Entertainment

Airport amenities to be thankful for

My At the Airport column on USA TODAY each December is a round-up of some of the best new amenities airports have introduced through the year.

Here are some of the highlights from 2015.

SFO airplane cocktail shaker

 

Taming transportation

During 2015, a wave of airports around the country, including those in Chicago, Las Vegas, Louisville, Sacramento, San Diego and Washington, D.C. (both DCA and IAD) hammered out deals with ride-hailing services such as Uber/UberX, Lyft, Sidecar and Wingz to legally pick up and drop off passengers at the terminals.

Look for that trend to continue in 2016.

Helping others

Following the lead of airports in Denver and Columbus, Ohio, in January 2015 — when all the Super Bowl fans were flocking to town — Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport put out spare change collection boxes to begin raising money for the on-site USO hospitality center. In April, Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) in Allentown, Pa., added change collection stations to raise funds for a variety of local charities.

Helping moms

During 2015 many airports made space for properly equipped lactation stations for nursing mothers. Chicago O’Hare International Airport now has three Mother’s Rooms, while lactation stations and nursing rooms have been added at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport, Jacksonville International, Spokane International, Newark Liberty, JFK, LaGuardia, Pittsburgh International, Boise Airport and others.

Soothing stress, helping health

More airports are adding pet therapy programs to help fliers deal with the stress of traveling.

In September, Sacramento International Airport introduced the Boarding Area Relaxation Corps, (B.A.R.C.), which welcomes pet therapy dogs and their handlers to the airport twice a week, while in October, Denver International Airport introduced the Canine Airport Therapy Squad, referred to as C.A.T.S.

Other stress-reducing and health-inducing amenities we noted during 2015 included the beach oasis — complete with Adirondack chairs, umbrellas and artificial turf — set up inside Philadelphia International Airport during snowy February, and the healthy eating campaign at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport that handed out free fruit for travelers, along with prizes.

Complimentary treadmill desks were installed this year at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and, at JFK Terminal 5, JetBlue opened a rooftop lounge complete with dog walk, and created a farm out in front of the terminal where a wide variety of herbs and vegetables are now growing.

Fuel for the flight

Healthy airport dining options — both sit-down and take-away — are on the rise  and, in addition to the many upgraded great restaurants (and bars) rolled out this year, we saw the introduction of several free apps, including Grab and AirGrub, that allow travelers to order ahead, skip the line and streamline the task of purchasing a meal inside the airport to take to the gate or onto the plane.

Unique amenities, events and milestones

While SFO and DEN airports offer a mobile car-washing service in their airport parking lots (fees range from $24.95 to $49.95), travelers who park in the garages or in the outside parking lot at Spokane International Airport can get their cars washed for free. (Technically introduced at the end of 2014, I learned about this unique amenity in early 2015 and hope it catches on.)

In addition to being named the Grand Marshal of the Starlight Parade for the Portland Rose Festival, during 2015 the quirky carpet being replaced at Portland International Airport continued its reign as a social media darling, leading passengers to take a closer look at airport flooring nationwide.

To help with the year-long celebration marking the 20th anniversary of Denver International Airport, the Colorado Lottery created a special edition $2 scratch ticket game featuring four iconic images of the airport and, picking up on the newest old-fashioned craze, this year Dallas Love Field has a giant coloring wall in the terminal. Whenever the picture gets filled in, all they have to do is wipe the surface clean and start over.

Dallas Love Field _coloring wall

 

Did you spot a cool new amenity at an airport during 2015 that I didn’t mention?

Please share your fave in the comments below.

Delta toasts Sinatra’s 100th birthday with whiskey

1950-Frank-Sinatra

Here’s a nomination for airline amenity of the week:

On Saturday, December 12, in honor of what would have been Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday, Delta Air Lines will be pouring complimentary tastes of Jack Daniel’s – the crooner’s favorite whiskey – on all flights departing JFK to LAX.

And not just any Jack Daniel’s. Passengers in all cabins will be able to sample Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century, a special-edition 100-proof whiskey sold in a special collector’s box for about $500 (at duty free stores and elsewhere) that includes a 1 liter bottle, a small hardbound book about Sinatra and his music and a replica Sinatra tie clip you can plug into your computer that plays a concert recording of Frank at The Sands Hotel and Casino in 1966.

Drink up! And let’s hope they serve seconds…

Sinatra Jack Daniels

JetBlue bringing Boyz II Men to JFK T5

JetBlueBoyzIIMen

If you’re a fan of the singing group Boyz II Men, or of the concerts JetBlue occasionally offers in Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy airport, then plan to be flying to or through T5 on September 24 at 5 p.m. when the GRAMMY award-winning group will be performing for free.

The concert stage is located post-security, so only those with tickets will be able to attend the concert, but there’s one more way to get access:

The band is performing at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas after New York, and winners of a JetBlue contest for fans in New York and Boston will get travel accommodations to see Boyz II Men at T5 and then get to meet the trio and fly with them to Las Vegas to see them perform there.

Here’s the link to enter the contest if you’re in New York.

And here’s the link to enter the contest if you’re in Boston.

 

Pittsburgh & Cleveland Airports celebrate their cities

superman

This week the AIRMALL at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) is celebrating the city with a series of activities and exhibits.

Here’s a rundown of events:

On Tuesday, July 21:  The Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen is highlighting entrepreneurs and products such as BBQ sauces, roasted almonds, cookies and more – all made in Cleveland.

On Wednesday, July 22:  As part of “A Christmas Story House” display, travelers will have photo opportunities with character cutouts, the Leg Lamp and other movie memorabilia from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

On Thursday, July 23:  The native Cleveland contemporary jazz band Forecast will perform from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Main Terminal Food Court.

And on Friday, July 24, Mitchell’s Ice Cream will treat passengers to a complimentary cone or cup from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Main Terminal Food Court.

PIT Trading card one

The AIRMALL at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is also celebrating its city this week.

On Tuesday, July 21, Peace Love and Little Donuts will give travelers a taste of its “far out” donuts from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. near the video wall in the airside terminal.

Wednesday, July 22, Ronald McDonald will be offering passengers free Big Macs from noon to 2 p.m. at the McDonald’s in the Center Core. The celebration honors the local inventor of the Big Mac, Jim Delligatti.

On Thursday, July 23, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s dinosaur exhibit includes hands-on activities and replicas from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. near the video wall and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., the National Aviary will be on site with an African penguin to greet travelers.

And on Friday, July 24, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., there will be furs, pelts, skins, feathers and other touchable items from animals all over the world at the airport’s Pittsburgh Zoo’s exhibit near the video wall. Small reptiles from the zoo will be there as well.

Have fun!