Posts in the category "Fun Stuff":

Cool, quirky airport carpets

2_PDX_Foot-forward selfies with the PDX carpet are very popular at Portland Int'l Airport

Foot-forward selfies with the carpet are popular at PDX.

 

It’s usually a bit of an inconvenience, but not that big a deal, when an airport changes out the carpeting in the terminals.

But because the current carpet at Portland International Airport has become a social media sensation, all manner of media will be on hand Friday when construction crews begin removing the existing carpet at PDX and preparing the floor for the installation of 13 acres of new carpet—enough to cover nearly 10 football fields.

6__PDX_ A sample of the new carpet design, scheduled to begin being installed over the next year.

This is what the new PDX carpet will look like.

 

Here’s the story of the PDX carpet and a round-of of some quirky airport carpets found at other airports around the country that I put together for my “At the Airport” column on USA Today.

Installed in the late 1980s, the old PDX carpet sports a geometric pattern inspired by the airport’s intersecting north-south runways and was for years an ignored part of the airport décor.

1_Sample of the current_old carpet pattern at Portland International Airport

But then Portland began celebrating its core weirdness, social media became the big thing, and the rug became a hip symbol of home celebrated on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and with souvenirs ranging from socks, caps and water bottles to T-shirts, mugs, tote bags and bike helmets.

4_Portland Int'l Airport Carpet water bottles

Carpet-inspired art and ale followed: Nancy Wilson’s 11-foot by 16-foot collage, made of pieces of PDX carpet and titled “Carpet Diem!” was recently installed at the airport and Oregon-based Rogue Ales & Spirits just introduced PDX Carpet IPA.

7_PDX_Carpet Diem! _ Artwork by Nancy Wilson celebrating the Portland Airport carpet.

5_PDX_new on the market_ PDX Capret IPA

PDX isn’t the only airport to forgo tile, terrazzo or other hard flooring in favor of rugs more difficult to maintain, but worth a second look.

When it was time to order 10.5 acres of new carpeting for its three terminals, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport looked for something that would hold up to high foot traffic and repeated cleaning, and be easily recycled when it came time for replacement.

In 2005, PHX got all that (at the cost of $34.66 per square yard) plus a cool, custom pattern that looks like an aircraft on a radar screen.

8_PHX_The carpet at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has an aviation-inspired design

In the pedestrian walkway between Terminal A and the parking garage at Sacramento International Airport, travelers walk across the 150-foot-long “Flying Carpet” created by artist Seyed Alavi. Installed in 2005, the woven, woolen carpet portrays a digital, aerial image of about 50 miles of the Sacramento River and nearby farm fields and orchards.

9_SMF-Flying Carpet rug offers a digita aerial view of the Sacramento  River, farm fields and other landscape.

Part of an “Art in Public Places” project, the commission for SMF’s Flying Carpet included a duplicate version of the rug that has been in storage.

There are no socks, caps, beer or other official souvenirs (yet) bearing the carpet patterns from Phoenix Sky Harbor or Sacramento International Airports, but visitors regularly post images of the carpets on social media.

12_Nashville International Airport_ the carpet reflect a celebration of music.

With subtle musical notes and musical instruments throughout, the carpet at Nashville International Airport celebrates Music City.

Denver International Airport recently installed 42,000 square yards of new carpeting in Concourse B and 25,000 square yards of new carpeting in Concourse C, at a cost of $2.5 million and $1.7 million respectively. The pattern isn’t aviation-themed, but casually references rivers and streams (in the walking areas) and (in the seating areas) things passengers often see out the windows at DEN: rain and snow.

11_Denver International Airport _Some sections of the recently installed carpet references rivers and streams

The pattern in the 33 acres of teal and white carpeting at Orlando International Airport is quite simple but, along with plenty of light, water and live landscaping, is in keeping with the goal of creating an environment that is comfortable, people-friendly.

14_Orlando International Airport_carpeting and, water features, lots of light and live landscaping are part of the Orlando Experience

Meanwhile, back at Portland International Airport, the old carpet will be gone, but not forgotten: a limited number of 1,000 square yard sections of the old carpet will be made available to winning applicants who will likely sell or give it away small bits of the carpet to others.

Airline perks for Seahawks and Patriots fans

Sunday was a big day for football fans (especially fans of the Seattle Seawhawks and the New England Patriots, of course) and airlines are helping get the celebrations for Super Bowl XLIX underway.

To celebrate the Seahawks win, Alaska Airlines is offering a free drink to everyone on a flight leaving Seattle on Monday, January 19:

For those who want to make quick plans to go the game, JetBlue is adding extra flights between Boston and Phoenix. In addition to the regular schedule of flights (already sold out), JetBlue is adding a flight leaving Boston on January 30, 2015 at 8:20 a.m. (arriving at 12:24 p.m.) and returning on February 2, 2015 at 11:30 a.m. (arriving at 6:10 p.m).

Sunday evening, Alaska Airlines teased about another special Super Bowl treat:

And early Monday Alaska Airlines announced a re-run of last year’s sweepstakes offering Mileage Plan members a chance to fly from Seattle to Phoenix on a special charter on Feb. 1.

“Russell Wilson’s Fan Flight II – For Strong Against Cancer,” a four-day sweepstakes is taking place on Alaska Airlines’ Facebook page.

Fifty-six prize winners will receive two round-trip tickets for an ‘inflight tailgate party’ from Seattle to Phoenix on its “Go Russell 737-900ER” aircraft. Winners will also get two nights of hotel accommodations, admission to an exclusive game day party and transportation to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and their hotel.

(I was able to tag along last year and it was a heap-of-fun!)

The sweepstakes is open to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members who are residents of Washington, Oregon and Alaska and winners will be notified by phone and email beginning on Friday, Jan. 23 at 8 a.m. PT. (Last year, winners told me they had a short window to answer the notification, so on Friday, be sure to check your email and voice mail right away.)

The airline is also adding extra flights between Seattle and Phoenix:

On Jan. 30 flights will head from Seattle to Phoenix at 1:30 p.m. and 5:55 p.m. and on February 2nd from Phoenix to Seattle at 5:55 p.m. and 10:25 p.m.

Airplane! stars in video for Travel Wisconsin

Here’s a look at the third video in a fun series promoting tourism in Wisconsin featuring cast members from the classic Airplane! film.

Look for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Hays and the inflatable Otto Autopilot.

Missed the earlier videos? Here they are.

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.

Now it’s all about Santa’s trip

SANTA fruit label

Now that all that turkey business is over with, it’s time to start watching the skies for Santa.

NORAD – the North American Aerospace Defense Command – is already on the job with its NORAD Tracks Santa website, which has a holiday countdown, games, activities, Santa data and more in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.

Leaving no Santa-tracking stone unturned, NORAD is also tracking Santa with apps in the Windows, Apple and Google Play stores, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+.

Why does NORAD track Santa?

The story goes that in 1955 a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. The phone number put kids through to the desk of the Continental Air Defense Command (NORAD’s predecessor) Commander-in-Chief instead and that man, Colonel Harry Shoup, played along and gave kids updates on Santa’s progress.

A tradition was born and now, using the internet and a team of volunteer elves, the whole world can check on Santa via NORAD’s satellites and Santa cams.

NORAD isn’t the only organization tracking Santa this season. Finnair, which claims to be the official airline of Santa Claus since 1983, has two of its Airbus 321 Sharklet aircraft flying with Christmas livery.

Official airline of Santa Claus_edited

The airline also is also sharing this “secret of Christmas” video.

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