airport amenities

Free movies & games at Frankfurt Airport

 

If you have to get to the airport really early – or wait around for a few hours during a layover – why not take in a movie?

You could watch it on your computer or tablet of course, but an increasing number of airports are showing movies – for free – in their own movie theaters.

The latest to add this cinematic amenity is the Germany’s Frankfurt Airport, which has set up two “Movie World’s” in Terminal 1, on Piers A and Z, to show full-length movies, documentaries and some popular series.

The screening areas don’t have rows of seats, but are set up in a living-room style, with carpeting, couches and small niche seating areas, with TV screens. Each theater can accommodate 22 people in eight separate viewing niches and, like airplane entertainment systems, travelers can choose what language to watch a film in and when to start it.

There are a handful of other airports that offer movie theaters for travelers,  including Portland International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Sinagpore’s Changi Airport, Hong Kong International Airport and some others. I’ve wrote about airport movie theaters in one of my “At the Airport” columns on USA TODAY.

No movies? How about gaming?

For those who would rather play computer games than watch a movie on a layover, Frankfurt Airport has also opened a second Gaming World offering free, controller-based, interactive games such as FIFA, NBA and racing and a variety of others. “Scientists have shown that playing video games helps overcome jet lag,” says Frankfort Airport operator, Fraport, and these games “have the extra benefit of reactivating tired limbs after hours of sitting still in the plane.”

Not sure if that’s true, but free games – and movies – are certainly welcome airport amenities.

Look for Movie World at Frankfurt Airport in Terminal by Gate A58 and Gate Z58 and find the Gaming World areas in Terminal one by Gate A52 and Gate Z54.

 

Don’t just sit there: learn CPR at these airports

Hands-only CPR training unit at Chicago O’Hare Airport

As helpful airport amenities go, Hands-Only CPR training kiosks can be lifesavers.

The American Heart Association already has these machines at six airports:

  • O’Hare International Airport (ORD): Terminal 2 by Gates E1, E2 and E3
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND): Terminal A, Gate 8
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): Concourse A between Gates A11 and A15
  • Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI): Concourse B, Gate B7
  • Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW): Terminal E between E21 and E31
  • Harrisburg International Airport (MDT): Concourse B

Now three more machines are coming online:

  • Cleveland Hopkins International: behind the Central Checkpoint – starting July 24
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International: Concourse A, Gates A6-A22 – starting Aug 1
  • Orlando International Airport: entrance to the Main Food Court.

The machines offer a five-minute course in the Hands-Only CPR technique and can really help save lives: more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside the hospital each year and about 20 percent occur in public places such as airports. Performing CPR right away can double or triple a victim’s chance of surviving.

Each kiosk has a touch screen with a short video that provides an overview of Hands-Only CPR, followed by a practice session on a rubber torso and a 30-second test.  The kiosk gives feedback on hand placement and the depth and rate of  compresssions.

Not sure this works? In 2016 Matt Lickebrock spent 5 minutes learning the CPR technique on a machine at DFW International Airport in 2015 and few days later learned his new skill to save the life of his buddy, Sean Ferguson after he was struck by lightning in a parking lot at the University of Dayton. That’s Ferguson in the pic below learning the technique too.

Photos courtesy American Heart Association

 

Finally! Apps to deliver food & merchandise to the gate

My “At the Airport” column for USA TODAY this month is about an airport amenity many travelers have been wishing for:

An app-powered service debuting this week at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) — and a similar one set to roll out at San Diego International Airport (SAN) in August — allows passengers to order food, drinks and products that are for sale anywhere inside the airport and have the items delivered to them at the gate.

If gate delivery catches on, it could be a game-changer for the passenger experience and a big boost for the bottom line at airports.

Solving the ‘gate hugger’ problem

The developers of Airport Sherpa (now at BWI) and At Your Gate (soon at SAN) have research showing that American fliers are verified “gate huggers”: Once through the airport security checkpoint, a majority of travelers head straight for their gate, grab a seat in the hold area or nearby and stay put.

It doesn’t matter if their flight is leaving in an hour — or three.

For travelers, gate-hugging can be a problem because passengers who don’t stray from their gates miss out on the upgraded dining and shopping options now offered at many airports. Gate-hugging also means airport food and retail outlets miss out on potential sales. And it is rents and fees generated from those sales that make up an increasing percentage of the operating budgets at airports.

Bringing mobile carts stocked with snacks, sodas, magazines and other items into gate areas is one solution HMSHost has tried in an effort to serve gate-huggers in airports in Honolulu, Maui, Chicago (O’Hare) and Memphis.

Another strategy, first introduced in 2009 at JetBlue’s JFK Terminal 5 and now available in almost a dozen OTG-managed airport terminals in North America, is iPad-enhanced seating areas in gate hold areas where passengers can order food, drinks and products from nearby restaurants and shops.

But in an age in which people use their mobile phones to get pretty much anything delivered to their doorstep, being able to order something from the other side of the terminal, or from a restaurant or shop in a completely different terminal, is a welcome “Why hasn’t this already happened?” next step.

Sit down. Order up.

Airport Sherpa has partnered with airport retail and food concession operator Airmall to introduce on-demand gate-delivery service at BWI this week. The company plans to expand the service to other airports around the country in short order.

The service “will enhance the passenger experience and give travelers access to hundreds of stores across terminals,” said Patrick DellaValle, CEO of Airport Sherpa.

For passengers, it will mean “even more choices, more convenience and more ways to experience the numerous local, regional and national offerings here at BWI Marshall,” said Brett Kelly, vice president of Airmall Maryland. “Now someone traveling out of the D Concourse at BWI can order sushi from the A Concourse, and someone on the B Concourse can get a burger from the D Concourse, whereas before they did not have access between those concourses to go get it themselves,” Kelly said.

Gate-delivery service not only expands the reach of the potential passenger spend for airport vendors, “It can save a sale that might not have otherwise happened,” Kelly added.

The cost of convenience

The Airport Sherpa app is free to download, but there is a gate-delivery fee of $3.99 to $7.99, depending on how far the delivery person, or Sherpa, has to go to make a delivery in the airport.

Deliveries made by At Your Gate, rolling out in August at San Diego International Airport, will initially have a flat $6.99 delivery fee.

Airport Sherpa reps say tipping the delivery person is currently “not expected or accepted,” but tipping may eventually be offered via the app “to ensure that all transactions are cashless.”

At Your Gate plans to have a tipping option built into its app.

Both services promise to keep delivery time to a minimum.

Airport Sherpa says it will calculate delivery time for each order based on preparation time from the store and the time it will take the Sherpa to walk from the store to the delivery location. “We also have controls in place to prevent a customer from placing an order that would arrive very close to or after boarding time has begun,” DellaValle said.

At Your Gate plans to give travelers a 10-minute delivery window.

Will travelers bite?

Convenience will outweigh worries about delivery fees for many business travelers.

“I have spent more than my share of time running around airports looking for things I need during a business trip. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love that service,” said Joel Horn, former president of Pacific Coast Canola.

“On a tight connection I would like this service, especially for a high-test shot of caffeine or a book,” said Rich McClear, a media adviser based in Sitka, Alaska. “And if I could get a quirky souvenir gift that is emblematic of the area, that would be cool.”

But some travelers don’t see a need for the service.

“I like to get up and walk around the airport, since I’ll be sitting for an entire flight,” said Jen Billock Young, a journalist based in Trevor, Wis. “I’m too cheap,” said Adam Woog, a writer and teacher from Seattle.

Not just a win for passengers

For the San Diego International Airport gate-delivery service, At Your Gate is partnering with Grab, a mobile-ordering app that currently lets travelers preorder food for pickup at 150 concessions in 18 airports. The team plans to offer gate delivery in other airports as well.

The At Your Gate project has the seal of approval from SAN’s passenger experience-oriented Innovation Lab and “the hope is that the service will provide convenience to passengers, flight crews and employees working at the airport and extend the reach of the individual concession beyond their front door,” said Rick Beliotti, SAN’s director of innovation and small business development.

“Gate delivery is a logical extension of the on-the-demand economy that up to now just hasn’t existed in airports,” said David Henninger, At Your Gate president/COO/CMO. “Traveling is really hard. I want this to be the bright spot in the day.”

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.”