A week after I returned from Hawaii, the company that I work for sent me up to San Francisco for a quick two-day business trip. Ordinarily this sort of thing wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, but I’ve been working for this company for over 12 years and this was the first time that they’ve ever sent me anywhere other than down to the local office supply store to pick up a fresh pack of Post-it notes. Finally – a real business trip!
Unfortunately, our company has a contract with United Airlines, so they are the number one choice for all of our domestic travel and it’s pretty much impossible for them to book another carrier if UA serves the destination airport. My itinerary ended up consisting of a United A320 up to San Francisco, and another United A320 back home to San Diego. How’s that for bad luck? Now don’t give me wrong – there’s really nothing wrong with United Airlines A320s, but you may recall my last trip report which involved these aircraft (on this exact route) where I waxed poetic about how dull and uninteresting the experience was.
So – for the first time since I started getting serious about writing trip reports, I decided to forgo writing about these two flight segments. And you know what? It felt great! It was so nice not to have to worry about taking pictures and jotting down notes about how many nuts were in the bag that I received during the snack service. That’s travel freedom right there and I loved every second of it!
Even though I decided not to write about the flights, the hotel they put me up in was one that I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. The Aloft at San Francisco international Airport has been one that I’ve intended to book on several occasions over the past several years, but last-minute changes in circumstance have always placed me somewhere else. Until now. Finally – after all these years, I was finally going to get a chance to experience the Aloft at SFO.
You’re probably scratching your head wondering why I was so excited to try the Aloft – and I don’t blame you. The Aloft hotel chain isn’t all that great, but they are consistent and I really like the low-budget/high style thing they have going on. The Aloft’s I stayed at in Phoenix and Portland were great, and for some reason or another I was expecting the one here in SFO to be even better. Don’t ask me why, but it may have had something to do with the fact that San Francisco is home to some of the biggest and most powerful tech companies in the world and I was naturally expecting greatness. It would seem that they would want to have one of their best properties on display here, right?
The location of the aloft SFO is clustered in the heart of Millbrae, just south of the airport and across the street from all of the other airport hotels – including the Marriott I stayed in last February. To be honest, this is not a particularly nice area. It’s not dangerous or anything, but it is a very crowded and busy area with lots of construction going on. Half of the surrounding buildings seem to be run down and deserted, while the other half (like this hotel) are new and modern.
But hold on a second. Is this place really new and modern? I could tell immediately after walking to the front door that this aloft was nothing more than a remodeled old hotel with fancy new wallpaper and neato lighting fixtures. It just didn’t seem to have that “built from the ground up” feel to it like the other Aloft properties that I’ve stayed at, especially with the check-in desk floating off by itself in a huge empty space. It was awkward to say the least, and it didn’t feel right at all.
The other side of the lobby looked extremely stylish and comfortable like a typical Aloft should, so I just shrugged it off as I walked to the elevator on the way to my room.
Unfortunately, there was more disappointment as soon as I opened the door to my room. There was no doubt in my mind now – this really did used to be an old dumpy chain hotel that had been simply rebranded into an Aloft for as little money (and effort) as possible. The only thing “Aloft” about this room were the curtains and a few other minor little details sprinkled throughout. One of the things I really liked about this brand during my past stays in Phoenix and Portland was the fact that the room layouts were slightly different from a typical hotel room. But what’s this? The layout of this room was as sterile and generic as what you would find in a roadside Comfort Inn. As a matter-of-fact, it even smelled like a Comfort Inn – complete with the nauseating stench of chlorine and fresh paint.
The biggest problem I had with this hotel was the fact that it was very rough around the edges and it was very clear that they had put very little money and effort into remodeling the rooms to fit the Aloft brand. My one-night stay here was not consistent with my other Aloft experiences in Phoenix and Portland, and it really makes me wonder if this brand is as good as I think it is in my mind. I’m not gonna lie when I say that I was very disappointed with my room, and it was a bit shocking to me considering the fact that this is San Francisco – the tech capital of the world – and the state of the room was not fitting of such a world-class destination. I know that sounds a wee bit elitist and possibly naïve, but all my other hotel stays in San Francisco over the years have been nothing but top-notch experiences that set the bar for what I expect hotel experiences to be like whenever I travel the world.
It’s not often that I write such negative review, but the Aloft SFO deserves it. The staff was nice, and half of the lobby was cool, but the rooms do not live up to the standards of the brand (at least my room didn’t). For the same amount of money, you would be much better off to choose the Marriott just down the street.