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.”
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.
San Diego International Airport hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of its new 130,000-square-foot International Arrivals facility in Terminal 2 that is five times the size of the previous facility and increases the number of international gates from three to six.
The new facility was needed: the airport has experienced significant growth in international arrivals in the past quarter-century, from about 50,000 passengers a year in the early 1990s to more than 400,000 a year in 2017.
“As airlines look to add to their international networks, it is vital we have adequate facilities readily available to compete and attract new air service,” said Kimberly Becker, Airport Authority President/CEO, “With twice the number of international gates, the latest technologies, and an expanded baggage claim and passenger wait area, this new facility ensures we are equipped to provide a world-class experience for international passengers arriving into San Diego.”
The new facility improves the processing experience for passengers by offering reduced wait times, a more welcoming environment and the newest technologies from U.S. Customs and Border Protection: SAN now becomes one of the first airports to implement 100 percent biometric or facial recognition technology for arriving international flights.
The facility also features two public artworks. Paths Woven, by artist Aaron T. Stephan, is a suspended artwork in the public waiting area that consists of 25 ladders representing the many individual journeys that converge at an airport.
In baggage claim visitors will see Carry On by artist Walter Hood, made up of 52 glass panels featuring more than 600 photos of unique, symbolic items contributed by members of the San Diego community and airport staff.
Not about those bedbugs at KCI. The airport was quick to take care of that problem.
And not about that survey which claimed to find high levels of germs on screens at check-in kiosks, gate area chair armrests and water fountain buttons in three unnamed airports.
“It was a poorly designed semi-study with no real science,” said Marilyn Roberts, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. “Anywhere there is high hand contact will have lots of bacteria. But unless you are immunocompromised, old, or very young this should not be an issue. We are surrounded by bacteria all the time and the majority are harmless.”
The best way to avoid harmful germs at airports (or anywhere) is – no surprise – to practice good hygiene. “Be mindful about washing your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes,” said Roberts. And keep hand sanitizer handy.
Travelers will also be reassured to learn how serious most airports are about cleaning and how technology is helping an increasing number of airports maintain restrooms, gate hold rooms and public spaces.
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh International Airport are among the airports that have replaced multiple types of packaged harsh cleaning chemicals with onsite technology and machines that use tap water to create non-toxic cleaning solutions on demand.
In addition to eliminating much of the staff time previously spent purchasing, storing and managing traditional cleaning solutions (and discarding all the packaging), “We’ve replaced six cleaning products with two that allow airport staff to do deeper cleaning without harsh chemicals,” said David Shaw, Vice-President of Facilities and Infrastructure at the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which operates PIT Airport.
Pittsburgh International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are among airports that have tested autonomous floor scrubbing machines that allow custodial staff to spend more time doing tasks that require more skills and attention. (PIT’s tester came from Nilfisk and Carnegie Robotics; the machine at PHX is by Brain Corp.)
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, an automatic floor scrubbing machine is already part of the full-time cleaning team, operating four or five hours overnight polishing high traffic floors and, as a bonus, providing entertainment for late-night passengers.
“It acts like my co-worker,” janitorial worker Jack Lloyd explains in a C& W Services video about the machines, “I set it up, it works and I’m doing something else.”
Laser-focus on the lavatories
Restrooms are among the most highly-visited parts of airports and, in surveys, dirty restrooms are often cited by passengers who are dissatisfied with their airport experience.
In response, airports, which now compete against each other for “Best Passenger Experience” awards, are focusing increased time, attention, and technology on making their restrooms shine.
High-tech features that helped clinch that award were turbine-powered low-flow fixtures and occupancy sensors that monitor restroom use and signal maintenance crews to clean based on the use and number of visitors, said MSP spokesman Patrick Hogan.
Air is pumped into and out of the MSP restrooms in a way that helps dry surfaces quickly and minimizes odors and digital signs outside the restrooms direct travelers to the nearest open facility when a restroom is closed for cleaning.
Starting in 2016, housekeeping staff at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) have been wearing Samsung Gear smartwatches and using the TaskWatch app to match staff resources to peak restroom times instead of cleaning restrooms on a set schedule.
Wireless counters at each restroom entrance collect data and once a pre-set threshold is reached an automated message is sent to everyone wearing the watch. “The nearest housekeeper responds, inspects, addresses and clears the alert,” said CVG spokeswoman Mindy Kershner.
Cleanliness scoring for the airport’s restrooms increased so much (7 percent year over year) that what started as a six-month pilot program has been continued.
Now CVG airport is exploring how to use the TaskWatch system in other parts of the airport.
Officials at the Houston Airport system believe detailed attention to maintaining facilities – especially restrooms – that are clean, attractive and accessible, contributed to both George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby earning 4-star ratings last year from Skytrax, a major airport and airline rating service.
“Using the industry clean standards set by the International Sanitary Supply Association, custodial and maintenance staff at both airports work hard to ensure the facilities are maintained at or above those standard levels,” said Bill Begley, Houston Airport System spokesman.
HOU and IAH are also among a growing number of airports nationwide that, like MSP, have ‘smart’ data-gathering programs in restrooms and in other parts of the terminals.
“Everything pushes out data now,” said Tracy Davis, CEO of Atlanta-based Infax, one of the software services companies that collects real time data from passengers and from trash cans, lighting, restrooms fixtures and other things in airports.
“We take that data in and can let airport staff see on a map where there’s a spill or a trash can that needs to be emptied,” said Davis, “We also give maintenance crews predictive information about when flights are due in so they know when restrooms will experience peak hours.”
In addition to high tech tools, airports are also focusing on the basics to keep terminals tidy.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where that autonomous floor scrubber is earning its keep, airport cleaning crews use cordless vacuums to avoid creating a tripping hazard and use microfiber cloths to constantly wipe down screens on passport control kiosks and common use check-in kiosks.
And SEA Managing Director Lance Lyttle (who previously served as Houston Airport System’s Chief Operating Officer) keeps a plastic glove in his pocket so he’s ready to pick up bits of trash he spots when checking in with his staff in the airport terminal.
Lance Lyttle, Managing Director, Aviation, Port of Seattle, at Sea-Tac Airport, 3 February 2017.
That attention to detail sets a keep-it-clean tone. “It certainly does,” says SEA airport spokesman Perry Cooper, “When the boss does it, you pick up random litter as well.”
For the sixth year in a row, Singapore’s Changi Airport has been named the World’s Best Airport by Skytrax, which tallied 13.73 million surveys covering passenger experiences in 550 airports worldwide for the 2018 World Airport Awards.
Changi Airport also topped the list for the World Best Airport Leisure Amenities and the Crown Plaza Changi once again took top spot in the World’s Best Airport Hotel category.
Vancouver International was named the Best Airport in North America and the Fairmont Vancouver Airport the Best Airport Hotel in North America.
Denver International Airport came in first for Best Regional Airport in North America.
The surveys ask travelers to evaluate airports in almost 40 categories, covering everything from check-in, shopping and dining to cleanliness, staff courtesy, entertainment, signage and WiFi service.
Here are the winners in just some of the many categories in this year’s awards:
The World’s Top 10 Airports
Changi Airport – Terminal 4
Chubu Centrair Nagoya
Best Airports in North America
Best Regional Airport: North America
Houston – Hobby
The World’s Cleanest Airports
The World’s Best Airport Hotels
Crowne Plaza Changi
Pullman Guangzhou Airport
Hilton Munich Airport
Fairmont Vancouver Airport
Sofitel London Heathrow
Hong Kong Sky City Marriott
Langham Place Beijing
Regal Airport Hong Kong
Sheraton Amsterdam Airport
Hilton Frankfurt Airport