Airport shops

Portland tops T+L list of 10 Best Domestic Airports – again

For the sixth year running, Portland International Airport, with it free movie theater, cool shops, celebrity carpet and long list of other amenties, has come out on top of the  Travel + Leisure’s list of Best Domestic Airports for 2018.

And, as you might imagine, the folks there are awfully pleased.

“The credit for this accomplishment goes to our Portland International Airport team—the more than 10,000 who always deliver the best travel experience you’ll find anywhere,” Curtis Robinhold, Port of Portland executive director said in a statement. “The caring spirit of our PDX team, served up with local restaurants and shops, gives PDX its much-loved heart and character, reflecting the very best our region offers.”

Here are all 10 airports airports that made this year’s list

1. Portland International Airport

2. Indianapolis International Airport

3. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

4. Tampa International Airport

5. Pittsburgh International Airport

6. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

7. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

8. John Wayne Airport, Orange County, CA

9. Palm Beach International Airport

10. Dallas Love Field

Travel + Leisure has been inviting readers to rate airports since 2013 on categories such as access, check-in and security, restaurants/bars, shopping and design.

Do you agree with the list? Which airports would you add?

LAX adds electronic info booths – that take selfies

Need information – or a selfie – at Los Angeles International Airport?

You’re in luck.  LAX  has installed self-service assistance kiosks in Terminal 2 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal that offer it all on a 36-inch touch screens.

Check the kiosk screen for terminal maps, concession and retail information, emergency information, transportation options, and traffic conditions. As a bonus, the screens allow passengers to take email-able selfies and offer the option to get information from a live person via a real-time video chat.

 

Stuck at Pittsburgh Int’l Airport? Paint something.

You’ve likey seen those do-it-yourself paint studios in your neighborhood and wondered why they always seem to be full.

Now, if you’ve got some time to hang out at Pittsburgh  International Airport, you can find out.

In the perfect match-up of opportunity and activity, Paint Monkey, a Pittsburgh do-it-yourself paint studio has opened up a pop-up paint kiosk on Concourse B.

If you’ve got some time to spend, you can sit a while and paint a masterpieces on pre-sketched canvases in a range of sizes designed to fit into carry-on baggage. Or you can have your creation shipped.

If you’ve got less time to spend, Paint Monkey offers spin art (remember that?) and pre-painted artwork featuring iconic Pittsburgh imagery.

Prices start at $10 and images range from cupcakes, robots and unicorns to Pittsburgh skylines and abstract art.

Best new airport amenities for 2017

My “At the Airport” column for USA TODAY this month was a round-up of some of the best new amenities introduced at airports this year. Take a look a let me know if I missed one of your favorites.

Scratch and sniff

In 2017, passengers were able to visit with specially-trained therapy dogs and their trainers at a longer list of airports, with the newly re-branded Hollywood Burbank Airport joining the pack just last week with the introduction of its Traveler’s Tails program.

The type of animals visiting airports expanded this year as well. In 2016, a pig joined the canines on the Wag Brigade at San Francisco International Airport and miniature therapy horses became regular visitors at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. In 2017, Denver International Airport welcomed the first feline – a 12-pound domestic shorthair named Xeli – to the Canine Airport Therapy Squad, known as CATS.

 Reel entertainment

Back in 2014, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport opened the “See 18” screening room near Gate C18 to showcase short films. This year, at least other airports joined the in-airport movie fan club as well.

In March of 2017, a 17-seat Hollywood Theatre ‘microcinema’ opened at Portland International Airport, showing a round-the-clock program of short features made by Oregon filmmakers.

In August, a bank of old flight monitors at Miami International Airport began showing vintage film footage of the airport and of celebrities arriving the airport from the 1950s through the 1980s, courtesy of Wolfson Archives.

And in October, San Francisco International Airport unveiled a pre-security Video Arts Center in the International Terminal which features a rotating showcase of short films.

Gate Delivery

Many travelers are familiar with OTG’s iPad-enhanced airport seating areas that allow passengers in many gate hold areas to order food, drinks and products from nearby restaurants and shops to be delivered to them at their seats.

This summer two app-powered services, Airport Sherpa and At Your Gate, announced they’d be offering a new perk: airport-wide delivery of pretty much anything sold on-site, for a small delivery fee.

Gate-huggers rejoiced, but roll-out has been a bit slower than planned. Airport Sherpa currently provides this service only at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (use the code “Stuck” and you’ll get your first delivery for free), but says new airport partners will be announced soon. At Your Gate, which won approval of the Innovation Lab at San Diego International Airport, had planned an August launch, but that is now slated for January.

Biometrics and beyond

Biometrics is beginning to take hold at U.S. airports.

In June, JetBlue partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and global IT company SITA, to test a program using biometrics and facial recognition technology to verify customers at the gate during boarding. Travelers flying from Boston’s Logan International Airport to Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport and from Boston to Santiago, Dominican Republic can choose to opt-in to the program.

Delta Air Lines also added biometric options for some travelers. One of four self-service bag drop machines the carrier installed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is testing facial recognition technology to match customers with their passport photos through identification verification, a step the airline says is a first for U.S. carriers and has the potential to process twice as many customers per hour.

At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) Delta Sky Miles members enrolled in CLEAR can now use their fingerprint scans to gain entry to the Delta Sky Club and to board flights. The fingerprint test is also underway at the Delta Sky Club on Concourse B at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Getting to the gate – even if you’re not flying

Remember the ‘good old day’s’ of flying, when friends and family could go with you to the gate to send you off, and when your loved ones could greet you at the gate with hugs and kisses when you got home?

9/11 changed all that, but this summer Pittsburgh International Airport worked out a unique deal with the Transportation Security Administration to bring that perk back.

Now members of the non-flying public who check in at a special MyPITPass ticket counter can get a pass that gives them access to the gates, shops, restaurants and art offered by PIT airport beyond the security checkpoint. No other airports have yet been given permission by TSA to replicate this perk, but at PIT the service is quite popular and is being used by between 75 and 150 people a day, according to PIT spokesman Bob Kerlik.

Furthering Fitness, health and universal access

Marked walking paths and yoga rooms (at SFO, DFW, Chicago O’Hare and Midway, MIA and others) offer passengers a healthy alternative to just sitting by the gate – or in a bar. But travelers who want a more robust pre-flight workout got a new option this year at Baltimore/Washington International Airport when Roam Fitness opened what is currently the only post-security fitness facility offering a gym, workout gear and shower facilities. The company hopes to announce new airport locations this year.

This year the number of airports hosting Hand-Only CPR training kiosks expanded this year to 11 (see the full list here) which means travelers now have more opportunities to use their dwell time to learn how save a life. And Memphis International Airport became the first airport to offer blind and low-vision users of Aira assistive technology access to the airport. The program provides real-time visual interpreters to service subscribers through smart glasses or the camera on a traveler’s phone.

 Fun stuff and great ideas

 

This year there’s a long ‘bonus’ list of fun offerings and great ideas.

Denver International Airport brought back free summer movies and winter ice-skating on its outdoor plaza.

Portland International Airport handed out special glasses and hosted a rooftop party for visitors wanting a glimpse of the August solar eclipse.

In the United Airlines Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport, this year OTG called on master pastry chef and chocolatier Jacques Torres (aka “Mr. Chocolate”) to help it create and open a 24-hour bakery and chocolate shop. In addition to the Mélange Bakery Café, that terminal now also boasts an invite-only “secret” restaurant (called Classified) and a sushi restaurant, Tsukiji Fishroom, which now receives super-fresh fish flown in directly from Tokyo’s iconic Tsjukiji Fish Market.

This year Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport created a special catalog to help and encourage passengers do all their holiday shopping on site;

And, in honor of its 70th anniversary, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) created #ProjectGratitude and surprised passengers throughout the year with complimentary gift cards from airport concessionaires, surprise performances and free treats, including snazzy CVG-branded socks.

 

Greetings from Missouri’s Springfield-Branson National Airport

I’m visiting Springfield, Missouri this week to join the festivities for the opening of the Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium and had a while to explore the public areas of the Springfield-Branson National Airport on arrival while waiting for a ride into town.

In the soaring lobby/baggage claim area, there’s a replica of the Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer and  a 3/4 scale  Curtis Jenny, the first mass produced American aircraft. After World War I, stunt pilots used this type of plane in airshows and signage at the airport tells us  that in May 1918 the US Postal Service began using Jennys for the first scheduled U.S. Air Mail Service.

EZ-1, the first fire rescue vehicle used by the Springfield Municipal Airport, is also on display.

SGF airport has an art gallery with mulitple display areas in the pre and post-security areas.  The current exhibit  – Come Fly with Me – is up through mid-November.

artwork by Christine Riutzel

And in the newstand I found a great cow-tipping t-shirt.  Is that really a thing?