Throughout the year NORAD , the North American Aerospace Defense Command, busies itself with monitoring the skies for airplanes, missiles, space launches and other things that fly in the skies.
But on Christmas, NORAD focuses on scanning the skies for Santa as he travels in his sleigh around the world. There’s even a Santa Tracker so we can follow along.
From years of tracking Santa, NORAD has learned a few things:
While it can’t predict when Santa will arrive at a certain house, NORAD does know that “he arrives only when children are asleep.”
NORAD also knows Santa’s preferred flying route:
“Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!”
Many travelers dread going to the airport this time of year for fear of encountering long lines at the security checkpoints, delayed or canceled flights due to bad weather and cranky fellow passengers taking their one flight of the year.
You may indeed have to put up with a bit of that, but you’ll also find that many airports go all out this time of year to offer entertainment and amusement for holiday travelers.
Here’s a sampling of what’s in store:
Photo-ops with Santa and Choirs in the Concourses
Santa Claus is scheduled to make regular visits this season at airports stretching from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Helsinki, Finland.
DTW KaraokeLots of airports present occasional music performances or concerts series year-round, but during the winter holidays it seems there are carolers and choirs in every concouprse.
Denver International Airport offers its live “Wintertainment” in the Jeppesen Terminal, with carolers and instrumental holiday music from December 14 to 24 and a world music festival from December 26 to 30 that features music of Latin America, Germany, Japan, England, the Middle East, the Caribbean and many others world regions.
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has a Holiday Concert Series underway through December 20 with choruses and jazz bands from area schools performing in the Landside Terminal.
Holiday karaoke is on tap at from 11 am until 7 pm on December 19th and 20th by the water feature in the center of the A Concourse at the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport.
And, as is the holiday tradition at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, December’s Music in the Air schedule includes the Judy Lee Dancers (on December 20), a local tap dance troupe whose performers average age 60 and older.
Stress-free shopping, contests and free gifts
In addition to live entertainment every Thursday and Friday afternoon in December, the Food & Shops at LaGuardia Terminal B offer free 10-minute chair massages Fridays through Sunday this month, from noon to five. Shoppers can also take advantage of printed or mobile versions of a 20% off coupon.
Kate Spade SaturdayOver at John F. Kennedy International Airport, there’s Kate Spade Saturday holiday pop-up shop open through December 20 in JetBlue’s Terminal 5. Passengers can get the gifts purchased at the pop-up shop shipped for free; pick-up a complimentary “Make Time Fly” booklet filled with word games and puzzles; and enter a daily contest to win a Kate Spade Weekender Bag and a roundtrip adventure for two on any JetBlue route.
Travelers who spend as little as $50 on some last minute shopping right through December 24 at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport this holiday season will also be able to get their gifts wrapped and shipped for free.
Airlines getting into the holiday spirit as well
Beginning December 17, children flying on Lufthansa will be given teddy bears as presents and Cathay Pacific is gathering “Santa Selfies” – Instagram photos of people dressed up as Santa or posing with him – for a contest with a grand prize of two round-trip tickets from the U.S. to Hong Kong.
This story first appeared on the Runway Girl Network
A fun, sweet video from WestJet to kick off the week:
Many airports host gift-wrapping stations during the holiday travel season to encourage and help out travelers doing some last-minute shopping on the fly.
But this year Dallas/Fort Worth International is upping the ante and not just wrapping gifts purchased at the airport; it’s offering to ship gifts purchased at the airport for free.
“Our marketing staff was doing research into what customers were interested in,” said airport spokesman David Magaña, “And while free shipping wasn’t a big request from leisure travelers, it was on the part of the business travelers, who make up most of our customer base. We took it to our retailers and 90% said they were in.”
Launched Nov. 22, the “You Shop, We Ship” program is in effect through Dec. 24, and is available to travelers who purchase an item valued at $50, $75, $100 or more, depending on the concessionaire.
For travelers who don’t need a gift shipped but would like to show up at their destination with wrapped presents, the airport is also providing a gift-wrapping kiosk near Gate 24 that will be open daily from 1-5 p.m. through Christmas Eve. Purchases valued at $50 or more will be wrapped for free.
DFW has a yoga space, free Wi-Fi, walking paths and a branch of the Minute Suites nap center. A Centurion Lounge for American Express card holders opened in mid-October.
“We’re keenly interested in making sure we put our best customer service forward,” said Magaña, “especially for the holidays.”
(My story: Dallas/Fort Wort airport will ship your gifts for free first appeared on Today in the SKy on USA Today.