airport amenities

Airports add pet potties & play areas; dump pay phones, banks

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:

  1. ATM Services
  2. Gift Shops / News Stands
  3. Airport Websites
  4. Electrical Charging Stations
  5. Restaurants and Bars
  6. Lost and Found
  7. Parking / Taxi and Limousine Services
  8. Free Wi-Fi
  9. Pre-Security Pet Relief Facilities
  10. 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:

  1. Nursing mothers’ rooms and pods
  2. Post-security pet relief facilities
  3. Children’s play areas
  4. Airfield observation areas
  5. 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)

Airport amenities coming – and going – soon

 

Airports – good ones –  do their best to offer service and amenities that will make your time in the terminal bearable and, increasingly, enjoyable.

What amenities are offered most?

What amenities are airports poised to add?

And what amenities are disappearing from airports?

 

The folks at Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) did a survey of their members to find out and are sharing the results today of the 2017 ACI-NA Guest Experience Management and Passenger Amenities Survey.

The top 10 most commonly offered airport amenities and services in 2017 are:

  1. ATM Services
  2. Gift Shops / News Stands
  3. Airport Websites
  4. Electrical Charging Stations
  5. Restaurants and Bars
  6. Lost and Found
  7. Parking / Taxi and Limousine Services
  8. Free Wi-Fi
  9. Pre-Security Pet Relief Facilities
  10. Food and Beverage Vending Machines

No big surprises there, but ACI-NA found out that over the next three to five years, passengers can expect new and expanded airport amenities and services such as:

  1. Nursing mothers’ rooms and pods
  2. Post-security pet relief facilities
  3. Children’s play areas
  4. Airfield observation areas
  5. Adult changing and washroom facilities.

And, as passenger needs change, ACI-NA notes, airports are beginning to phase out unnecessary or redundant amenities and services.

So, get ready to say bye-bye over the next three to five years to: payphones, banking services, and smoking rooms at airports.

Why no more pay phones?

“Pay phones take up a lot of valuable real estate considering their low usage now in the smart phone age,” said ACI-NA spokesman Scott Elmore, “They are being replaced with electrical charging stations and free Wi-Fi to keep people connected.”

But what about kids or people who don’t have cell phones. Or have cell phones that are out of power?

“Airports are very cognizant of the need to remain accessible,” said Elmore, “So we expect to see the deployment of more courtesy phones with free local and international calling or calling cards for passengers in need.”

More Best Airport Amenities from 2016

(SAN DIEGO, APRIL, 29, 2016: Members of the Fern Street Circus perform at the San Diego International Airport. Photo: Gary Payne)

We’re ending the year with a look back at some of the cool new amenities and events airports offered travelers during 2016.

During 2016, San Diego International Airport awarded its first performing arts residency to the Fern Street Circus, which spent several months at the airport creating, rehearsing and performing a new show about – what else – traveling – and just clowning around with passengers.

The train between Denver International Airport and downtown Denver finally started running.

And events on the plaza between DEN’s terminal and the Westin Denver International Airport got underway. Through January 1, there’s ice-skating on the plaza.

During 2016 airline and airport employees joined passengers at airports in Miami, Seattle, Denver, Charlotte, North Carolina and other airports to stand very still and be filmed for the latest viral internet trend known as the mannequin challenge.

And, the first batch of the 100 sets of bathrooms being updated at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were declared winners in the 15th annual America’s Best Restroom Contest.

Here’s to more great events and amenities for travelers during 2017.

Best new airport amenities from 2016

People love to complain about all the time they must spend in airports on their way to someplace else.

But, more and more, many airports have turned into darn fine places to hang out in thanks to the addition of art and history exhibits, appealing restaurants and shops and a wide array of welcome amenities.

During 2015, for example, many airports worked out their differences with ride-hailing services such as Lyft, Uber and Wingz and added lactation stations for nursing mothers.

This week and next, StuckatTheAirport.com will run down some of the best new amenities airports added during 2016.

Today: animals at the airport

During 2016, indoor pet potties popped up at hundreds of airports thanks to a Department of Transportation ruling that requires airports to create at least one relief area on the sterile side of each terminal to accommodate service animals.  Traveling pets and the many working dogs at airports get to use the pet lavs without going back out through security as well.

And while it’s no longer rare to have teams of certified pet-therapy dogs and their handlers roaming terminals to engage with passengers and ease the stress of travel, this year several airports welcomed their first non-canine team members.

Miniature therapy horses from Seven Oaks Farm now visit Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport two or three times a month and both San Francisco International Airport and New York’s Albany International Airport have certified therapy pigs on their teams.

 

 

 

Holiday Travel Tidbits

 

 

A few travel tidbits for you as we head into the busy holiday weekend:

Free meals for military personnel at MSY 

Several Delaware North-dining locations at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will be offering free meals to traveling military personnel during the upcoming Christmas holiday week.

From Saturday, Dec. 24, through Saturday, Dec. 31, uniformed servicemen and servicewomen can receive their free meal – an entrée and a large fountain drink – at these locations:

  • Lobby: Dooky Chase, West Beignet
  • Concourse B: Air Meals, Le Petit Bistro, PJ’s Coffee
  • Concourse C: Copeland’s Gourmet Kitchen, PJ’s Coffee, Zatarain’s kiosk
  • Concourse D: Copeland’s Cheesecake Scoop Café, WOW Café & Wingery!

Free parking at DFW

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is offering a free day of Terminal Parking for every two days travelers park during the holiday.

Travelers must enter the terminal by December 31st and park for a full two days at the terminal to be eligible for the promotion.  The current Terminal Parking rate is $24/day. Details here.

(Photo: courtesy Library of Congress, via Flickr Commons; The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)