Airport guides

SAN: 5 Things We Love About San Diego International Airport

SAN: Five Things WE Love about San Diego International Airport

Our “5 Things We Love About…” series celebrates features and amenities at airports around the country and the world.

Today we land at San Diego International Airport (SAN), North America’s second-ever carbon neutral airport.

We know that due to health concerns, some amenities we love may not currently be available. We’re confident they’ll be back.

5 Things We Love About San Diego International Airport (SAN)

1. The art at San Diego International Airport

San Diego International Airport has a robust art program with great permanent public art pieces and temporary exhibitions.

Above are some snaps of The Journey by Jim Campbell. The light ribbon is both the Airport Authority’s largest commission and largest scale artwork and is made up of 38,000 suspended LED pendants spanning six feet wide by 700 feet long. Located in Terminal 2, the artwork has images of people swimming, dancing and walking, and birds in flight, fluttering throughout the sculpture.

2. SAN is home to the California Least Tern

The San Diego International Airport is home to the California Least Tern (Sterna antillarum browni, “CLT”), a federally listed endangered seabird species. The airport provides the tern with a nesting habitat and easy access to foraging opportunities in nearby San Diego Bay.

3. SAN has its own beer

San Diego International Airport (SAN) partnered with local brewery Ballast Point and industrial water purification company, Water Works, Inc., to brew a beer – called SAN Test Pilot.

The water for SAN Test Pilot comes from condensate that drips from the bottom of air conditioning units attached to jet bridges. The Airport’s Environmental Affairs team began collecting the dripping condensate in 2014 and currently captures about 100,000 gallons per year from 18 of the most heavily used jet bridges at terminals 1 and 2.

In addition to making beer, the water is used to wash sidewalks, equipment, vehicles and building exteriors and in the cooling towers that control the temperature in the terminals.

4. SAN’s artist in residence program

In addition to a performing arts program, San Diego International Airport has a performing arts residency program that gives area groups space to develop new work and the opportunity to perform.

The program kicked off in 2016 with the Fern Street Circus and since then has hosted a wide variety of performance groups, including an aerial dance theater.

5. SAN’s Innovation Lab

SAN’s Airport Innovation Lab is a 16-week accelerator program that helps entrepreneurs, start-ups, and other businesses get a healthy foothold in the airport industry.

The program provides testing for the ideas and a one-year technology-intensive collaborative program. 

Past Innovation Lab start-ups you may recognize include Fuel Rod and At Your Gate.

 Did we miss your favorite amenity at San Diego International Airport (SAN)? If so, drop a note in the comments section below.

And please take a look at the other airports featured in the ‘5 Things We Love About..” series. Let us know which airports you’d like to see added.

Not a joke: Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport (BER) ready to open.

After 9 years of delays and false starts, Germany’s third-largest airport, Berlin Brandenburg “Willy Brandt” Airport (BER) is scheduled to open on October 31, 2020.

We won’t be able to be there for the opening, but we’re looking forward to a visit once this COVID-19 business is resolved.

In the meantime, here’s a recap of our 2014 visit to the airport site, when we joined a bus tour of the unopened airport.

Our report first appeared on USA TODAY.

Berlin  Brandenburg Airport is late for an important date

The highlight of my late June visit to the unopened and much-delayed Berlin Brandenburg  Willy Brandt Airport was racing down a runway as a passenger in a tour bus going more than 60 miles per hour.

It was also one of the saddest parts of the tour.

That’s because due to technical glitches, cost overruns, corruption and project mismanagement, tour buses – not airplanes – are likely the only vehicles that will be barreling down the BER runways for quite some time.

Under construction since 2006, Berlin’s much-needed new airport was designed to serve 27 million passengers, with an initial opening target date of November 2011.

That date was pushed back to June 3, 2012, and, despite trial runs during which the airport authority did tests of the baggage carousels, check-in desks, and security checkpoints, and simulated what it termed “all imaginable scenarios,” a problem with the airport’s fire safety and suppression system was discovered.

With just four weeks’ notice, opening day was called off.

Since then multiple target dates for a new opening day – six or seven, it’s hard to keep count – have come and gone. Now all the company managing the project will say is that “an opening date is expected to be announced at the end of the year.”

2016 has been bandied about as the next possible opening date, but additional problems and embarrassing operational revelations keep cropping up.  

In May, there was an announcement of a suspected corruption case involving bribes for the awarding of contracts. In early June, there was out-of court settlement between the airport management company and airberlin, the major tenant at Berlin’s outdated Tegel Airport, over claims the airline felt it was due because of delays in the switchover.

And at the end of June, it was revealed that the engineer responsible for designing the new airport’s fire safety system was in fact just a draftsman, not a real engineer, and had been fired.

Besides showing off any progress, one reason the airport authority offers BER tours “is because it’s important that people don’t only read about the airport in the newspaper and see the reports on TV,” said an airport spokesman.

Tour buses stop first at a 105-foot-tall observation tower offering a bird’s eye view of the unopened airport terminal, the unused runways, empty parking lots, and assorted other facilities-in-waiting.

At the bottom of the tower is an airport information center, with a scale model of the airport and a glass cabinet of souvenirs emblazoned with the BER logo.

The staff on duty the day I visited said they don’t sell many of these souvenirs to tourists. And they seemed amused when I asked about purchasing some BER t-shirts, baseball caps, tote bags, inflatable plastic beach balls, and small, plastic lunch boxes.  

Our tour bus then drove slowly past the very quiet office, cargo, and airport security facilities and by the railway station, where empty trains run each day to make sure systems remain working.

Photo ops of the front of the main terminal building were only offered from inside the bus, but the terminal’s glass façade offered a glimpse of “The Magic Carpet,” by Pae White. The large, red, work of art, one of several pieces specially-commissioned for the airport, hovers over the check-in lobby.

Out back, the bus pulled up at BER’s one A380-compatible gate, which has a jet bridge draped with Olaf Nicolai’s “Gadget,” a piece of art that looks like a string of giant pop beads and is designed to change colors to match those of the livery of the airplane at the gate.

Tour-goers were allowed off the bus here and invited up a set of not-quite-finished stairs for a look at a gate area where seats were installed, but still wrapped in plastic, and ceiling panels gaped open.

“It’s not unusual for big projects like this to be over budget,” said Johann Bammann, a retired architect whose tour ticket was a gift from a friend. But delays are dragging on too long, he said, “it’s time for the city to have a new front door.”

After a stop near the control tower, the bus made that dash down the runway, stopping to let passengers out to run around and pose for photos.

“It’s just unbelievable. I can’t understand why it’s taking such a long time to open this airport,” said Barbel Liedtke, a former Berlin-based Pan Am Airlines employee taking the tour with a friend. “But I’m sure there are a lot of people to blame.”

SDF: 5 Things We Love About Louisville Muhammad Ali Int’l Airport

Our “5 Things We Love About...” series celebrates services and amenities at airports around the country and the world.

Today we land at Kentucky’s Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF).

Keep in mind that some of the features we love may be unavailable due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.

If we miss something you love about SDF Airport, or if you have an airport you’d like to be featured, please drop a note in the comments section below.

5 Things We Love About Louisville Muhammad International Airport (SDF)

1. The airport’s name honors Muhammad Ali

Louisville International Airport became Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) in 2019 to honor boxing legend and Louisville native Muhammad Ali.

Ali was born on January 17, 1942, and died on June 3, 2016. The Muhammad Ali Center, on Louisville’s Museum Row, explores his life.

2. The rocking chairs at SDF

Kentucky is bourbon country and we love that rocking chairs at SDF are made from bourbon barrel staves by local Wood Artisan Jason Cohen.

 

3. The Virtual Information Booth at SDF

SDF has a Virtual Information Booth staffed by volunteers from the Airport Ambassador Program who answer questions from a remote spot in the airport. A perfect social distance solution to customer service and safety.

4. Bourbon and Baseball Bats

Louisville is home to the Urban Bourbon Trail and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.

So it’s good to know that travelers can purchase both bourbon and Louisville Slugger bats in the airport shops.

5. The SDF Wags Team

The SDF Wags program at Louisville Mohammad International Airport kicked off in 2019.

Certified pet therapy animals and their handlers visit the airport terminal two to three times a week to help make the travel experience less stressful.

6. Bonus: the SDF Mascot

We love airport mascots, plain and simple, and the mascot at SDF – named Skye- is one of our favorites.

MKE: 5 Things We Love About Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport

The “5 Things We Love About...” series on StuckatTheAirport.com celebrates features and amenities at airports around the country and the world.

And today we land at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE).

If we miss one of your favorite amenities at MKE, be sure to leave a note in the comments section below. And if you want to nominate an airport to be featured in the ‘5 Things We Love About…” series, drop a note in that section as well.

5 Things We Love About Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE)

1. MKE’s Recombobulation Area

The “Recombobulation Area” just past the MKE security checkpoints is a place where passengers can put their coast and shoes back on and get their belongings in order after passing through TSA.

Evidently, the Recombobulation Area has become more than just a thoughtful airport amenity.

“Recombobulation” has become a part of every Wisconsinite’s dictionary, MKE officials tell us. And it was the answer to a question on the popular game show Jeopardy!.

2. Baron’s Beer Garden at MKE

Milwaukee is well-known for its great beers and a brewing history dating back to 1840.

So it makes sense, doesn’t it, that MKE is home to what may be the first beer garden in a U.S. airport.

Located on Concourse C, Baron’s Beer Garden takes inspiration from traditional German beer gardens and the repurposed fire trucks that the Milwaukee County Parks uses for its Traveling Beer Garden program.

In addition to a nice variety of local beers on tap, the beer garden has a full menu and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

3. MKE’s Moss Wall

Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport makes selfies simple with the MKE Moss Wall.

The wall is real and made up of fern, pillow, and mood moss that has been treated with a safe, non-toxic preservation liquid. So snap away.

4. MKE’s Coat Check service

This is an airport amenity we love and wish was offered at more airports.

MKE is the only major airport in the U.S. to offer a coat check service during the winter. Smart, right? Even smarter: the reasonable rates. Last winter it cost $2/ day to check a coat, with a maximum charge of $10.

The coat check is located inside the Summerfest Marketplace retail shop, which is a tribute to the Summerfest festival, an event billed as the World’s Largest Music Festival.

In addition to Summerfest merchandise and House of Harley-Davidson products, the shop sells goods made by local vendors and many Wisconsin-centric souvenirs.

5. The only used bookstore in an airport

Located in the main terminal area at MKE, Renaissance Books is the only used bookstore we know of in an airport.

(Powell’s Books recently announced the permanent closure of their shop and kiosk at Portland International Airport that offered new and used books.)

And, as you can see from the photo above, Renaissance Books at MKE isn’t a kiosk or a small shop. This is a full-fledged bookstore with dozens of categories and thousands of used and rare books to choose from.

We wouldn’t be surprised if some people missed their flights while poking around this shop.

Bonus: Gallery of Flight

The Mitchell Gallery of Flight is a must-see aviation museum that recently reopened on the south side of the MKE terminal, next to the USO.

You can visit the museum 24-hours a day at the airport and on this virtual tour.

Did we miss one of your favorite spots at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE)? Drop us a note in the comments section below and let us know which airport we should visit next.

Airports in Phoenix, Dallas & Indianapolis at top of J.D. Power list

Airline passenger numbers are way down. Many airports still feeling sort of empty, with many shops and restaurants closed or operating on reduced schedules. And buying a plane ticket right now comes with a lot of “what ifs” and few perks.

So, it is an interesting time to a look at the findings of J.D. Power’s 2020 North American Airport Satisfaction Study.

First, the “winners”

The survey put airports up against each other in three categories: “mega” airports with 33 million or more passengers per year; large airports with 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year; and medium airports with 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers per year.

The airports are scored on a 1,000 point scale that takes into account passenger satisfaction with factors that include terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail, in order of importance.

Mega airports: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport ranks highest with a score of 805. Miami International Airport (801) ranks second and McCarran International Airport (797) ranks third.

Large airports: Dallas Love Field ranks highest with a score of 844. John Wayne Airport, Orange County (837) and Tampa International Airport (837) rank second, in a tie.

Medium airports: Indianapolis International Airport ranks highest with a score of 866. Palm Beach International Airport (833) ranks second and Southwest Florida International Airport (829) ranks third.

What influences this year’s rankings?

As with everything else right now, the coronavirus pandemic has put a twist into this year’s airport satisfaction rankings.  

The overall customer satisfaction score for North American airports is up this year, to a record-high 784, which is 22 points up from 2019.

Good news, right? Sort of.

“Compared to the pre-COVID-19 environment when most airports were running significantly over capacity, the lack of crowds and long lines is actually creating a convenient experience for travelers right now,” says Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, in the study notes.

 “Obviously, this lower passenger volume is not sustainable for most airports. Airport managers are doing all they can to provide a safe and clean environment to facilitate a rebound in travel,” he adds.

Here are top five airports in each category. You can see the full rankings here.

Mega Airports

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (805)
  2. Miami International Airport (801)
  3. McCarran International Airport (797)
  4. Denver International Airport (793)
  5. John F. Kennedy International Airport (793)

Large Airports

  1. Dallas Love Field (844)
  2. John Wayne Airport, Orange County (837)
  3. Tampa International Airport (837)
  4. William P. Hobby Airport (823)
  5. Portland International Airport (814)

Medium Airports

  1. Indianapolis International Airport (866)
  2. Palm Beach International Airport (833)
  3. Southwest Florida International Airport (829)
  4. Albuquerque International Sunport (826)
  5. Pittsburgh International Airport (826)

What about the airports at the bottom of each list?

In the mega category, Newark Liberty International Airport was at the bottom of the list, with a score of 733, just below Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which had a score of 758.

Among large airports, New York’s LaGuardia Airport (in the middle of a much-heralded make-over) ranked lowest, with a score of 712.

And for medium airports, Hawaii’s Kahului Airport was at the bottom of the list, with a 745 score.