Airports

Comparing airlines, airports by on-time performance

Travelers use all manner of measurements to choose an airline to fly on or an airport to fly through and beyond price, punctuality is high on some lists.

Flight informatoin company OAG gathers oodles of on-time performance data and twice each year shares an ‘award’ ranking airlines and airports with OTP star ratings, 5 being the best.

For U.S. airlines, the latest list – found here – give high marks to Delta’s performance.

“It not only topped its mainline competition, but finished ahead of smaller airlines such as Alaska Airlines and Sun Country Airlines,” OAG notes. “In a U.S. air travel ecosystem that relies on major hubs, it’s easy for a single delay or cancellation to knock an entire day of flights off schedule. Despite managing one of the largest fleets in the world, Delta has remained a cut above its competitors. Southwest (78.9 OTP), American (78.8 OTP) and United (78.5 OTP) all performed admirably, earning 3 stars respectively.”

When it comes to airports, the standouts are Salt Lake City International Airport (earning 5 stars for an 85.2 percent on-time performance), Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (82.9 percent), Detroit Metropolitan Airport (83.1 percent), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (82.2 percent) and Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (85.1 percent).

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Fun, fast facts about London Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport, The Beatles depart from Heathrow on their American tour. August 13, 1965.  Courtesy Heathrow Airport

Next time you’ve got some time to spend at London’s Heathrow Airport, take a moment to read some of the commemorative signs the airport posted to mark its 70th birthday in May, 2016.

There are 70 of factoid-filled signs throughout the terminals, marking everything from where the The Beatles were met by screaming fans (repeatedly) in the 1960s to where film scenes were shot and where the Concorde last landed at Heathow in 2003.

You’ll find a list of the contents and locations of all the signs in Terminal 2, Terminal 3, Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 on the Heathrow website.

The copy on the signs ranges from cute and corny to cheeky.

In Terminal 2 departures, one sign marks the spot where actor and pilot John Travolta landed his Boeing-707 in 2002. “He had recently completed his flight training. Fact, not pulp fiction,” the sign notes.

In Terminal 4 departures is  the spot from where Muhammad Ali flew, “like a butterfly,”  in 1974 to fight George Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle.

And in Terminal 3, a sign notes the spots where the opening sequence in the film “Love Actually” was filmed.  “Think of here whenever you feel gloomy,” Heathrow advises..

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Airport Restaurant Month is back for October

Airport Restaurant Month  is back during the month of October at more than 100 HSMHost restaurants in 50 North American airports.

Menus vary by restaurant location (and are not prix fixe) with select restaurants offering special customized menus that spotlight their own flavors and trends.

A sample of Airport Restaurant Month’s October 2017 menu items include:

  • Shrimp & Noodle Broth Bowl that includes tomato, spinach, and cabbage
  • Crispy Half Chicken topped mushroom gravy and served with garlicky mash and brussels sprouts
  • Harvest Flatbread topped with grapes, blue cheese, walnuts, and arugula – paired with a side salad of spinach, apples, carrots, and an herb vinaigrette
  • Croque-Monsieur that includes ham and Swiss cheese draped in cheese batter and grilled to perfection
  • Extra Blue Burger with crumbled blue cheese, smothered in blue cheese dressing and bacon.

For a full list of participating locations and more menu items, see Airport Restaurant Month.

 

 

Hurricanes havoc for airports and air travelers

(Photo courtesy Keene Public Library, via Flickr)

Hurricane Irma, and the two hurricanes just behind it, continue to wreak havoc for airports, air travelers and airlines in the Caribbean and – momentarily – in the southeastern United States.

As thousands of flights to and from Florida airports and others in the hurricane’s projected path are being cancelled, some airlines are rushing to add extra flights to get passengers out of Florida and the Caribbean. Many airlines are also bringing in extra supplies for recovery efforts.

Miami International Airport released a statement reminding travelers that the airport is not a designated storm shelter and that the airport’s parking garage is already at capacity.

American Airlines has issued a statement saying it is planning to wind down its operations at Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Myers and West Palm Beach airports on Friday afternoon, with all operations canceled through the weekend. American Airlines’ operations at Orlando International Airport were scheduled to end by 2 p.m. Saturday, with all of its Sunday flights canceled; Orlando International Airport is planning to close for all flights at 5 pm.

In advance of the shutdowns, American added 16 extra flights out of Miami, including 12 from to Dallas/Fort Worth, one to Philadelphia, and three to New York.

Other airports are adding some extra flights as well.

Regarding fares, and the rumors of price gouging, American said it has capped fares at $99 each way for Main Cabin, and $199 for the premium cabin, on direct, single leg flights to/from cities covered under the Travel Alert, which is now in place for more than 40 airports. The carrier said the fares will apply for flights out of the affected area through Sept. 17, and returning to the affected area from Sept. 10-17.

Here are links to domestic airline travel alerts. Many airlines have considerably expanded the dates and the airports included by their advisories and are adjusting them as the storms progress.

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines. More than 40 airports currently covered by the alert.

Delta Air Lines

Frontier Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

JetBlue

Southwest Airlines

Spirit Airlines

United Airlines

Virgin America

Honey, I’m home! Airports help bees make a comeback

Don’t worry, ‘bee’ happy: the number of honeybee colonies in the United States is on the rise and airports are doing their part to help.

The county of honeybee colonies is up from 2.8 million in April, 2016 to 2.89 million in April, 2017, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That’s a plus for bees, of course, but because bees are credited with pollinating more than $15 billion of U.S. crops each year, it’s also a bonus for the economy.

It’s also news because since 2006 honey bees have been disappearing from their hives and dying at unprecedented rates due to a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

The culprits may be global warming, pesticide use, habitat loss and parasites, say researchers, but (more good news) the USDA survey reports that in the first quarter of from January to March 2017 there was a 27 decrease in the number of colonies lost to the disorder compared to the first quarter of 2016.

Honey helpers

Honeybee colonies are getting some comeback help from a growing number of airports hosting beehives and sharing their sweet stories of success.

In Victoria, British Columbia, Harbour Air just put four hives with 10,000 bees on the one-acre grass roof of its floating airport terminal for seaplanes. A “bee cam” lets passengers waiting in the airport lounge below watch the bees at work and, come fall, the airline plans to offer its own “Harbour Honey” to passengers to use as sweetener in the complimentary in-terminal coffee and tea.

Besides making a contribution to the local ecosystem, “This will be an important way to educate people of all ages on the importance of honeybees to our local environment,” said Bill Fosdick the president of the Capital Region Beekeepers Association, which is overseeing the introduction of the bee colony.

In late 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport partnered with the “Bee Squad” program at the University of Minnesota to set up an apiary on airport property. Now 31 colonies are being tended to by U.S. military veterans.

Some of the honey extracted last year was sold to Chef Andrew Zimmern (of “Bizarre Foods” fame) and to General Mills to benefit the program. “We also gave some to the Veteran participants,” said Bee Squad Program director Becky Masterman, “This year’s extraction will be larger and we hope to sell some of the honey in the airport and have some used in MSP restaurants.”

Beehives were also installed at Montréal-Trudeau airport in 2015 (following a similar project at Montréal-Mirabel in 2014) and now each airport is home to about 300,000 honey bees. Some of the honey produced is sold to employees to raise funds for a local non-profit that helps low-income families and individuals; the balance is donated to local food banks.

Back in the United States, there are apiaries on property at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

At O’Hare, where the bee program is in its seventh season, there are currently 30 to 40 hives (down from a high of 75) and about one million bees on duty.

Operated by Sweet Beginnings, which gives training and jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals and others who may have significant barriers to finding jobs, the apiary produces about 35 pounds of honey per hive.

Under the ‘beelove’ brand, products made with the O’Hare honey, including lip balm, skincare creams, soaps and, of course, jars of raw national honey, are sold in Hudson News stores at O’Hare and in the Farmers Market kiosk in Terminal 3. Some O’Hare restaurants, including Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, also use the O’Hare honey in meals.

In 2013, the Port of Seattle teamed up with The Common Acre, a local non-profit, to place clusters of honey bee hives on unused, open land at three Seattle-Tacoma International Airport locations.

Like the symbiotic relationship between bees and flowers, both the airport and the non-profit get something valuable from the deal.

The Common Acre is collecting scientific data from the hives “crucial to understanding and supporting pollinators,” said group founder Bob Redmond, and is selling the honey to help offset costs. Among other benefits, the bees help the airport keep large birds away from airplanes by supporting the growth of dense vegetation on a former golf course area.

(A slightly different version of my story about bees at airports first appeared on CNBC)