Airport guides

Free digital magazine from Miami Int’l Airport

Here’s a nice free perk from Miami International Airport: a lovely e-magazine – in English and Spanish – that offers tips on dining, shipping and entertainment inside the airport and out in the community.

MIA magazine

You can view the digital magazine for free inside the airport on the airport Wi-Fi network (www.MIAConnex.com). or from anywhere else you have Wi-Fi access.

The inaugural issue has articles, with great photos, about the impressive art collection and exhibition program at MIA, the national parks and preserves in South Florida, shopping tips for both in and outside of the airport, and stories about local architecture, great places to visit and where to eat regional treats in and outside of the airport as well.

MIA CARYBE

Big things you won’t see at Heathrow’s new T2

There are plenty of fresh, new things you will see when Heathrow Airport opens its new Terminal 2 on June 4th, but you won’t see the giant passport and the behemoth gift bag pictured below.

passport

These two giant-sized props were used during some of user trials that have been taking place in the terminal during the past few weeks.

Gift bag

But although they seem like they’d be fun, photo-friendly objects for real passengers to encounter, during my recent pre-opening tour of the terminal a Heathrow staff member told me the props were about to be removed and discarded.

Too bad!

Stuck at the airport? Lucky you!

As the person who wrote a book about being Stuck at the Airport (it was published eight weeks before 9/11 and, as you might imagine, was not a big seller) and who now writes this Stuck at The Airport blog, it was a delight to be asked to round-up advice about the best airports for stranded travelers for this month’s At the Airport column on USA TODAY.

Feel free to add notes in the comment section below about which airports you’d be happily stranded in….

Traveler by Duane Hanson_at Orlando Intl

Traveler – by Duane Hanson, at Orlando International Airport

Earlier this month a tsunami of snowstorms and bitter cold air (the so-called “polar vortex”) forced the pre-emptive and day-of cancellation of tens of thousands of flights and hours-long delays for thousands of others.

That wacky weather also left plenty of passengers stuck at airports large and small.

No traveler (well, except me … ) enjoys spending more time in airport terminals than they have to, but weather, mechanical issues and other snafus are simply a fact of modern-day flying.

In some airports the wait can be more than pleasant than in others. So we asked frequent travelers to help us make a list of the best airports to be stranded in.

Dana Freeman of Burlington, Vt., said she never minds spending a few extra hours at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. “It has great local food, free Wi-Fi, clean spaces, and they got the architecture just right; the main space is voluminous and gets in plenty of light, making it feel really big for a medium-sized airport.”

With 23 concerts at various venues throughout the terminal each week, AUS also leads the list of airports that keep delayed travelers entertained with live performances that help time fly by.

Amanda Castleman is happy to wait out a delay at her hometown airport, Seattle-Tacoma International, “Thanks to the free Wi-Fi, good restaurants, Vino Volo, Butter London nail salon, the Massage Bar, etc.”

Here are some of the other airports – and airport amenities – that help travelers find the upside of being stranded.

Stress-busting amenities

Francine Cohen, a New York-based hospitality industry consultant, is keen on Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) for the rocking chairs, a stress-busting amenity found also at airports in Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Houston, Sacramento and other cities.

“They provide a great sense of calm when you’re stuck” said Cohen, “Not only because rocking is soothing,” but because the chairs offer a great perch for watching planes take off and land and people stream by.

CLT also got the nod from frequent travelers for the Terminal Getaway Spa, which will be opening three new branches at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and one at Orlando International Airport in the next few weeks.

The massages, manicures, pedicures and other services offered by XpresSpa, Massage Bar and other companies with multiple or one-off airport locations also factor into which airport many travelers are willing to wait out a delay. But whenever Stephanie Caro of Houston has extra hours to spend at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, she heads straight for Minute Suites on Concourse B. The small rooms for napping or working rent by the hour and are also available at Philadelphia International and DFW airports.

Yoga rooms also scored high on the list of amenities that helped make airport delays bearable and these are currently available at DFW Airport, Chicago O’Hare, Vermont’s Burlington International Airport and at San Francisco International, which is opening its second space devoted to yoga on Jan. 28, in United Airlines’ renovated Boarding Area E.

Kid-friendly spaces

Sally Farhat Kassab loves “the huge selection of shops and the interesting people from around the world that I meet every time” she’s at London’s Heathrow Airport and appreciates the “Stay & Play” areas staffed by “play coordinators” who host craft activities and storytelling sessions and help parents keep an eye on their kids.

I haven’t found any U.S. airports with play attendants on duty, but the kids’ activity centers offered by airports in cities such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Las Vegas got raves from parents who have needed to entertain children during a delay. The new beach-themed play area in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport is gathering fans as well.

Best for eating and drinking

When you’re dashing between flights, a grab-n-go sandwich will often do. But when you’re hanging around an airport for hours, there’s time to focus on where to dine.

USA TODAY readers weighed in via a USA TODAY/10Best.com poll that gave high marks to Vino Volo (with branches in more than 20 airports), the Salt Lick Bar-B-Que at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the healthy seasonal Southern California comfort food at Lemonade in LAX and all things crab at Obrycki’s at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

One Flew South, serving “Southernational” cuisine (and great sushi) is a perennial favorite at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, but flight attendant Heather Poole said she’s always happy to wait out a delay at Miami International Airport because then she can visit her favorite restaurant there, La Carreta, for Cuban food. “I’d skip any first-class meal for that,” she said.

The “best” airport food and beverage outlets have also been sliced and diced by everyone from the Moodie Report to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, The Daily Meal, and GQ.

Art, culture and history

Passengers can kill time during a delay reading books, watching movies or catching up on e-mail, of course, but those willing to venture from their gates will be rewarded with intriguing art and/or history exhibits at many airports. Miami, San Diego, Phoenix, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Seattle, and New York’s Albany International Airport are among the airports with great art programs or in-house museums, as are the airports that made it onto this USA TODAY/10Best.com best U.S. airports for art list.

Escape planning

When a delay stretches from minutes to hours, a canceled flight can’t be far behind. That’s when an airport that can be easily escaped from has its charms.

Miami International, Chicago O’Hare, DFW, Orlando, Tampa, Detroit and Houston’s George Bush International are among the airports with hotels connected to the terminals, making that fresh start in the morning a bit easier to imagine. And Seattle, Portland, Ore., Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are among the cities offering easy and inexpensive public transit to and from town.

Did I miss your favorite? If you “had” to get stranded at an airport, which would you choose, and why? Feel free to add your comments below.

We’ve already heard from Andrew Smith – the Chief Funster for New South Wales (and winner of the NSW Best Job in the World promotion).  He’s fine with hanging out for hours at the Sydney Airport because there are pubs serving Aussie beer, a Lonely Planet concept store and a mini-museum of uniforms, navigational equipment and other memorabilia from Qantas.

Greetings from: Abuja Airport, Nigeria

My office neighbor, Anna Williams, director of the public policy consulting firm, Perspectio, just got back from a business trip to Nigeria and was kind enough to snap some photos of the Abuja Airport- Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport – on her way.

Nigeria plants

“There honestly was not a lot to take photos of,” she said, “The were two of areas with these fake plants that were spaces with unclear purposes. Are you supposed to stand in the middle and take your photo?”

Secrets of Sea-Tac International Airport

SEA RAINIER

Seattle Met recently put together an Insider’s Guide to one-flight vacations from Seattle. All those adventures begin (and end) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), and I was honored to be asked to put together a list of Sea-Tac Airport secrets.

Here they are:

1. Hidden Art
Sea-Tac’s museum-worthy contemporary art collection includes works by Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella, not to mention regional hotshots like Trimpin, whose multimedia kinetic sculpture On Monkeys, Matter and the King is on Concourse A. There’s art everywhere, including the baggage claim area and in some restrooms—download a tour map here .

2. Tune In & Turn Off
Wi-Fi is free throughout the airport and the Quiet Zone (Concourse B, Gate 4) has powered seats, but no TV noises or overhead announcements. There are (usually) more than a dozen rocking chairs by the giant window in the Central Terminal and a meditation room on the mezzanine level above Checkpoint 3.

3. Food Forever
Anthony’s Restaurant (Central Terminal) is the highest grossing sit-down restaurant at any U.S. airport. All airport food venues, including Ivar’s Seafood Bar, are open for breakfast.

4. Shopping Sells
While Sleepless in Seattle sleepwear is still a top seller at Sea-Tac, sexy is gaining: in 2012 more than 20,000 copies of the erotic page-turner 50 Shades of Grey—also set in our fair gray city—were sold at Sea-Tac. And because of the airport’s “street pricing” policy, all food and retail prices match those at the same vendors in town.

5. Lost is Found
Last year the Sea-Tac Lost and Found department logged 30,000 items, including 1,105 laptops and 1,220 cellphones—and 40 percent of them were returned to owners. After 30 days, unclaimed items are donated to charity, so if you lose something, hightail it to the mezzanine level of the Main Terminal or file a lost item report immediately.

6. Burn Before Boarding
Work out while you wait: It’s a half-mile from the Central Terminal to the end of Concourse A. Walk the full length of Concourses A, B, C, and D and you’ll have traveled over two miles.

7. Kids Play Free
There’s an aviation-themed play area at the Concourse B entrance; nearby, kids can search for bronze fish in the terrazzo “stream” that meanders along the Concourse B floor. Talking fountains (well, they play a recorded gurgle) are in Concourses B, C, and D.

8. Fly with Fido
Dogs find relief at either end of the Main Terminal; the south pet area is outside and park-like, with a yellow painted steel sculpture by Robert Maki at its center. There’s also an indoor pet area with artificial grass and a red fire hydrant post-security, near the Concourse C entrance.

9. No Sleep Till Takeoff
Most restaurant concessions open by 5 am, but 24-hour options include the pre-security Starbucks in the Main Terminal, the post-security Starbucks kiosk in the Central Terminal, Alki Bakery in baggage claim and, in the Central Terminal, Qdoba and Dilettante Chocolate.

10. Local Beats
That’s Macklemore, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and other local musicians voicing the safety and public service messages on the airport’s overhead announcements. Regional music is also played overhead and on screens throughout Sea-Tac; tune into the airport’s recently upgraded multichannel web player via the Wi-Fi landing page or here. A live music program is rumored to roll out later in March.

11. Fix Everything
If something’s wrong, Ken’s Baggage and Frozen Food Storage (in baggage claim, between carousels 12 and 13) can likely help. The bouquet of services includes stroller and infant car-seat rentals, a notary, copy services, packaging material and pet kennel sales, and tool rentals to jump a car battery or open a locked car door.