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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.

 

Germiest rides to the airport

My story this week for CNBC will have you reaching for the hand sanitizer next time you hail a taxi, rent a car or use a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft because a recent study found that – no surprise – the surfaces passengers come in contact with most often are full of germs.

A swab-carrying team from insurance comparison site NetQuote took samples from seat belts, door handles and window buttons on three random taxis and ride-hailed vehicles and the steering wheel, gear shift and seat belts in three random rental cars.

The testing was done in South Florida, and while testers expected taxis to yield the highest amount of bacteria, when lab results came back with counts for the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) and bacteria present, it was actually ride-hailed cars that turned out to be the germiest.

The study found more than 6 million CFUs per square inch on average, while rentals averaged a much smaller amount of 2 million CFU/sq. in. Taxis had an average of just more than 27,000 CFU/sq. in.

“To put it in perspective,” the report notes, “rideshares averaged almost three times more germs than a toothbrush holder,” the study said, while the number of microorganisms in both rideshares and rental cars was more than those found on toilet seats and in coffee pot reservoirs.

The research team did not single out which ride-hailing companies it tested, “in the interest of not characterizing specific companies unfairly,” according to a spokesperson.

An Uber representative said the company doesn’t directly inspect cars for cleanliness. However, Uber said its two-way feedback system — where riders and drivers rate one another after each ride — is the main method through which vehicle cleanliness is noted and addressed. If a driver’s car is dirty, they’ll likely get poor ratings and hear about it from local Uber teams, the spokesperson added.

No one from Lyft responded to my request for comment.

Not all germs are harmful, of course, but high bacteria levels increase the chance that harmful microorganisms are present. And some potentially harmful germs, such as bacillus, cocci and yeast, showed up repeatedly in the samples.

Although taxis were the cleanest rides of the three tested, they were by no means free of germs.

The swabs taken in taxis showed that the most germ-filled surfaces were seat belts, with 26,000 CFU/sq. in. Meanwhile, seat belts in rideshares had 38 times more bacteria.

Taxi door handles had 1,570 CFU/sq. in., around 55 times more bacteria than in a typical car door handle, the study notes, while taxi window buttons were surprisingly clean, with just 23 CFU/sq. in.

In the rental cars tested, both the steering wheels and gear shifts had more than 1 million CFU/sq. inch, while the seat belts showed a relatively low rate of 403 CFU/sq. in.

How can you avoid the germs?

“When you rent a car, take a moment to wipe key surfaces such as the steering wheel and gear shift with a soap-based wipe before you touch them,” the report advises. “And once you leave the cab or rideshare, wash your hands as soon as possible — and avoid touching your face until you do.”

There are plenty of products you can carry to help fight germs too, including the Clean Well sprayer, an all-natural, alcohol free, version popular with people looking for something as an alternative to Purell, said Paul Shrater, co-founder and COO of Minimus.biz, a site that sells travel-sized products.

“One thing to note is that once you call something ‘sanitizer,’ ‘antibacterial’ or ‘disinfect’ it is actually considered an over-the-counter drug, and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because you are making specific medical claims,” said Shrater. “That’s quite different than something that just claims to ‘clean’ like a regular soap, so if you are really looking to kill germs, look for something that has one of those phrases,” he said.

Lambert St. Louis Int’l Airport celebrates travelers

STL Airport

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) has enlisted a yellow jellybean-looking character to help kick off a week of  customer appreciation events as part of National Tourism Week, May 1-7.

The yellow bean will be available for selfies at an interactive display window in the Terminal 1 baggage claim and there will be a special event each day, including free snow cones on Tuesday and a Budweiser Clydesdale on Thursday. (A horse in the airport? I’ll ask for photos…)

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, May 2: Two Pedros Band | Concourse C | 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Tuesday, May 3: Free Snow Cones by Southwest Airlines | Gates E14 & E16 | 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Dave & Greg band w/ Tim McCready | Concourse A | 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

St. Louis Cardinals’ Fredbird | Terminal 2 | 3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 4: Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags St. Louis | T1 & T2 | 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Kara Baldus Trio feat. Regi Drake | Terminal 2 | 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 5: Budweiser Clydesdale | Terminal 2 | 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Johnny Chase Duo | Concourse C | 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Friday, May 6: Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers | Terminal 2 | 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.