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Winning paella at O’Hare Airport

HMS HOST Paella

There was a cooking competition at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport a while back and one of the prizes was having the winning dish featured on the menu at one of the HMS Host restaurants in the airport.

That dish is now ready – so next time you pass through ORD,you can stop by Goose Island Brewery and order the Paella Bowl, based on the winning recipe Sepi Naficy whipped up for the 2016 Channel Your Inner Chef contest.

Your plate won’t be as big as the one in the picture above, which was used to give travelers passing through ORD last week a taste, but it will have grilled chicken and shrimp with spring peas served over chorizo-infused rice.

Heathrow’s photographer snapped them all

London’s Heathrow Airport is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and digging into the archives for some treasures and special stories.

This is one about “the Godfather of Heathrow” – 84-year-old Dennis Stone – who has been a photographer at the airport for 70 years, starting work at age 14.

Heahtrow Dennis Stone then

Over the years, Stone has snapped it all, including the visits of a dozens of celebrities, including including Frank Sinatra, Goldie Hawn, Princess Diana and the Beatles. Here’s a video about Stone’s time at the airport and some of the great photos he took.

Liz Taylor at Heathrow Airport

Liz Taylor at Heathrow Airport

Clint Eastwood at Heathrow Airport

Clint Eastwood at Heathrow Airport

Heathrow MUHAMMAD ALI

Heathrow - BRAD PITT

Heathrow also has a website set up to gather stories about the airport, with a wide assortment of prizes for the best stories, including trips from London to Sydney, Australia with Qantas.

No more smoking – soon – at Salt Lake City Int’l Airport

Salt Lake City International Airport Smoking lounge

According to recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, the smoking rate in the U.S. is on the decline: in 2015, 15 percent of U.S. adults smoked, down two percent from 2014 – the biggest decline in more than 20 years.

That may be one of the reasons Salt Lake City International Airport, which for years promoted its five post-security smoking rooms as a convenience for smokers making connections, has announced a schedule for snuffing out those lounges.

The first lounge will close July 5, at the end of the Independence Day weekend, and the last lounge will close the week of December 19, just as the Christmas holiday travel rush begins.

“This is first and foremost an issue of public health, both for travelers and our airport employees,” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a May statement announcing the closure.

But she also noted that the “beyond capacity” airport was in dire need of the extra space.

“[E]very foot of available space should be used to the best advantage of the traveling public,” said Biskupski, citing retail space, charging stations and extra seating as possible uses for the 1,200 square feet that will be freed up by the closure of the SLC smoking lounges.

Going forward, the Salt Lake City mayor noted that smoking rooms are not included in the current designs for the airport’s $1.8 billion terminal remodel program, which has a scheduled phase one completion date of 2020.

Response to the lounge closure at SLC airport announcement has been mixed, said SLC spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.

“I fly frequently through SLC on business and use the rooms every time,” one passenger wrote in an email shared by airport authorities, “I figured this day would come…What a let-down.”

Public health advocates and other organizations are applauding the airport’s decision.

“This move will protect workers and passengers alike from exposure to secondhand smoke.” said Cynthia Hallett, President and CEO, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and puts SLC in good company: more than 600 U.S. airports are now 100 percent smoke free.

Eliminating airport smoking lounges could also help improve the state’s financial bottom line, said Brook Carlisle, Utah Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network,

“It’s estimated that the annual health care costs directly caused by smoking in our state will reach $542 million this year,” said Carlisle, “not to mention the $355 million in costs from smoking-related lost work productivity.”

Noting that “We’ve had #SmokefreeSkies since 1990,” even U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy sent SLC a congratulatory Tweet:

In May, 2015 Murthy has post a thumbs-down photo standing outside a smoking room at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

While SLC is closing its lounges, there are other major U.S. airports, including Washington Dulles, Hartfield Jackson Atlanta International, Denver International Airport, Nashville International, Miami International Airport and McCarran Airport in Las Vegas that still have smoking lounges and/or other areas where smoking is allowed indoors.

(A slightly different version of my story on smoking lounges at airports first appeared on NBC News )

More – and more creative – ways to pay for TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck Enrollment Center at IND Airport - courtesy TSATSAS PRECHECK

Enrolling in TSA PreCheck seems to be the #1 solution being proposed to whittle down the wait times in security checkpoint lines in the U.S.

But the $85 fee is a deterrent to many travelers.

Now there are some news ways to cover that fee.

Today, Club Carlson, the rewards program for the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, is announcing that, starting July 1, 2016, program members will be able to swap 65,000 points for an authorization code that can be used towards the $85 application fee for five years of TSA PreCheck.

This may be the first hotel rewards program to offer TSA Precheck as a redemption option, but it is unlikely that it will stand alone for long.

There’s another way travelers can use points instead of cash for the TSA PreCheck fee:

Thanks Again, the program that lets travelers earn points for purchases at airports and exchange them for miles, hotel rewards and Visa prepaid cash cards, now allows members to cash-in Thanks Again Points for TSA Pre-Check at airports across the United States.

“We wanted to give consumers a reward option that saves them more than just money,” said Marc Ellis, Thanks Again CEO, “Expedited screening for Thanks Again members will cut-down the time spent in standard security lines and give travelers an enjoyable travel experience from the very beginning of their journey, making it a win for TSA and security overall.”

It will take 4,250 Thanks Again points to get a TSA PreCheck promotion code from the program app to cover the $85 fee.

“I think redeeming frequent flier points or miles for TSA Pre Check fees is an exceptional idea,” said Jay Sorensen of IdeaWorks, “I also know airlines are considering offering this as a perk for their elite tier members.”

What happens if you use your points (under either program) to get a PreCheck promotion code but get denied during the application process?

The policy is the same as if you paid by cash: no refunds.