Posts in the category "Lounges":

New menu, look (and scent) in United Clubs

United Clubs menu

New complimentary menu items in the United Clubs. Photo Harriet Baskas

Good news for travelers who spend time in the United Clubs: United Airlines is upgrading the complimentary menu items in all the clubs, renovating many club rooms and tweaking some of its customer service procedures.

The menu items are a big step up from the packaged cheese, crackers, yik-yak snacks and impossible-to-open hummus packages you may be used to and include an oatmeal station, bagel sticks, Greek yogurt with fruit toppings, hard-boiled eggs, scones, cereal, fresh fruit and Spicy Bloody Mary Trail mix in the morning.

United_Club Menu _ eggs with condiments

photo -Harriet Baskas

The afternoon offerings will include hummus with pretzel crisps and sliced red peppers, Mediterranean salad, vegetable soup, salami and cheddar cheese, Trail Mix, brownie brittle (danger: VERY good!), and breads.

United_new menu items cheese-salami

The new menu items will be available starting this week in Chicago O’Hare, in Houston, Denver, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington Dulles by the end of summer and everywhere else by the end of the year.

United - chairs in club

During this year, United is also renovating lounges in Chicago O’Hare, Washington Reagan, Hong Kong and Tokyo Narita, building new clubs in Atlanta and San Francisco and starting on changes in Los Angeles. Changes will include improved seating and amenities, design schemes that highlight United aviation history in the various cities, a special signature scent and a classy design for the restrooms where, for example, the mirrors in the women’s room evoke the windows on an airplane.

United - club bathroom

The staff in the United Clubs seems to already be made up of courteous and truly helpful people, but United says it is also re-training United Club agents with a new program that draws on the know-how of the hotel and hospitality industry.

Not all the upgrades are reserved for those with access to the United Clubs: in O’Hare (and hopefully elsewhere) the airline is also updating the seating, power plug availability, boarding lane design and counters in many gate areas.

United - new boarding areas group signs

(All photos by Harriet Baskas)

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


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.


Vancouver International Airport’s lovely loo


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.”


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.


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


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.”


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.

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