At airports, all most travelers really ask for are the basics: working electrical outlets so we can charge all our gadgets. Reliable (free) Wi-Fi so we can stay in touch. Clean bathrooms. Plenty of seating. And healthy meal options that don’t end up costing an arm and a leg.
Sadly, some airports barely deliver on these simple services. Others surprise and delight by offering amenities and attractions that may leave passengers wishing their layovers were much longer.
Here’s a sampling of some of the unusual and most appreciated airport amenities travelers will currently find.
At Los Angeles International Airport complimentary shoe shine stands (tips accepted) are located in Terminals 1 (Southwest Airlines/US Airways), 4 (American), 5 (Delta) and 7 (United), while at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport there’s a shoe hospital with a cobbler on duty who can fix a broken heel. (A full complement of shoelaces – to replace those broken during post-security lace-ups – is also available.) And for those who fall ill while traveling or who need a last-minute travel immunization, San Francisco International and Chicago O’Hare are among the airports with full-service medical clinics tucked right in the terminal.
Fitness and fun
It’s hard to walk around or stretch while on the airplane, so it’s a good idea to move around while on the ground. Look for marked and measured American Heart Association-approved walking paths inside airport terminals in Indianapolis, New Orleans and Atlanta and a 12.5 mile bike/hike trail circling Baltimore’s Thurgood Marshall Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI). Easy to access hiking/cycling paths also encircle the Zurich Airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
Stuck in Chicago? For $19 you can get a day pass for the fitness center at the on-site Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport, which has well-equipped fitness center, a pool, showers, steam rooms and saunas. At the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport (which has its own airport security checkpoint At Detroit’s Metro Airport, the $15 day pass offers access to showers, workout equipment and the pool.
Golfers will find a miniature golf course (pre-security) right in the terminal at Florida’s Palm Beach International Airport, while Hong Kong International, Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles International are among the airports with full-fledged golf courses on property or within a few miles.
And while images of butterflies, piped-in nature sounds, lounge chairs and fallen log benches make the Airport Park inside Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport a restful spot to wait for a flight, the park’s stationary exercise bikes allow passengers to work out while generating the energy needed to recharge mobile gadgets.
Hitch and Fly
Some couples get married then head to the airport to set out for their honeymoons. Others shortcut that process by getting hitched at the airport before jumping on their plane.
Sweden’s Stockholm-Arlanda Airport offers both church weddings at the airport chapel and civil weddings performed by a registrar. Wedding ceremonies inside the airport’s control tower can be arranged by the on-site VIP service.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has a wedding planner on staff to help couples choose from four wedding ceremony options ranging from the quickie “Say Yes and Go” package to the “Ticket to Paradise” plan, which can include booking an entire plane for the wedding party.
And recognizing that “airport brides” don’t want to tote their wedding gowns along on the honeymoon, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel inside the Vancouver International Airport offers guests complimentary wedding dress storage. (Hotel guests on heading home from fishing trips may also check their catch with the hotel’s “fish valet,” but we’re assured wedding dresses and trophy fish are stored separately.)
Culture and entertainment
Who says airports can’t be fun – and educational? In its Live from T5 concerts at New York’s New York’s JFK International Airport, JetBlue regularly surprises passengers with concerts by brand-name performers while in Texas the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport offers 15 live concerts a week.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is home to a well-attended branch of the famed Rijksmuseum and the accredited SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport offers more than 20 very popular exhibitions a year. And as part of its monthly “Air Experience” program, the public area of Germany’s Dusseldorf Airport has been transformed into everything from an international circus competition and a giant ski jump to a culinary exposition complete with six-course meals being served to tables of 50.
Have you found a surprising or delightful airport amenity? Please share your find.
My story – Best Airport Amenities – originally appeared on Bing Travel in May, 2012.