Posts in the category "Airports":

Skytrax announces World’s Best Airports 2014

There are oodles of “best” lists in travel, but when it comes to airlines and airports, everyone wants to show up on the Skytrax list, which draws nominations and votes from millions of travelers.

The 2014 list of winners  in a variety of categories has been announced. Here are few of the winners.

Changi Social tree with photos


World’s Best Airports 2014

1. Singapore Changi Airport

2. Incheon International Airport

3. Munich Airport

4. Hong Kong International Airport

5.  Amsterdam Airport

6.  Tokyo International Airport – Haneda

7. Beijing Capital International Airport

8. Zurich Airport

9. Vancouver International Airport (YVR airport also took 1st place in the Best Airports in North America category).

10. London Heathrow Airport

This is Changi’s second year in a row winning top honors in this category. I’ll be passing through two of the top ten airports (Hong Kong and Vancouver) in the next 24 hours, so will look around for signs of celebration.

Skytrax also hands out awards to airports in a wide variety of other categories, including Best Domestic Airports (1st place: Tokyo International Airport Haneda),  Best Airport Terminal (1st place: Heathrow T5),  Best Premium Service Airports (1st place: Doha International Terminal), and World’s Most Improved Airports (1st place:  China’s Shenzhen Bao’an Int’l Airport)

Here’s a link to a full list of all the Skytrax categories and winners.


Pot shopping tours now an option in Colorado

Colorado Highlife Tours -

(Courtesy Colorado Highlife Tours)

As Colorado becomes the first state in the nation to allow recreational marijuana sales beginning Jan. 1, a budding pool of “potrepreneurs” have high hopes for an influx of out-of-town pot tourists.

Colorado High Life Tours, which promises “fun, affordable and discreet” cannabis-centered excursions, is expanding its private and public limo and bus tours.

“You’ll be able to buy a little pot here and there, see a commercial grow, visit iconic Colorado landmarks and take lots of pictures,” said company owner Timothy Vee. “It will be like a Napa Valley wine tour.”

Cannabis-friendly guides, activities and tours in Colorado are already available. As of Dec. 30, 14 retail marijuana stores in Denver had received licenses to open on the first of the year and two dozen other marijuana-related businesses that had met the city’s licensing requirements were awaiting approval.

Beyond the Mile High City, more than 25 other towns and cities will allow medical marijuana businesses to start adding or transitioning to retail marijuana sales Jan. 1.

Unlike Napa Valley wine tours, however, out-of-state tourists to Colorado’s pot retail stores won’t be able to take home most products they purchase. “It remains illegal to take marijuana out of the state,” said Michael Elliott of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group.

And because marijuana also remains on the Transportation Security Administration’s list of prohibited items, Denver International Airport will enforce a new policy that bans pot throughout the airport.

“Previously, a visitor to the airport could have less than one ounce of pot as long as they were over 21 and did not pass through security,” said airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. Now, to ensure that passengers don’t mistakenly violate the rules of the airport and air travel, “we have prohibited the possession, use, and consumption of marijuana for everyone on airport property.”

Travelers also won’t find much information about pot tours alongside official city and state tourism brochures, vacation guides and websites promoting Colorado’s skiing, hiking and cultural activities.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to get the best return on our marketing efforts,” said Rich Grant, spokesman for Visit Denver, the city’s travel and visitor bureau. “There is no research yet on the benefits of marijuana tourism, so for at least the first year we’re not going to market that in any way.”

Pamphlets created by a coalition of marijuana industry organizations seek to fill in the gaps, informing tourists of what they can and cannot do while in Colorado and offering such advice as “Do not eat the whole brownie” and “Remember, Uncle Sam says ‘Stay off federal lands with that devil’s lettuce.’ ”

“There may be a line out the door and we expect our budtenders will be dealing with people who have a myriad of questions. So we wanted to offer information about the laws and about safe consumption,” said Elan Nelson, a business strategy consultant for Medicine Man in Denver.

In south Denver, the staff at Evergreen Apothecary, located about an hour and a half from the Wyoming border, is ready for an influx of first-day retail pot shoppers with rented propane heaters, red velvet ropes and a security staff that will be on duty starting at 8 a.m.

“We’ll be giving out special T-shirts,” said shop co-owner Tim Cullen, “and my parents have volunteered to hand out coffee, juice and snacks to the people standing in line.”

Longtime travel expert Arthur Frommer has predicted that pot tourism will make Colorado a new hot spot. But despite the fact that this sort of tourism has been lucrative for shop owners in Amsterdam, his daughter, Pauline Frommer, the editorial director of Frommer Media, said she’s taking a “wait-and-see approach.”

Leafly, an online database with thousands of user reviews of medical marijuana strains and dispensaries around the country, expects that starting Jan.1 there will be a large number of reviews written about the retail pot stores and recreational marijuana strains available in Colorado.

“It will help tourists in new locations find the right strain for the experience they’re looking for. And once people find the right strains, we can tell them which retail stores have it and which retail stores are top-rated,” said Leafly CEO Brendan Kennedy.

Prior to Jan. 1, Colorado High Life Tours has mixed sightseeing with stops at glass-blowing shops, marijuana grow centers and has offered customers “free samples”—because buying pot was not yet legal.

“You live and learn,” said Vee. “On our tours, we’re getting a lot of empty nesters that haven’t smoked pot in 20 years. We’ve also had people who have never smoked pot take our tours and had one couple get high and so paranoid that we had to interrupt the tour and take them back to their hotel.”

(My story about pot tourism first appeared on NBC News Travel.)

New York-area airports lag in passenger amenities


Despite some much-welcome improvements, the three major New York area-airports – John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark-Liberty International Airport – lag well behind most other major U.S. airports in amenities.

That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the New York-based Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy group hoping to draw attention to the problems facing New York-area airport airports operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The report compared 15 different amenities across 15 major U.S. airports.

“Since millions of people are spending so much more time in airports, we want airlines and airport operators to think not just about how to move more planes and passengers, but how to provide a better experience as well,” said Global Gateway Alliance chairman Joe Sitt.

The report found that shoe shine facilities, spas, prayer/meditation rooms and post offices/mail services are easy to find at many airports, but dry cleaners, outdoor areas and gym and fitness centers are scarce.

Dallas-Fort Worth, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco International airports received the highest scores for the amenities offered. New York’s LaGuardia Airport received the lowest score, offering just one – shoe shine facilities – of the 15 amenities surveyed.

Newark-Liberty and JFK airports also scored near the bottom of the list, with Newark offering just four of the amenities surveyed and JFK offering five.

“At New York’s airports in particular, quality passenger amenities must go hand in hand with terminal modernization if we really want to rebuild the best airports in the nation and the world, and make them an ongoing economic engine,” said Sitt.

While the three New York-area airports fared poorly in the survey, industry experts point to some bright spots in that market, including Terminal C at Newark airport and JFK’s Terminal 5 (operated by JetBlue).

“Also, take Delta Air Lines’ award-winning Sky Deck terrace at New York JFK Terminal 4 and OTG Management’s iPad ordering system at New York LaGuardia,” said Mary Kirby, founder of Runway Girl Network. “These innovations underscore the fact that some airlines and vendors are making a concerted effort to improve the passenger experience on the ground. New York airports are not standing still.”

For now, though, the experience can be hit or miss.

“The terminal you are in is important,” said John Walton, director of data at flight search website Routehappy. “For example, JFK T4 has some amazing new food and shopping outlets, including Shake Shack, but T1 has practically zero food after security.”

The Global Gateway Alliance’s survey results come as no surprise to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has a variety of facilities improvement programs underway.

At Newark, a $348 million Terminal B modernization is nearing completion and at JFK, Delta is continuing upgrades in Terminal 4 and JetBlue is building an international arrivals area at Terminal 5. “And at LGA we have an RFP out to four finalists for a public-private partnership to build a new, state-of-the-art Central Terminal Building as part of a $3.6 billion project to replace the current one that opened in 1964,” said Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico.

The Port Authority has also been working on a wide variety of customer amenity improvements announced in May 2012 in response to its own survey of more than 10,000 air passengers. Those improvements include additional customer care agents and cleaner restroom facilities.

Here’s the amenities tally sheet Global Gateway Alliance came up with:

Domestic Amenities Chart

“The information used to compile the report was collected from a range public websites, including those of the airports, phone conversations with airport representatives, and published news articles. The raw data was carefully screened and verified.”

(This story first appeared on NBC New Travel).

Greetings from Worcester Regional Airport

I attended a community radio reunion in Worcester, MA this weekend and was told by several folks that I just had to take a ride out the Worcester Regional Airport.

“It’s eerie,” an old friend said, “The airport has this giant new building. But when you go there, the doors open but nothing is there.”

He was right.


Worcester Regional Airport (ORH) is advertised as having four jetway gates, two ramp level gates, a baggage carousel and other amenities.

But things don’t quite look finished, even though the first commercial air service in quite some time is scheduled to begin on November 7th, when Jet Blue begins daily service between Worcester and Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

worcester jet blue

And while it looks like there may be a news/snack shop opening, beyond the advertised free Wi-Fi, the only amenities I saw on-site were a vending machine (Pop Tarts were one option), two video game machines and a display case with some items representing Worcester history, including this coffee mug celebrating Worcester as the birthplace of the Smiley Face – an honor claimed by Seattle and one or two other cities.

Worcester Smiley Face

Busy bees help the environment & the bottom line

Waldorf Beehives Lower Res

Bed bugs in hotel rooms are definitely bad for business, but bees on hotel rooftops can be good for the financial and environmental bottom line.

Beekeepers are moving millions of honeybees into apiaries at hotels in urban and rural areas, with harvested honey showing up in restaurant dishes, beer and cocktails, spa treatments and in lip balm, soap and other products sold or given to guests.

Honeybees are now hosted at 21 Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in North America, Asia, Africa, Bermuda and Mexico, including at the Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown, where three hives with 105,000 Italian honeybees were installed in 2009 for set-up fee of about $1,200,

Maintaining the Fairmont’s DC hives is about $300 per year and the 300 gallons of honey harvested annually (plus honeycomb and beeswax) is used in the hotel’s signature “BeeTini” ($14), in honey walnut bread ($4), in various desserts and sauces as well as in lip balm, honey tea and sunscreen given as amenities and gifts to guests.

“We believe that our honeybees are good for business,” said Ian Bens, chief beekeeper and executive sous chef at the Fairmont Washington, D.C. “Our guests appreciate the fact that we are helping the bee population and the environment, and they enjoy the taste of local honey that is included in much of our culinary program.”

The Waldorf Astoria New York has had from 250,000 to 350,000 bees in residence since 2012, when six beehives were installed on the 20th floor rooftop for a cost of about $4,000.

The hotel’s honey is now an ingredient in dishes in every hotel restaurant and used as gifts by the hotel’s sales team for VIP guests and potential customers. Hotel officials also report that Sunday brunch revenue has increased over 20 percent since the installation of the hives and, since the addition of a tour of the rooftop beehives and garden to the hotel’s Historical Tours ($65 per person—inclusive of lunch, taxes and gratuity), demand has increased by 30 percent.

In Snoqualmie, Washington, not far from Seattle, the apiary at the Salish Lodge & Spa is providing honey for signature dining room dishes, spa treatments, honey-flavored beer and vodka and retail products ranging from honey-flavored marmalade, truffles and caramel corn.

Operating the apiary costs about $9,000 a year, “but we feel that there is no price for doing the right thing,” said General Manager Rod Lapasin. “It is essential that individuals and businesses alike do our part for our environment, of which we know the honeybee is a very essential component.”

Airports are also getting into the apiary business.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport receives about $75 per year to house beehives on 400 square feet of airport property just north of a runway. The abundance of Dutch clover and the lack of pesticides are big draws to both the beekeeper and the bees. And while the revenue for the airport is minimal, “it’s a great opportunity for us to assist in a ‘green’ initiative that’s positive for environment and the community,” said airport spokesman Jeff Lea, “especially in light of recent reports on bee colony collapse.”

Fifty beehives now sit on land owned by Chicago O’Hare International Airport and produce about 1,000 gallons of honey each year. Their honey is used in such beauty products as lip balm, moisturizer and bath lotion that are sold at Hudson News stores and other locations in O’Hare and Midway airports.

“We have grown the business from $5,000 in 2012 to $25,000 so far in 2013,” said Hudson Group spokeswoman Laura Samuels, who notes that the all-natural lip balm is an especially good seller.

The apiary program pays minimal rent to the airport, but some revenue from product sales does go back to the airport via Hudson News.

And this summer, 16 honey bee colonies were established on land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. “We’ve also raised two groups of local queens and are working with the airport to plan the installation of 50 acres of native wildflower meadows,” said Bob Redmond, executive director of The Common Acre, the nonprofit group coordinating the Flight Path project.

The group has already harvested about 250 pounds of honey, sales of which will go toward the costs of the project. Beyond that, he said, “the yields are long-term—healthy local bees, healthy habitat, support of native bee populations, the potential to distribute bees and wildflower seeds around the region, and education and inspiration of tens of thousands of people.”


(My story about bees at hotels and airports first appeared on CNBC)

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