Posts in the category "Charlotte Douglas International Airport":

Tasty tidbits for travelers: fresh eats at airports

What can you do when you’re stuck at the airport?  Eat!

Lucky for you there are some new dining options at several U.S. airports.

 

If you’re hungry at JFK’s Delta Terminal 3 and don’t want to give up that seat you finally found by the power outlet, starting Thursday, May 5th they’ll be an app for that.

HMSHost and Airside Mobile are launching the B4YouBoard iPhone App that will let you use your smartphone to order food, pay for it and have it delivered to you within 20 minutes (they promise) at six delivery zones inside the terminal.

The service will expand in the future, but for now the app will only work at JFK’s Delta Terminal 3, only on iPhones and only if you want to eat something from Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market or Chili’s Too between noon to 8 pm.

Still, if it’s a busy afternoon and you’ve finally found a seat and spread out your stuff, you can see how having in-airport food delivery – to eat there or take on the plane – might be very convenient.

Elsewhere…

Eat up!

America’s got talent -at the airport

Milwaukee Airport_ Daniel Meek

Daneil Meek: TSA officer AND bagpiper

An artist, a baker and a bagpiper walk into an airport.

Is that the first line of a bad joke?

It could be. But it’s also a sampling of the hidden talents pursued by people who work at some of the nation’s airports. In some cases, only their colleagues reap the benefits, but from impromptu concerts to employee art shows, fliers across the country may encounter some fun and diversion in the midst of a stressful travel day.

Here’s the story I wrote about these talented airport workers for my At the Airport column in USATODAY.com.

When he’s not training for swim meets, Daniel Meek (above), the TSA administrative officer at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport, plays the bagpipes (yes, in a traditional Scottish kilt) at events ranging from funerals to local, regional and national law enforcement ceremonies. “A group of TSOs [Transportation Security Officers] are going to ride motorcycles to the 9/11 ten-year anniversary ceremonies in Washington DC, and I’m going to join them with my bagpipes,” said Meek.

Special events at Los Angeles International Airport now often include a few tunes by a chorus of surprisingly sweet-voiced TSA employees. “Our goal is to put the human face of the TSA in the public. Not just the ‘Take off your shoes’ image,” LAX Terminal Screening Manager Raul Matute told me back in December as the group readied for holiday performances in several terminals.

LAX TSA CHOIR

LAX TSA CHOIR

At Denver International Airport, the contract manager can sing opera, the CFO plays trumpet, a member of the custodial staff leads an in-demand mariachi band and one of the customer service volunteers is a magician. “Maybe we should start a band or hold a variety show in the terminals each Friday,” said airport spokesperson Jenny Schiavone.

No joking around. Well, sometimes.

Don Steinmetz is a veteran Phoenix police sergeant assigned to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where he supervises explosive-detection dogs and their police partners. “At the airport, our job is to deter, detect and keep people safe,” says Steinmetz. Outside the airport, Steinmetz performs on the stand-up comedy circuit, where his job is to make people laugh. “At the airport there are thousands of people and so many diverse situations. So there are plenty of hilarious things I can talk about from a police officer’s point of view.”

Kelly McCarron, a JetBlue employee at San Francisco International Airport, also moonlights as a stand-up comic. She interacts with the public at ticket-counters and gates all day but, unlike Steinmetz, doesn’t put many work stories into her act. “People in the audience have usually been on the other side of the airport interaction and I’m usually in the role of the bad guy. So it’s hard to get them on my side.”

On the serious side, Debbie Ramirez, spends her days marketing and promoting Phoenix Sky Harbor. But in her spare time, she and her horses are on-call for the posse that helps with search and rescue efforts for the Maricopa County sheriff’s office. “People go out hiking in the mountains and get lost or in trouble,” says Ramirez. “We’ve rescued a lot of people, but sometimes we can only help families find closure.”

Aerobatics and other art

When he’s not on the job, Mark Leutwiler, the Security Operations Manager at Portland International Airport (PDX) can be found up in the air practicing aerobatic art. “When I was young I went flying with someone and we went upside down. That’s when I realized that’s what I want to do. Now I fly loops and rolls and spins as much as possible.”

One of Leutwiler’s co-workers, Pauline Nelson, oversees security access for much of the terminal building and de-stresses by cooking, baking and building decorated cakes. She’s taken first prize at the Oregon State Fair numerous times, but it may be her co-workers who reap the rewards. “Basically, there aren’t enough people in my household to eat all the things I cook,” said Nelson, “So I bring things to work all the time.”

Reno-Tahoe International Airport hosts an annual Employee Art Show and this year the exhibit featured about 100 paintings, works on paper, photos, sculptures, crafts and mixed media entries by 59 airport employees and their family members. Similar art shows, supported by the National Arts Program are held regularly at airports in Orlando, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Dallas-Fort Worth.

And while Boston Logan International Airport has an official photographer, airport spokesman Richard Walsh calls landside operations manager Rudy Chiarello “the airport’s official, unofficial photographer.” Chiarello has been a Massport employee for 35 years and has amassed thousands of photos, many of them of airplanes taken from out on the airfield. “I was one of those people who thought my pictures sucked,” said Chiarello, “But after 9/11, I wanted to promote aviation so I started uploading my pictures to airliners.net and got great responses. I never knew people would be so crazy about airline pictures.”

Then there’s Art Cozart, who has worked as a baggage handler for US Airways at Charlotte Douglas International Airport for the past 29 years. “About ten years ago I had coffee in the break room and drew a picture on the Styrofoam cup with a pen,” said Cozart, whose art training consists of a ‘filler’ class he took during his senior year of high school. Cozart kept doodling and now estimates he’s covered about 1000 Styrofoam cups with his artwork.

In October 2010, a selection of Cozart’s cups were displayed during the grand opening of Charlotte’s Mint Museum UPTOWN and now there’s a website featuring his creations. Mostly, though, Cozart says he just draws cups for friends and family and gives them away. “I’ve done animals, boats, airports, landscapes and people, including Marilyn Monroe, The Munsters, Dale Earnhardt, and Laurel and Hardy.” As for his choice of medium? Cozart explains, “I can draw on paper if I have to, but this helps keep cups out of the landfill.”

Smoking at airports. Good or bad?

If, like President Barack Obama, you haven’t quite kicked the smoking habit yet, you might be on the look-out for airports where you can grab a smoke indoors without having to trek out to the curb. Or perhaps you’d like to know where all the non-smoking airports are so that you can breathe free when you travel.

Either way – you may be interested in my “At the Airport” column: Where to smoke at U.S. airports that posted on USATODAY.com today.

Here’s a sneak peek:

cigarette-and-matchbox1

These days, you can shop, eat, drink, and get an internet connection at pretty much every U.S. airport. At many airports, you can also get a massage, a manicure, a haircut, a pint of micro-brewed beer or a glass of fine wine. But to the dismay of some, and the delight of others, there are fewer and fewer airports where you can smoke a cigarette without being forced to exit security and stand outside on the curb.

That’s as it should be, says Bronson Frick of the non-profit Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights group: “Smoke-free air is now the norm in most airports and people expect it.” But to frequent travelers like Rebecca Argenti, it’s a pain in the butt: “I respect non-smokers and I don’t think it’s right or fair for them to be subjected to my cigarette smoke. However, I do wish airports would designate an ‘outside’ smoking area, past security but near the departure gates, so that persons who wish to smoke don’t have to go all the way to the front of the terminal in order to go outside and smoke.”

Argenti would have appreciated the post-security outdoor patios that Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) used to have in two of its terminals. But an amendment to the anti-smoking laws in California a few years back forced the airport to close the patios and the enclosed smoking area at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. However, there are still more than a dozen U.S. airports that have post-security smoking spots. Argenti and others just need to sniff them out.

Airports with smoking lounges

The nation’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, has two smoking lounges on every concourse except Concourse E, where smoking is permitted in Sojourner’s Restaurant. Smoking is also permitted in the Budweiser Brewhouse on Concourse A and in the Georgia Juke Joint on Concourse D. As part of a recent $67 million airport renovation project, five of the six lounges have been upgraded with new ventilation systems, new seating, new windows and new flooring. Airport spokesperson Al Snedeker says the specially-ventilated lounges now even have doors.

At Washington Dulles International Airport, smoking is permitted in four smoking lounges beyond the main terminal, including two lounges in Concourse B, one in Concourse C and one in Concourse D. For hungry smokers, Max & Erma’s Restaurant, by Gate B72, delivers food to a few tables in the adjacent airport smoking lounge.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport maintains smoking lounges in Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and in Concourses A and B. The airport also allows smoking inside four restaurants that have specially-ventilated smoking areas: Max & Erma’s, Wolfgang Puck, Outback and Sam Adams. According to airport spokesperson Barb Schempf, the airport has received both positive and negative comments from travelers about the smoking lounges, but there are currently no plans to make a change. “We feel it’s a customer service amenity, especially for passengers coming in on international flights.”

There are five post-security smoking lounges at Salt Lake City International Airport and, over at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, seven smoking lounges that airport spokesperson Jeff Lea says are all well used. “We’re offering a place where smokers can smoke and are making sure their smoke does not impact those that choose not to.”

In Florida, the bustling Miami International Airport has one outdoor smoking enclosure, located post-security on Concourse D, while Tampa International Airport has a series of caged outdoor patios (“Observation Decks”) at Airsides A, C, E and F complete with benches, ashtrays and electric lighters. At Orlando Sanford International Airport, there are two smoking areas, both in the international departure area. One is open to all departing passengers, while the other is available only to travelers with access to the Royal Palm Lounge. No smoking is allowed inside Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport, but there is an enclosed, vented smoking room in front of the terminal.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport, no smoking is allowed anywhere inside the airport, but for some reason that doesn’t include the airline club rooms which, according to the airport website, “are considered non-public areas.” Similarly, Denver International Airport is technically a no-smoking airport, but there are four lounges were smoking is permitted with purchase: the Aviator’s Club (Jeppesen Terminal and Concourse B), Mesa Verde (Concourse A), and Smokin’ Bear (Concourse C).

“Prior to providing a place for smokers to go,” says Detroit Metropolitan Airport spokesperson Brian Lassaline, “our Public Safety Division was frequently responding to door alarms. Customers arriving on international flights connecting to domestic flights, many of whom cannot read English, would push the bars on emergency exit doors on the concourses, thinking they could go ‘outside’ for a smoke.” Lassaline says some desperate smokers would also light up in the family restrooms, but now that there are three airports bars where people can smoke, this is no longer a problem.

Memphis International Airport offers one post-security spot where passengers can smoke. For now. A law prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places in Tennessee went into effect October 1, 2007, but airport officials have been trying to get exemptions for two airport restaurants, the pre-security Maggie O’Shea’s and the post-security Blue Note Café. Maggie O’Shea’s went no-smoking on January 1, 2009, but Hugh Atkins, director of General Environmental Health for the Tennessee Department of Health says if the Blue Note Café doesn’t follow-suit, his agency will start levying daily fines.

No smoking: Good for health but bad for the bottom line

Until the passage of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act in November 2006, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas had smoking areas in many post-security bars and in a string of ventilated lounges outfitted with banks of slot machines. Now that the airport is entirely smoke-free, says Randall H. Walker, the Clark County Director of Aviation, “We’ve found that many travelers now try to sneak a smoke, often in companion care restrooms or other areas where smoking is off limits.” Walker says the smoking ban is also having a negative impact on the airport’s bottom line. The airport’s slot machine revenue, which can total more than $40 million a year, has decreased since the smoking ban took effect. Walker attributes that to the fact that “many smokers are now lingering outside prior to their flight rather than playing the slot machines in the former smoking lounges located near the gates.”

There are other problems caused when travelers to go outside to smoke. At Charleston International Airport (CHS), it’s dirt. Public affairs director Becky Beaman says “many smokers just don’t respect non-smokers’ rights. They will walk right up to the door and take that last drag. We provide ash cans and benches on the front curb in the smoking areas so that smokers can be comfortable, but many smokers just throw their butts down and stamp them out which creates a nasty, stinky mess!”

To smoke or not to smoke: you’ll need to do some homework

Smoking lounges exist at some other U.S. airports, including Gulfport Biloxi International Airport and Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International Airport, and there other airports where smoking may be permitted in airline club lounges or other “non-public places,” so if you want to smoke when you touch down, it’s a good idea to check the website of any airport you intend to visit. Better yet, call ahead. In researching this column, I discovered several officially smoke-free airports that had an unofficial smoking area on-site. And because city and state laws are constantly changing, don’t assume an airport that once allowed smoking will continue to do so. Also, while the list of 100% Smokefree U.S. airports put together by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights was recently updated, I could find no comprehensive online list of airports where smoking is allowed.

Then again, you could always follow the lead of Danny Tolentino, an operations coordinator from South Carolina. Tolentino has memorized the best spots to smoke at many of the country’s busiest airports and says that Atlanta is pretty good and “at DFW it’s pretty easy to run outside for a smoke. There are plenty of exits and entrances and it doesn’t take long to go through security.” Tolentino knows where to smoke, but no longer needs this information. “I am smoke-free (as of Jan. 1, 2009) so I won’t have to worry about it anymore (hopefully).”

Have I missed any places? Let me know.

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