” can actually do more than simply delivering on expectations.
The Westin San Francisco Airport features a bar across from the front desk in the lobby. I headed down here to unwind for half an hour before getting to bed. The staff were friendly and the space pleasant.
You can also grab a bite to eat here or in the restaurant itself. The Grill and Vine restaurant at the Westin San Francisco Airport is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wouldn’t have a chance to enjoy breakfast at the hotel restaurant, unfortunately. The full buffet costs $25, while you can enjoy the continental buffet for $18. Breakfast for two is free at Westin Hotels for Platinum and Titanium elites.
I didn’t head down to see the exercise room or pool. Westin bills itself as a wellness brand, so fitness facilities are a prominent feature of their hotels. The photos of the pool here do make it look great. If I’m back in the area with the kids, we’ll definitely check it out. The pool is indoor, heated, and open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM. The hotel also offers a yoga session every Tuesday at 7:00 AM at the pool deck.
The Verdict: Westin San Francisco Airport Review
Although my stay was brief, I can certainly say that it was enjoyable. The staff at the Westin San Francisco Airport were friendly and went above and beyond to fix the one small issue I encountered. The upgrade to the executive suite was appreciated, and it was a nice farewell to the Marriott Titanium status I enjoyed through 2019. My only gripe would be the bathroom. They really need to redesign the whole thing.
The hotel would be on my list for a return stay for a future airport hotel night. However, the property was just increased to a Category 6 location, putting it out of reach of the typical free night certificates. At a cost of 50,000 Bonvoy points, I’ll sadly pass in the future. There is another Marriott property in close proximity for half that (the Four Points).