Posts in the category "Lounges":

Fresh parking amenities at DEN & CVG airports

DEN Airport parking

New LED signs in the Pikes Peak shuttle lot at Denver International Airport let passengers know when the next bus will arrive.

Anyone who has parked their car in an airport parking lot on a dark, cold, snowy morning and stood there wondering when – and if – the shuttle bus to the airport was coming by will appreciate the new amenity being introduced at Denver International Airport this week.

The airport has added LED display screens to the 18 parking shelters in its Pikes Peak shuttle lot (where the rates are currently $8/day) that use GPS to let passengers know when the next parking lot shuttle bus will arrive.

LED signs should be added to the Mt. Elbert shuttle lot ($8 per day) and the east and west economy lots ($13 per day) next spring, but for now travelers can find out when the shuttle bus is coming by the shelters in those parking lots via phone, text or QR codes using a smartphone.

CVG Cart

Meanwhile, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), has added courtesy golf carts that will operate daily to shuttle passengers from their car to the elevators and escalators in the terminal garage and back to their car. (The airport is also offering a discount coupon for holiday parking).

Inside CVG, there’s also a new all-access lounge – The Club at CVG – offering complimentary snacks, bar service, Wi-Fi and comfortable seating for $35 a day – no matter which airline you’re flying on- and at cost below what the airline lounges usually charge for a day pass.

The club is on Concourse A, between Gates A8 and A10 and you can get $5 off the $35 fee by using the coupon on this page. The same company also operates club rooms at airports in San Jose (SJC), Atlanta (ATL), Phoenix (PHX), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and two at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. You can purchase day passes for those clubs here.

How to save time, money & sanity at the airport

Rocking chairs at Houston Hobby Airport

To make the most of airport dwell time during the busy holiday travel season, be sure to take advantage of some of these time and money-saving services and amenities.  The list is from a round-up I put together for CNBC Road Warrior.

Free shoe shines

It seems like an old-fashioned service, but many airports still have shoe shine stands staffed by friendly men and women who, for very reasonable fees, can transform scuffed travel shoes or boots into impressive footwear while you relax, read the paper, return a phone call or chat.

At Los Angeles International Airport shoe shines are free (so tip generously) in most every terminal. The Shoe Hospital at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport not only shines shoes, but fixes broken heels, sells shoelaces, fixes zippers, repairs bags, purses and suitcases and, for those who indulge a bit too much while traveling, punches extra holes in belts that they will also shine.

Layover spa days

A little pampering goes a long way when it comes to improving your travel outlook and appearance. Barbershops, spas and salons at an ever-increasing number of airports offer services that range from haircuts, shampoos and shaves to facials, pedicures, manicures and massages at prices generally on par with what you pay for these services in town.

Some services are discounted during a happy hour offering during the first hour of business (usually between 6 and 7 a.m.) at the Massage Bar, which has branches at seven airports. “Upwards of 65 percent of our clients are business people who are always traveling,” said Massage Bar CEO Chris Woods, “and the clientele make-up is almost 50/50 men and women.”

XpresSpa, with branches in about 50 airports worldwide, has a free membership program that gives discounts and special offers and $5 in rewards points for each $100 you spend. And between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Terminal Getaway Spa, with branches at Chicago O’Hare, Charlotte Douglas and Orlando International Airport, will be giving away treatments via Twitter.

Leverage the lounges

An uptick in business travel means airlines and independent operators are adding lounge locations and upgrading décor and amenities at existing lounges in many cities. If you don’t already get access with your frequent flier status, business class ticket, credit card or travel buddy, consider the $50 one-time entry fee a sanity-saving investment if only for the drinks, snacks, comfortable seating and workspace it can get you.

“But beware,” says TravelSkills founder Chris McGinnis. “Many lounges won’t allow walk-ins when they are overcrowded, so you can’t always count on getting in to the one you want to.” The solution? “You can often walk across the hall or to another concourse and try buying entry into another one,” he said.

Doggin’ it

Teams of trained therapy dogs regularly visit many airports and there’s no cost to spend a few stress-reducing minutes lapping up some love from these pups when you see them.

Passengers who need to board their own pets while traveling can save time by using pet hotels located on or near airport properties. Now Boarding at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, for example, boards cats, dogs and a variety of “little critters” and offers parking, airport shuttle rides, multi-pet discounts and frequent visitor benefits. The 24-hour service makes early morning drop-offs and late night pick-ups possible, which can reduce the number of boarding nights you’ll need to pay for.

Stop and smell the roses

Instead of parking yourself at a gate, head to a free airport observation deck to chill out and take a look around. The BWI Observation Gallery in Baltimore is located pre-security and, in addition to great airfield views, has aviation exhibits, children’s play equipment, charging stations and a cocktail lounge. At LAX, the Observation Deck on top of the Theme Building in the middle of the Central Area is open each Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering airport and Los Angeles views for free.

There’s an indoor, aeroponic garden at Chicago O’Hare Airport where herbs and vegetables used in many airport restaurant dishes are grown and, the recently renovated Dallas Love Field airport, the pre-security outdoor Moss Lee Love Garden is home to live plants and grasses and artwork that includes 12-foot-tall cast-bronze trees.

Shopping for deals

Shopping can be great therapy and shopping for gifts during a layover can save time and money.

Many airports have a “street pricing” policy that prohibits shops (and restaurants) in the terminals from adding surcharges to the prices. You can avoid sales tax on all purchases when shopping at Oregon’s Portland International Airport and avoid sales on clothing (and shoes) when shopping at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and Pittsburgh International Airport’s AirMall.

And don’t be shy about using coupons. MSP airport regularly updates a long list of downloadable discount coupons good at airport shops and restaurants, and while no expiration dates are listed on the coupons available from San Antonio International Airport, airport spokeswoman Nora Castro says they are updated quarterly to reflect the latest vendor deals.

During the holidays, many airport shops provide free gift wrapping and shipping and gift-with-purchase offers as well.

Travel Tidbits: FAA vs. Southwest +Air New Zealand at LAX

southwest

After failing to come to a settlement, the Federal Aviation Administration has filed a $12 million suit again Southwest Airlines over allegations that repairs made to 44 airplanes by a contractor did not meet safety standards.

 

Air New Zealand Hobbit plane2

Starting December 3, 2014, AIR New Zealand will switch terminals at Los Angeles International Airport from T2 to the lovely Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). That, of course, means ANZ passengers will be able to enjoy all the new art and amenities in the revitalized terminal. But it also means that qualified ANZ passengers will able to use the swanky Star Alliance lounge in that terminal, which is operated in partnership with Air New Zealand.

LAX TBIT STAR ALLIANCE LOUNGE OUTDOOR TERRACE - BASKAS

Vancouver International Airport’s lovely loo

YVR 1

Every year the folks at Cintas – a major restroom supply company – hold a contest to choose the best public washrooms in the United States and Canada.

The list of nominees includes not just spots where cleanliness in crappers is king, but where creativity abounds.

For example, last year’s U.S. winner, the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, MN, has a restroom decorated “with ornate, gilded mirrors, sassy text plates, and bricks laid as if by a drunken mason on bender,” and “invites guests into an Alice In Wonderland-like grotto – to relieve themselves and re-live childhood fairy tales.”

Varsity

The list of potties to pick from is out for this year’s contest, and while no airport made the top ten list in the U.S., Tampa International Airport is still overflowing with pride from making the list last year.

tampa

This year, the finalists in Canada include a loo at Vancouver International Airport.

YVR BATHROOM 2

Here’s how the nomination reads:

“Located in the C-Pier, Domestic Terminal of YVR, travelers find a clean, modern place to freshen up during their journeys. The washroom walls are covered in shades of blue, red, and yellow mosaic tiles and wave-shaped blue flooring winds down the curved corridor leading guests to their choice of bathroom stalls. White tile surrounds the hands-free sinks and towel dispensers, creating a cohesive and modern atmosphere that is sure to leave a lasting impression.”

YVR3

Take a look at the list of nominees for “Best Restroom” in both the United States and Canada and be sure to pick your favorite. Because when you gotta go, you gotta – well, you know – and it may as well be a posh pottie.

The forgotten Pan Am lounge in Berlin

While visiting the Allied Museum in Berlin this past July just days before the opening of a new exhibition about the American era at Temphelhof Airport, I had the pleasure of meeting Natascha Bonnermann, the woman who brought a Cold War-era lounge for Pan Am employees back to life.

Here’s the story of the lounge I put together for the Runway Girl Network:

PAN AM LOUNGE sign one

As time capsules go, Berlin’s Pan Am Lounge is a charmer. And a Cold War relic.

Located on the 10th floor penthouse of the Eden Haus apartment building overlooking the Berlin Zoological Garden and what is now a very upscale neighborhood, the lounge once served as a private gathering spot for flight attendants and pilots who worked for Pan American World Airways, which established offices in a building nearby in the mid-1960s.

During the Cold War, which stretched from 1945 to 1990, no German airlines were allowed to use the Berlin air corridors and West Berlin was served by Pan Am, British Airways and Air France, airlines representing the Western allies.

“The rooftop lounge was furnished for the amusement and distraction of pilots and stewardesses, many of whom also had apartments below,” said Natascha Bonnermann, the actress who resurrected the lounge as an exclusive event and party venue after finding it abandoned in 2005.

“The Cold War ended, Pan Am went out of business and the lounge was forgotten because the employees went home,” said Bonnermann during a recent tour of the lounge. “It was used so seldom that the rest of the world didn’t think of it anymore. It was simply forgotten.”

Well, not quite. A former Pan Am flight attendant held an annual party in the lounge and a former DJ from Armed Forces Radio had his own key to the lounge and would go up there to play cards with his buddies.

Bonnermann learned about the lounge through a chance meeting with the DJ and discovered that the retreat, decorated in what’s been described as a “James Bond and Aspen-chic aesthetic,” was still intact and that, over the years, the panorama view from the outdoor terrace, had gotten even better.

“Inside it was exactly as you see it now,” Bonnerman said on our tour, “The bar, the dance floor and all the original furniture, everything was still here. Even the ashtrays.”

Pan Am Lounge_Seating Area2_Blue_photo by Ross Reynolds_edited

Bonnermann set aside her acting career to revive the lounge as retro-swank event venue where guests are greeted and served by wait staff wearing uniforms based on those worn by Pan Am crew in 1964.

The wood on the tiny dance floor has been refinished, the mural depicting the Boston Tea Party has been cleaned, specialists have restored the leather on the chairs and a few technical improvements have been made to the sound system, but strict attention has been paid to keeping the lounge exactly as it was.

“It’s a proof of the time and that era and you can’t mess around with it,” said Bonnermann. “I don’t want to adjust it to our tastes now.”

Pilots, flight attendants and guests who frequented the lounge back in the day are “are overwhelmed with emotions and the flood of memories” when they return to visit, said Bonnermann. And while they confirm that the lounge looks just as it did before, “they are all extremely discreet about what happened here,” she said.

PAN AM LOUNGE -Another original feature - a mural depicting the  Boston Tea Party is behind the dance floor.

PAN AM LOUNGE - The bar is untouched from the 1960s.

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