Posts in the category "Entertainment":

Oasis at Philadelphia Int’l Airport

PHL OASIS

If you can’t actually be where the weather is warm, you can at least strike a warm weather pose in the summer-like lounging spots set up at Philadelphia International Airport.

PHL has set up Adirondack chairs, beach umbrellas and artificial turf at four spots inside the airport: Terminal A-West (by Gate A13), Terminal A-East (by Gate A-1), Terminal D (near Gate D-4) and Terminal E (by Gate E-1).

The lounging areas come courtesy of the New Jersey-based indoor/outdoor park, Sahara Sam’s Oasis and are part of PHL’s winter program called – are you ready: Oh, Say it Ain’t Snow!! Weather the Winter Blues at PHL.

The program includes free popcorn for passengers on Thursday and Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the A-East “oasis” and music, demonstrations and giveaways at all the indoor summer spots at various times. Follow @PHLAirport for updates.

Free music & e-books at Toronto Pearson Int’l Airport

American Express - Entertainment on Cloud 10

There are some fresh new perks for travelers who touch down at Toronto Pearson International Airport:

In addition to a “re-vesting” area (Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport calls theirs a ‘recombobulation area’) just past the security checkpoint for domestic departures in Terminal 1, passengers at Toronto Pearson Airport now have access to a selection of complimentary ebooks from HarperCollins Canada and music from Sony Music Canada.

The books and music will be refreshed monthly and are available on the Cloud 10 website, which is accessible via the airport’s free Wi-Fi network – all courtesy of American Express Canada.

The perks at Pearson get better if you have certain American Express cards (Platinum, Gold Rewards, etc.)

Everyone gets free Wi-Fi and access to that re-vesting area, but other benefits include access to priority security lanes, Plaza Premium Lounge access, access to a priority lane for taxis and limos, complimentary valet service and discounts on parking and car care services.

(This chart shows which cards get you which benefits.)

This airport also offers some other worthwhile services and amenities:

The Samsonite shop not only sells luggage and travel accessories, but will store luggage and other things, including coats – which you can leave behind for $2 a day (or $9 a week).

And this past year the airport replaced 3,600 pay-per-use baggage carts with 5,000 free ones.

Alaska Airlines extends free in-flight entertainment

Alaska Tablets

Passengers on Alaska Airlines will be able to use their personal electronic devices to access the airline’s full range of ‘Alaska Beyond’ inflight entertainment for free through March 31st.

But starting April 1, it will cost $1.99 to get access to movies and TV shows beyond a basic selection of complimentary offerings.

The new entertainment service was introduced in mid-December and is available now on more than half of Alaska’s mainline aircraft and should be on nearly all of the airline’s planes by April 2015.

For those not traveling with their own personal electronic devices, starting Feb. 1, Microsoft-branded Inflight Entertainment tablets will be available to rent on long-haul flights for $8-10 and will feature movies, TV, XBOX games, music, digital magazines, and Internet access on WiFi-equipped flights.

As with Alaska’s old rentable tablets, First Class customers and MVP Gold75Ks will be able to use the new tablets for free.

Get smart: free classes on Virgin America flights

Classroom

Courtesy National Library of Australia, via Flickr Commons

You might learn something new next time you take a Virgin American flight.

Starting February 1, free audio and video lectures from the popular series The Great Courses will be available on the airline’s Red in-flight entertainment system.

The series library runs to more than 530 titles and covers everything from history and music to science, literature, language, health, nutrition and personal development.

Virgin America will be offering these course samples:

• Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Inexplicable Universe; from the course, The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries (video)

• Cook Like a Pro Chef: Lessons From The Culinary Institute of America; from the course, The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking (video)

• Sneferu – The Pyramid Builder; from the course, Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt

• Um, Well, Like, You Know; from the course, The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins

• Did Slavery Really Cause the Civil War?; from the course, The Skeptic’s Guide to American History

• The Enlightenment and an Introduction to the Classical Era; from the course, How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

• What is Big History?; from the course, Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity

• Junk-Food Monkeys: What Happens When Baboons Eat like Us?; from the course, Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science

• Becoming a Spy; from the course, Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History

• Making High-Stakes Decisions; from the course, The Art of Critical Decision Making

• Not All Carbs Are Created Equal; from the course, Nutrition Made Clear

• Creative Nonfiction: Writing Great Beginnings; from the course, Writing Creative Nonfiction

• How People Respond to Incentives; from the course, Thinking Like an Economist: A Guide to Rational Decision-Making.

 

 

2014 round-up of best new airport amenities

Aeroplane-Hat-Alice White

Convenience is king for travelers hoping to spend as little time as possible in an airport. But for those who must hang around a while, it’s amenities that matter.

And during 2014, airports around the country introduced a wide variety of very welcome amenities for travelers.

Here’s the round-up I put together from my ‘At the Airport’ column on USA Today.

More ways to get to and from the airport – legally

Airports around the country are struggling to work out policies and permitting programs for on-demand rideshare services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The services are currently banned at several airports, but in September Nashville International Airport became the first U.S. airport to officially recognize Uber and Lyft and in October San Francisco International signed agreements with Sidecar, Lyft and UberX. A few other airports have issued permits to some Transportation Network Companies as well, and we’ll likely see this amenity added to the ground transportation options at other airports during 2015.

‘Drinks on the go’

Nashville Intl smaller

This year, Nashville International Airport (BNA) introduced “drinks on the go.” Thanks to an airport-wide beer and liquor license, passengers no longer have to sit at the bar or in a restaurant to enjoy their alcoholic beverage but can take it with them anywhere in the secure side of the terminal.

Pot and airports

Pot amnesty box installed at Colorado Spring Airport this year. Not much use, but plenty of social media mentions. Courtesy of the airport.

During 2014, shops selling recreational marijuana became legal in both Colorado and Washington and the airports in those states had to decide how – or if – they’d go about enforcing rules prohibiting passengers from taking pot to and through security checkpoints and onto planes.

Most put up signs reminding passengers of the federal laws governing travel across state lines with marijuana – or did nothing – but in January, Colorado Springs Airport installed a pot amnesty box at the security checkpoint. Few travelers seem to be using the box to dispose of unused pot, but with images of the amnesty box being snapped and shared, the airport’s social media profile is certainly higher.

Airport workouts

Travelers can rent a bike at BWI airport and ride  along the BWI Trail. courtesy BWI

During 2014, SFO airport opened its second yoga room (in Terminal 3, Boarding Area E) and following last December’s opening of a yoga room at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, in September Chicago’s Midway International Airport got a yoga space as well.

In July, Philadelphia International Airport partnered with a local fitness equipment retailer to install stationary exercise bikes at several locations throughout the airport and this year Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was among several airports adding marked walking paths inside (and sometimes outside of) its terminals.

For those who would rather exercise outdoors, in August bike-share company Zagster installed a rack of 10 reservable bikes in a rack outside the international terminal at BWI Marshall. For $5 (good for 12 hours), passengers can borrow a bike and ride it around the 12.5-mile scenic outdoor trail that encircles the airport.

Wi-Fi milestones

Travelers have come to expect unlimited complimentary Wi-Fi at airports, and in 2014, the Houston airports (IAH and HOU) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport joined the team of major airports that provide this much-appreciated amenity.

JetBlue has offered complimentary unlimited Wi-Fi in Terminal 5 at JFK for a while now, but earlier this year the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced its intention to offer free 30-minute Wi-Fi sessions for all travelers at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports.

The Port Authority and Wi-Fi provider Boingo are still working on those plans, but in a statement earlier this week said that free Wi-Fi will be available in at least one terminal at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports by month’s end, with the free 30-minute service at all terminals anticipated by the end of the first quarter of 2015.

“Complimentary 30-minute Wi-Fi sessions are now available in JFK Terminal 4 and Newark (EWR) Terminal C, with free service on target to be available at LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building by month’s end,” according to a Boingo spokesperson.

Events

In 2014 Reno-Taho International Airport gave out free compliments on National Compliment Day.

To show off a $10 million reboot of the shops and restaurants in the post-security AIRMALL at Pittsburgh International, PIT airport invited non-ticketed visitors to come out for a one-day holiday event in early December. More than 1,500 people attended the event, which may be repeated, and “someone tweeted us asking why the San Antonio airport can’t do the same,” said PIT spokeswoman Alyson Walls.

On National Compliment Day (January 24), the staff at Reno-Tahoe International Airport set up a booth to dispense kind words to passengers. Some travelers were complimented on their choices of glasses, colorful scarves and boots, said airport spokeswoman Heidi Jared, “and booth volunteers even admired a gentleman’s ‘confident gait’ as he rushed by.”

Let’s hope the smart, charming and lovely volunteers at RNO set up that booth again this year.

Airport trading cards

STL_TradingCard_FRONT

As a gift to aviation geeks and collectors everywhere, in September, more than 20 airports around the country teamed up to create the North American Airports Collectors Series of trading cards. Each card has an iconic image of an airport on the front, fun factoids about the airport on the reverse, and are being distributed in the terminals of participating airports. Twenty-three cards are currently in the series, with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport set to begin distributing its trading card after Christmas.

And then there are amenities that aren’t necessarily airport firsts, but are proud 2014 additions for the airports that have installed them.

Seattle-Tacoma International, for example, is proud that during 2014, it not only added handy cup holders to many seating areas, but brought branches of two iconic local brands, Metsker Maps and indie music label Sub Pop, into the airport.

New kids play area at STL Airport has a rental car center

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is still giggling with delight over the children’s play area that opened in May. The 1,500-square-foot Magic House not only has a kid-sized plane and an air traffic control tower with a slide, it has car rental counters, a luggage conveyor belt and an airport screening area with a pretend x-ray machine.

At Denver International Airport -Passengers interact with the new Open Windows display

Denver International Airport is proud of the popular water bottle refill stations it installed throughout the airport terminals this year, the new on-airport pet boarding facility, and its just-plugged in “Open Windows” experimental interactive digital customer experience on Concourse B that combines 128 LED rings of light and a 3D motion-detection camera to create an 11-foot-tall interactive tower of lights that react to a person’s movement.

Did I miss your favorite new airport amenity from 2014? Please add it in the comments below.

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