Mineta San Jose is my home airport–the one I use the most frequently both because it’s closer to my house and because it’s not as crowded and difficult to deal with as San Francisco International (which will get its own review soon). It’s one of two major regional airports in the San Francisco Bay Area, located in the Silicon Valley with convenient access to many major tech companies as well as some gorgeous scenery. Flights from SJC go out to most West Coast destinations, plenty of major U.S. airports, Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, and Canada. Using connections, you can get from San Jose most anywhere in the world.
San Jose International consists of two major terminals–Terminal A houses the Southwest Airline gates and a few others. Terminal B, the shiny new terminal with the interesting architecture and big art installations, has gates for all the other major airlines that fly out of San Jose. A small commuter terminal on the other side of the runways includes gates and waiting for private flights on corporate jets.
Short-term parking at SJC isn’t all that challenging; it’s also pretty easy to drop off and pick up passengers at curbside. Long-term parking for travelers who opt to drive themselves (not something I recommend for travelers with moderate to severe pain) costs about $18/day; add about 30 minutes to park and catch the shuttle to the terminal if you’re doing long-term parking.
Curb and Counter
SJC has typical curbside Skycap service, which includes getting a wheelchair right then and there if you need it. I usually head inside and go up to the counters, getting my chair after I’ve checked in and waved a fond farewell to my checked bags. The lines can be negligible or awful, but usually they’re shorter than the counter lines at SFO.
I can sometimes get away with getting to the airport only 45 minutes before a domestic flight, but if I give myself at least 75 minutes my stress level stays much lower.
Wheelchair service tends to be pretty good at SJC in both terminals. It usually takes only 5-10 minutes from the time I ask for the chair to it appearing, and there are plenty of seats available for waiting.Most of the attendants are friendly and will chat with their clients.
I recommend getting a wheelchair at SJC; for a regional airport, the distance from the counter to some of the gates runs really long.
Getting Through Security
Security lines in Terminal A can be wretched during major commuter flight hours. Weekday mornings are usually the worst. Otherwise, the lines tend to be medium to short. Employees run slightly below average in courtesy and English language skills.
San Jose has the full-body scanners. You can opt out and go for the pat down. My housemate claims it’s not so bad. YMMV.
More info about security and people with disabilities is here.
Passport Control and Customs
Passport control lines and customs checks tend to be short and okay at SJC, because the number of international flights is comparatively small. Still, I get a wheelchair for this part of the journey. After a long flight, standing in lines just hurts.
Also not quite as bad as in major airports. Crowds aren’t as big; the baggage claim area is smaller and more easily navigable.
I’ve never lost a bag flying into SJC (knock wood), so I can’t tell you how well they do with missing-bag services.
Most locals either park in long-term lots and pick up their cars after their flights, or arrange for either pro or amateur drop-off and pick-up from the airport. There’s not much in the way of public transit to or from SJC–it’s not adjacent to light rail, CalTrain, or BART. If you’re from elsewhere, I recommend using hotel shuttles, taxi, or renting a car.
Restrooms at SJC are acceptable. There seem to be enough to handle the flow of travelers, and they’re situated at reasonable intervals along the concourses. Naturally there are gates that require waiting passengers to take either stair or elevator trips and walks to get to a toilet.
Free WiFi! Its locale in Silicon Valley means that SJC has real, usable, free wi-fi available for passengers in both terminals.
In Terminal B, you’ll find some major art installations and interesting historical stuff, plus resident birds flying around the rafters. Concourses in both terminals have some food and shopping options, but they’re pretty minimal. You can get a decent cup of coffee, but the food runs to greasy bar style stuff.
The Bottom Line
San Jose International Airport is my favorite Bay Area airport. It’s easy to access from multiple freeways, the lines and waits are short, and the service is decent. And did I mention the free wi-fi?