Airports

Pot amnesty boxes land at McCarran Int’l Airport in Las Vegas

Courtesy McCarran Int’l Airport

While it is not legal to purchase recreational marijuana in Nevada, don’t bring any leftover pot wity you to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

A county ordinance forbids the possession – or advertising – of marijuana on any Clark County airport property, so in addition to notices on the airport’s website, there are now amensy boxes installed at key locations at McCarran, including at the airport’s consolidated car rental facility.

And don’t try messing with the boxes to get the pot someone else has discarded.

The bins are bolted to the ground and have a one-way drawer that drops deposits into the bin.

More snaps from Incheon’s new Terminal 2

Courtesy Korean Air

I’ve got a full review of the new Terminal 2 at Seoul’s Incheon Airport up on the Today in the Sky blog at USA TODAY, but sharing some more snaps from my visit here.

The terminal officially opened on January 18 – just a few weeks before 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games- and it’s a keeper.

Four airlines will use the terminal:  South Korea’s flag carrier Korean Air, Delta Air Lines, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Photovoltaic panels on the roof and natural greenery inside the terminal help keep the air fresh and lower heating and ventilation costs. A fleet of robots help passengers find their way.

Photo -by Harriet Baskas

Korean music and cultural performances are offered throughout the day and two Korean Traditional Cultural Experience Centers offer passengers the opportunity to try their hands at a Korean craft.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

Beyond shopping and eating, there are activities to keep travelers entertained, including a large Kids Zone, the IT Experience Zone with VR soccer and flying (plus a coffee-making robot) and, in the transfer zone, a ‘digital gym’ that encourages jumping, stepping and other activites.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

There’s also plenty of art and an observation deck with a cafe, views of the airfield and exhibits about the airport.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

Water pipe break at JFK piles on the misery

As if the flight delays, diversions and cancellations from last week’s nor’easter weren’t enough to ruin a gazillion travel plans into the middle of next week for travelers hoping to fly into and out of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, on Sunday afternoon a water pipe burst at JFK Terminal 4, sending  several inches of water into the arrivals area of Terminal 3, which serves Delta, Virgin Atlantic and more than two dozen other international airlines.

For safety reasons, electricity to the terminal was shut down, and that meant delayed flights, stranded passengers, diverted flights  – and a big pile-up of baggage.

To make matters worse – there’s more bad weather on the way and some airlines have issued a new round of change fee waivers and cancellation alerts for Atlanta and some northeast and mid-Atlantic airports.  Here are links to some of the alerts posted by airlines late Sunday evening:

Delta Air Lines

JetBlue

Southwest Airlines

United Airlines

As always, be sure to check with your airline to see what’s up before heading to the airport. And stay safe.

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.