smoking lounges

Salt Lake City Airport to close smoking lounges

Lucky Stirke smoking

After years of insisting that the smoking lounges inside its terminals were an important service amenity for travelers, Salt Lake City International Airport has reversed position and announced that it will phase out the available use of the five lounges currently at the airport in a six-month plan beginning on July 5.

First to go will be the smoking room in Concourse D, with the final smoking lounge scheduled to close on December 19.

SLC has a $1.8 billion Terminal Redevelopment Program underway and it was also announced that there are no smoking lounges in the new plans.

“This is first and foremost an issue of public health, both for travelers and our airport employees, but it is also an issue of space concerns,” said Mayor Biskupski, on the closure plan. “The current airport terminal is also beyond capacity, and every foot of available space should be used to the best advantage of the traveling public.”

Closing the smoking rooms might not only help Utah reduce health care costs and lost productivity related to smoking, it will also free up more than 1,200 square feet in the concourses for other purposes, such as retail space, charging stations for electronics and extra passenger seating, the mayor’s announcement noted.

Here’s the schedule for closing the lounges:

*Concourse D (470 square feet): July 5
*Concourse A (308 square feet): Week of August 15
*Concourse B (396 square feet): Week of September 26
*Concourse E (357 square feet): Week of November 7
*Concourse C (598 square feet): Week of December 19

McCarran International in Las Vegas, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Denver International and just a few others are now the only major U.S airports with smoking lounges in the terminals.

Coming soon – if you’re lucky – to an airport near you

My At the Airport column for USAToday.com this month, Coming soon – if you’re lucky – to an airport near you, features some of the new amenities I saw on exhibit in Philadelphia at the recent conference of Airports Council International – North America, or ACI-NA.

Airport chairs

During the conference, workshops were offered on everything from saving energy to dealing with security threats and how to get more passengers to “follow” airports on Twitter.  But the real fun was on the exhibition hall floor. There, vendors displayed everything from the latest in airport seating (cup holders and USB plugs, thankfully, seem to be the next big thing) to new, high-tech machinery for shooing wildlife off runways.  But here are the amenities I found most intriguing.

Napping nooks

Last year, Minute Suites debuted “sleep rooms” at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Concourse B, next to Gate B15).  Each room has a day bed, work desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, a 32” HDTV, and sound masking system tools. The company is opening another branch at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) in March 2011, and is in talks with at least three other airports for more.

Minute Suites

Minute Suites airport sleep room

Unique Retreat, another company making napping nooks, should be opening its first branch at San Francisco International Airport before the end of the year in the International Terminal, Boarding Area A.

Cigar lounges

Bahamas-based Graycliff cigars opened boutiques with specially-ventilated cigar lounges attached at Nassau International Airport last November and at Nashville International Airport in March.

Graycliff cigar lounge at Nashville Airport

Each lounge has an admission fee ($10 in Nassau; $4 in Nashville) and Graycliff reps say they’re exploring setting up this type of smoking lounge at other airports as well.

Eat, buy, play

The Food Network is bidding on several airport locations for themed restaurants that will be called Food Network Kitchens.  And ZoomSystems, which makes those oversized airport vending machines (officially: “automated shops”) to sell products from Best Buy, The Body Shop, Sephora and other retailers will soon be installing airport ZoomShops to dispense apparel associated with a major sport.

Skip the cellphone lot; park at the plaza

“Cell phone lots on steroids” is how the folks at Airport Plazas are marketing the service centers they’re planning to build  on airport properties but separate from the terminals. Patterned after highway plazas offering fuel and food, these 24-hour service centers might have amenities ranging from a gas station, a food court, a car wash and a convenience store to free Wi-Fi, a pet hotel, a pharmacy and a bank.

The company opened its first airport plaza recently at Newark Liberty International Airport. There, amenities include an environmentally-friendly gas station, a dual-bay car wash, a service station bay and a 7-Eleven convenience store.

Future airport plazas are planned for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers) and Utah’s, St. George Municipal Airport.

Sound promising?  What should they work on next?