Review: The Club At SJC

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I had a few hours at San Jose Airport — sorry, er, Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport — before my return flight to Los Angeles.

Let’s be honest. San Jose’s airport is not the world’s most exciting.

Still, Terminal A (where Delta and other non-Southwest carriers operate) is not unattractive. The airport has a single lounge, called “The Club at SJC.” Luckily, the Club at SJC can be accessed for free with Priority Pass, so a credit card with lounge access will get you in. It can also be accessed by premium travelers on the two international flights departing San Jose (ANA’s to Tokyo Narita, and Hainan’s to Beijing) as well as anyone willing to cough up $35 as an entry fee.

The Club at SJC
The Club at SJC

I walked into the Club at SJC around 9:30am, and it was deserted.

I think there was maybe one other customer in the lounge, but otherwise there was a bartender milling about, bored, and the sound of a TV.

Food and drinks at the lounge are complimentary for guests, although I didn’t really feel like anything alcoholic so early in the morning, especially with a long day of travel ahead. I helped myself to some grapefruit juice and coffee.

As for food, the spread was dismal — limited to packaged foods and some miniature muffins. I passed.

Aside from there being a large seating area near the TV sets in front of the bar, there’s also more of a work-oriented area across the hallway from the bar, with long counters, stools, and power outlets available.

Seating at the Club at SJC
Seating at the Club at SJC

The lounge was decorated in a corporate but inoffensive way. It felt like the lobby of a nice Courtyard by Marriott, for example.

More seating at the Club at SJC
More seating at the Club at SJC

Curiously, there were plenty of reading materials available, but other than the San Jose Mercury News, almost everything was in Japanese. I asked an attendant whether anything else was available in English, and she found one copy of a Travel + Leisure for me and confessed that was all they had left.

Reading material at the Club at SJC
Reading material at the Club at SJC
The one English-language magazine available
The one English-language magazine available

About a half hour after I arrived at the lounge, it started filling up slowly, mostly with Japanese businessmen.

By about 10:30am, the lounge was packed, and nearly everyone was Japanese — suddenly, the reading selections made a bit more sense. The ANA flight from San Jose leaves at 12:45pm, and the clientele on the flight, or at least the premium cabin clientele who chose to use the lounge, was almost entirely Japanese.

At around this time, I noticed that the club staff had swapped out the dismal food display for a much more generous breakfast and lunch spread.

Club at SJC breakfast spread (post 10am)
Club at SJC breakfast spread (post 10am)

While the spread was more generous, it wasn’t particularly appetizing. Nonetheless, I had some scrambled eggs and diced breakfast potatoes. The potatoes weren’t half bad (mostly because they were crispy), but the eggs were incredibly dry.

Club at SJC lunch spread (post 10am)
Club at SJC lunch spread (post 10am)

By the time I’d loaded my plate for breakfast, the lounge was packed. It’s a large lounge, so it’s worth noting that if you have a reason to use the Club at SJC in the morning, it’s worth getting there before 10am.

At the risk of inviting Montblanc-gate all over again, I will just say that I soon noticed distinct cultural differences between American ways of eating and Japanese ways of eating. At least among my immediate neighbors in the work area, there didn’t seem to be any hesitation in eating very loudly. Now don’t get me wrong: a lot of Americans are outright slobs while eating and shoving Cheetos in their face, orange crumbs falling down their chins like a gazelle’s blood on a ravenous lion. Americans eat like pigs, but relatively quietly.

And yes, I know in Japan you’re supposed to slurp your ramen noodles. But between the slurping, the crunching, and the frequent sound of metal on metal bowl-scraping, the room sounded like a cacophonous mealtime orchestra. I decided headphones were my best bet at surviving the rest of my lounge stay without pulling out my hair.

A little after noon, I headed out of the lounge and walked toward my gate, where my regional jet to Los Angeles was already boarding.

The Club at SJC Bottom Line

The Club at SJC is the only lounge at San Jose International Airport, so it’s not really a matter of choosing how to spend your time at the airport, but choosing whether to spend any free time at the airport at all. 🙂

Compared to most domestic lounges, the food spread was generous, at least during the hours the club also operated as an international lounge of sorts.

The seating was ample and pleasant, though the lounge appears to get quite crowded in advance of the ANA flight.

Given that the Club at SJC operates as a Priority Pass partner and is also available to any passenger for a $35 fee, I was surprised that the lounge didn’t seem to make any concessions to non-international travelers. It seemed truly strange that no English language reading material was made available outside of the local newspaper.

Because SJC is not a connecting hub, I don’t see much of a point in getting to the airport early just to visit the club, unless you’re on an international flight and want to get there particularly early to be on the safe side. However, since the bar is complimentary and the liquor selection seemed to be not unimpressive, it may be worth a visit if you have Priority Pass, some time to kill at SJC, and want to grab a drink or two.

For a different perspective, I finally had a chance to visit this lounge myself in 2018. See the review here.

  1. Soooo… Is lucky just not bothering with blog posts anymore. I thought this was his blog but there are a LOT of ‘guest’ posts.

    At least nick puts up his trip reports on time

  2. In the photo of the reading material I can see plenty of Chinese literature, not just Japanese. I suppose this caters to the Chinese passengers travelling on Hainan.

  3. @sam- Does it really matter? Are you not you still enjoying the content? I am.

    @Mark – I think its just aa..

    @AL – This lounge is just upstairs from ANA, there is usually more Japanese travelers then Chinese. But to be fair I love using SJC-NRT-PVG. ANA does there 787 on this route, nice new plane smell. Its my go to for china, the lines are not that long and customs is much better.

  4. The lounge is there because of the ANA flight. What surprises me the most is that they keep it open during the rest of the day. I used to fly from SJC quite a bit, and found the lounge a pleasant enough place to wait for my flight — largely because it was always empty. I’m amazed that they have enough paying visitors (paying out of pocket or via reimbursement from Priority Pass) during the rest of the day to cover the costs of keeping it open.

  5. Al: Those are all japanese. Depending on the subject matter, the majority of japanese written language can be traditional “chinese” script known as “Kanji”. You are assuming that the more simplified characters of phoenetic “katakana” and “hiragana” is all japanese is, which it isn’t.

    I find the Japanese to be far more polite and appropriate than any other culture, americans included. Perhaps the author should take a trip to the local hometown buffett and tell me what he hears.

  6. Since Citi Prestige offers Priority Pass, you do get lounge access with Citi Prestige.

    I fly Southwest a lot out of SJC. I’ll have to check out the lounge, load up with food, and make new friends on my flight by offering it around :-).

  7. There used to be a great coffee place called Espressamente which had Illy coffee. Is it stii in the airport? I have not flown out of SJC in years.

  8. Thanks for the review. I do enjoy the ease of flying in and out of SJC, especially with the car rental center within walking distance. Never visited The Club, though–I’ve never been at the airport long enough. Moreover, the food options in the terminal are great. @ Rami, Espressamente is still there.

  9. @Mijke – I beg to differ. There is at least one title on the middle shelf, right side, that is in Chinese. Its masthead even has “China” in it. The four rightmost titles on the lower shelf are also all Chinese. You are assuming I don’t read Chinese.

  10. @Al
    I wouldn’t call one publication “a lot”. And being able to read chinese means nothing since nearly all Kanji has the identical meaning in japanese as it does in chinese. The publications are clearly nearly all japanese. actually i’m not sure why this matters to anyone other than japanese people.. but i digress

  11. @ Sam — Over the past nearly eight years I’ve written 10,000 blog posts. I spend 16 hours a day and seven days a week on the blog and things related to it. Sorry if me taking off part of a Sunday offends you.

  12. @luckey XD great reply! After all, you do need some rest… stay healthy; I think we all want this blog to still be around in ten years!

    PS Are you going to EAA Oshkosh? I know your more of a points guy, but didn’t you want to be a pilot at some point?

    Enjoy the Krug!

  13. @Lucky,

    I can only imagine how much time you spend on the blog and I am frankly amazed you have time to do as much as you do. I don’t know how its possible but you have never failed to answer my questions on the “ask lucky” page within 48 hours. Having content from other people is fine with me.

    On a related note, I’m not sure how you edit posts but I find your blog, whether the content is from you or other contributors, to be amongst the best edited on Boarding Area. Certainly, a standard some other bloggers here should aspire to.

  14. @ person — Thanks! Sadly not, have schedule conflict. Would love to go at some point, though.

  15. @Al…the ones you identified are all Japanese. Let’s stop arguing this. They are Japanese. If you can truly read Chinese, you would be able to easily identify the characters in most of those that are Japanese-specific.

  16. @ Garrett- I think AI has you there, the ones she identified are Chinese (the magazines). Newspapers are all Japanese though, and also the majority of the other magazines.

  17. @ garrett- take that back, woops! I recognize the bottom magazines, are indeed Japanese. So there is really only 1 Chinese magazine in the picture.

  18. I use that lounge every week, usually late afternoons when it’s almost deserted. Loving it. Extremely friendly staff. Mike the bartender has my drink waiting by my usual chair by the time I check in. I used to access it through Amex Plat but I switched to Citi Prestige since I can bring in 2 guests for free.

  19. “the two international flights departing San Jose”

    There are at least three flights to GDL and SJD each day in addition to the Peking and Chiba flights. Or has North American Union abolished that border already? Maybe SJC-SJD isn’t international anymore because the IATA codes are so neighborly.

  20. Thanks for this review. Saved me $35 rolling the die at 11am today (a Friday)…looked like it was “hotting up” in there from what little I could see when I asked to look in. Took a chance and skipped it.

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