Harriet Baskas

Travel Tidbits from PIT Airport

From art to bees, therapy dogs and the “refreshing” of some statues, Pittsburgh International Airport is keeping busy.

First up: a charming video to announce that the PIT Paws therapy dog team has joined others across the country hand out trading cards to fans.

PIT Airport also shared a video about the more than 700,000 bees that reside on property:

PIT airport said goodbye – temporarily – to the statues of George Washington and former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris.

And the airport made room for a new – and somewhat large – piece of art.

Socks with pockets & see-though luggage.

My story for CNBC this week highlights some of the cool gear and gadgets that will be on display later this week in Las Vegas at the annual industry-only Travel Goods Show.

Carry-on bags and checkable suitcases seem to make up the bulk of the products vendors bring to the show. But there are also oodles of travel accessories on display, and many of those are quite useful and clever.

Here are just a few of the items that caught my eye:

Luggage that weighs itself

If you shop for shoes, clothes or books or liquor when you travel, your suitcase will weigh a lot more on the way home. A new suitcase from GetSet Luggage has a built-in battery-powered scale that weighs the bag as you pack.

See-through luggage

This product is sort of puzzling: tranparent luggage.

At least three companies are planning to display their versions of transparent or translucent luggage at this year’s Travel Goods Show. Traveler’s Choice calls their version The Millennial, so maybe see-through luggage has a generation-specific appeal.

Socks with pockets

My household has a variety of clothing with hidden pockets. These snazzyPocket Socks are getting added to the collection. 

Gear for your Grab ‘n Go

We thought attachments for carry-on bags that let you tote coffee cups were pretty cool, but Hontus Milano Group is bringing out a carry-on bag with a built-in insulated pocket for keeping foods (or medication, cosmetics and other temperature-sensitive items) hot or cold.

There are more items in my full story on CNBC – but these are definitely my favorites. Which of these new travel products would you buy?

Singapore Airlines joins farm-to-flight trend

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Where is the food and produce you eat on a plane grown?

Starting in September, the answer for passengers on Singapore Airlines’ passengers leaving Newark for Singapore will be “indoors, nearby.”

Singapore Airlines is working with indoor vertical farming company AeroFarms, which has reclaimed an abandoned steel mill in an industrial area near Newark International Airport and transformed it into a 1-acre, indoor vertical farm.

The farm, which grows produce ‘aeroponically’ without soil, pesticides or sunlight, can produce the equivalent of 390 acres of locally grown produce with up to 30 harvests each year and will grow a customized blend of fresh produce for SIA’s Newark-to-Singapore flights starting in September 2019.

“Imagine boarding a plane and enjoying a salad harvested only a few hours before takeoff — literally the world’s freshest airline food,” said Antony McNeil, director of food and beverage for Singapore Airlines.  “The only way to get fresher greens inflight is to pick them from your own garden.”

Singapore Airlines shared examples of farm-to-flight dished business class and premium economy class passengers might be able to choose from on Newark to Singapore flights:  

Soy Poached Chicken:Pickled Ginger Vinaigrette, Zucchini Ribbons, with Sweet Potato Roesti, Soy Beans and AeroFarms Baby Pac Choi

The Garden Green: Poached Asparagus, Broccolini, Avocado with Shaved Fennel & Flaked Hot Smoked Salmon, with AeroFarms medley of Baby Ruby Streaks, Watercress and Arugula, with Lemon Vinaigrette

As I reported last year in a farm-to-flight feature for USA TODAY, Singapore Airlines’ joins several other airlines in being super creative and eco about the food served on its flights.

Korean Air has its own company farm.

Jedong Ranch sits on 3,700 acres of South Korea’s lush Jeju Island and has been operating since 1972, when it was purchased by the former chairman of the airline’s parent company, the Hanjin Group.

Back then, South Korea had a beef shortage, so breeding livestock was the first order of business. Early on, the herd was made up exclusively of imported Angus cattle. Today the ranch is home to more than 2,200 head of prized, grass-fed Korean native cattle known as Hanwoo.

The organic, antibiotic-free meat from these animals, and from the farm’s flock of approximately 6000 free-range chickens, is sent to Korean Air’s flight catering kitchens in Seoul for use in meals served to first and business-class passengers. Some of the meat and eggs from the farm are also available, at premium prices, for purchase locally.

In addition to raising cows and chickens, the ranch’s hydroponic greenhouse also produces more than 210 tons of fruit and vegetables, including red peppers, cherry tomatoes and blueberries for   first and business class in-flight meals.

JetBlue’s garden at JFK

In 2015 JetBlue created a 24,000 square-foot milk-crate garden outside Terminal 5 at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport. Designed to both create a welcoming green space and promote local agriculture, the garden generates more than 2,000 pounds of blue potatoes, kale, carrots, leeks, arugula, garlic, mint, basic and other herbs for local food banks. 

Japan Air Lines agritourism attraction

In 2010, Japan Air Lines is scheduled to open an agritourism attraction on land near Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. The ‘JAL Agriport’ will offer visitors a chance to pick strawberries, harvest sweet potatoes, picnic, or purchase fresh produce grown in the region. JAL says it also plans to use some agriport produce in lounge menus and in-flight meals.

And Emirates announced last year that it was joining with Crop One to build the world’s largest vertical farming facility near the airport in Dubai to help create a supply chain of “high quality and locally-sourced fresh vegetables, while significantly reducing our environmental footprint,”the airline said in a statement.  

A tasty trend for sure.

More cool planespotting options

BWI Airport once had an outdoor observation deck

My USA TODAY “At the Airport” column about airport observation decks didn’t have room to mention the viewing areas some airports provide near their terminals.

Here are just a few that were nominated for the story. Let me know about others you’d like to have added to the list.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) doesn’t have an outdoor observation area connected to its facilities. But CVG does have an observation area nearby with picnic tables, benches, information boards and a play area.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) has an observation park near the air traffic control tower. Amenities include an elevated observation platform, audio of communication between pilots and the tower, a picnic area, educational placards and a play area.


Courtesy of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority
DFW Founders plaza
DFW Founder’s Plaza

And Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has an observating viewing area known as Founder’s Plaza.

In addition to offering great view of aircraft taking off and landing, the plaza has picnic tables, telescopes, historic information, a commemorative monument and a radio that broadcasts air traffic control communications from the FAA tower.

Which observation viewing areas near airports would you like to add to this list? Bonus for a photo!

The comeback (maybe) of the airport observation deck

LaGuardia Airport’s former Observation Deck – courtesy Port Authority of NY and NY

My “At the Airport” column on USA TODAY this month looks at airport observation decks in the United States. Then and now.

The full story has more than 30 photos, so be sure to take a look over there, but here are some of my favorite photos shared by airports.

Observation Deck at Friendship International Airport – now Baltimore/Washington International Airport.
Observation Gallery at BWI Airport – now
Missoula International Airport. Courtesy Dan Neuman
Oklahoma’s City’s Will Rogers World Airport once had an Observation Tower
When the Central Terminal opened in 1954, the building included an Observation Deck – look for the railings on the upper level.
SFO’s brand new observation deck has plants, art and chaise lounges. Nice, right?

Where are your favorite airport observation decks?