At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, a pop-up lounge just for kids (and their parents) is moving through the terminals.
Called the “Fly with Butch O’Hare” lounge, it’s described as a place to relax, take selfies, re-charge cell phones and devices and to learn about the Fly with Butch O’Hare mobile game the airport developed in collaboration with DeVry University.
First, who was Butch O’Hare? He’s the airport’s namesake, Edward “Butch” O’Hare – and this year marks the 75th anniversary of Butch O’Hare’s heroic actions in World War II, saving the aircraft carrier Lexington.
He was honored with the Navy’s first Medal of Honor, and in 1949 Chicago’s airport, Orchard Field was renamed Chicago O’Hare in his honor.
The lounge is outfitted with chairs and foot stools, cell phone charging stations, the airport code in 8 – f00t-tall letters, orange flooring and a miniature plane flying overhead with – you guessed it – Butch O’Hare.
There’s also an almost life-size cut-out of O’Hare and a plane – for selfies.
ORD is also giving out flat photos of Butch O’Hare (on a stick) in the lounge and at bins in the domestic terminals and encouraging passengers to pose with the flat Butch O’Hare while in the airport or and around the world and post their photos online with the hashtag #FlyWithButchOHare.
Looking for the lounge? It’s in Terminal 1, near Gate B12 through August 9 and then moving to Terminal 2, near Gate E1, from August 10 through 31.
Modern-day airports no longer concentrate solely on being gateways to help passengers get from here to there.
That’s still their key role, of course. But today the focus is also on making the airport experience efficient and enjoyable for travelers – and profitable for the airports – through an ever-improving mix of dining and shopping options and an evolving mix of amenities.
“Whether engaging with passengers through an animal therapy program to instill a sense of calm in a busy terminal or providing ample electrical charging stations for mobile devices, airports are committed to not only meeting passengers’ expectations but exceeding them.” said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International – North America.
A recent survey by the airport membership organization identified the top 10 airport amenities in North America, the top amenities airports are adding and several amenities many airports say they will likely be eliminating in the next few years.
According to ACI-NA’s Passenger Amenities Survey, the top 10 most commonly offered airport amenities and services are:
- ATM Services
- Gift Shops / News Stands
- Airport Websites
- Electrical Charging Stations
- Restaurants and Bars
- Lost and Found
- Parking / Taxi and Limousine Services
- Free Wi-Fi
- Pre-Security Pet Relief Facilities
- Food and Beverage Vending Machines
No surprises there, but among the amenities on the rise are some designed to make traveling with kids – and pets – a bit easier:
- Nursing mothers’ rooms and pods
- Post-security pet relief facilities
- Children’s play areas
- Airfield observation areas
- Adult changing and washroom facilities.
In part to make way for these new amenities, airports say that over the next three to five years they’ll be phasing out and, in some cases, eliminating a few other amenities.
So get ready to say goodbye to smoking rooms, payphones and bank branches at airports.
ATMs are plentiful at many airports, but staffed bank branches are already quite rare.
One holdout is Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where there is a branch of Wings Financial.
“The local bank has a built-in customer base, as they began as a credit union for airline and airport employees,” said airport spokeswoman Melissa Scovronski, “So we don’t expect to eliminate that service.”
Smoking lounges still exist at just a handful of major U.S. airports, including Washington Dulles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, but in 2016, Salt Lake City International Airport closed all its smoking rooms and by the end 2018 the last remaining smoking lounge at Denver International Airport will end its contract.
And those once ubiquitous banks of pay phones at airports are being replaced with charging stations or making way for other services.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport removed the last of its payphones in 2016.
With the rise of cell phones, “Folks simply don’t use pay phones,” said SEA spokesman Brian DeRoy, “And there are hardly any companies now that want to have the financial burden of taking on a pay phone contract for a very limited number of users.”
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has also ditched all its payphones, but provides a courtesy phone for free local calls next to the information desk on the baggage claim level.
“Our information desk staff can also make calls for passengers when needed, such as when cell phones batteries are dead,” said AUS spokesman Derick Hackett.
The number of payphones is being steadily reduced, but not yet eliminated, at airports in Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis and Chicago, where there are now 503 payphones at O’Hare International (down from 650 five years ago) and 174 payphones at Midway International (down from 180).
“The payphones taken off line were removed because of low usage, requests from the airlines due to construction in their gate areas and repurposing of space for revenue producing ventures,” said Gregg Cunningham of the Chicago Department of Aviation, but some will remain “because they are still a necessary means of communication for some customers.”
At Reno-Tahoe International Airport, free local or toll free calls can be made from any courtesy phone in the airport.
“In 2008, AT&T ended their payphone contract at the airport, at same time they pulled out of shopping malls and other public buildings due to decreases in revenue,” said RNO airport spokeswoman Heidi Jared, “But the airport authority knew an option was needed to fill that void since not all travelers have a cell phone.”
And, totally bucking the no-payphone trend, thanks to a deal dating back to 2012, Denver International Airport still has about 200 payphones in the terminal and on the concourses that provide unlimited free national domestic calls and international calls that are free for the first 10 minutes.
(A slightly different of this story about airport amenities appeared on CNBC)
Today is the birthday of Theodor Geisel – better known to most of us as Dr. Seuss – the author and illustrator of books such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Horton Hears a Who!”
To mark the day, airport police officers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will hold a “Dr. Seuss Hour” from 10 to 11 a.m. as part of Read Across America Day.
During that hour, officers will read books to kids and adults and the Cat in the Hat will pose for photos with travelers. The LAX PUPs (Pets Unstressing Passengers) and their handlers will be on hand as well.
Kids who attend the Dr. Seuss Hour will get souvenir travel bags with copies of Dr. Seuss’s book, LAX activity coloring books, and “Cat in the Hat Read Every Day” bookmarks.
And don forget:
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
― Dr. Seuss,
Not content to rest on the laurels of being named highest in guest satisfaction in this year’s J.D. Power North American Airport Satisfaction Study, Portland International Airport is forging ahead with new amenities for travelers.
This week it’s a cool new play area for kids on Concourse D near Gate D7. that has places for parents to sit, shoe cubbies, sculpted foam play elements (I see a plane, a bunny, a duck, a deer, and is that a pickle??) on a soft safety flooring system.
And if you’re traveling this week, be on the lookout for holiday decorations, music, and visits by Santa Claus and his elves in many U.S. airports.
On Tuesday, December 20, for example, the Austin Jazz Workshop is performing holiday hits from 1-2 p.m at Austin Bergstrom International Airport and on Wednesday, December 21, Santa will stop by Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport from 10 am to Noon for a meet and greet – and photo ops – on the ticketing level in the terminal.
Here’s an easy way to help out a good cause when you’re at an airport.
Airport restaurant and concession operator Paradies is raising funds to feed hungry children in America through the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry® program.
Throughout September, Paradies will donate 25 cents for every cup of coffee sold in its food and beverage and retail venues at 40 participating locations across 18 airports.
Don’t drink coffee?
Throughout the year Paradies donates 25 percent of every kid’s meal served in the airport restaurants listed below to the No Kid Hungry program as well.
Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (Bentonville, AR): Smokewood American Grill
Long Beach Airport (Long Beach, CA): The Boathouse (formerly McKenna’s) – South Terminal
Asheville Regional Airport (Asheville, NC): Blue Ridge Tavern + Trading Post – post-security
Pittsburgh International Airport (Pittsburgh, PA): Bar Symon – Center Core, by Concourse C
Denver International Airport (Denver, CO): Big Bowl