Airports

Skip the shuttle: choose a cool airport hotel

I’ve got a story this week in the CNBC Road Warrior section all about  airport hotels and some of the newest ones on the horizon. 

Here are the highlights of that story.

Skip the shuttle: At-the-airport hotels take flight

With the official ribbon-cutting this week for a new four-star hotel at Minneapolis-St. Paul International, travelers now have one more major domestic airport where it is possible to skip the hotel shuttle and go directly from a hectic day of flying to a comfortable night’s sleep in a fluffy bed.

The 12-story, 300 room InterContinental Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Hotel is connected to Terminal 1 via a sky bridge and has a spa, conference center and its own security checkpoint, offering quick access to the gates for those flying with just hand baggage.

MSP’s hotel is a public-private partnership (with Graves Hospitality) and is just the latest example of airports recognizing that in addition to offering convenience, having an on-site hotel is a revenue generator that can give an airport a competitive edge.

In 2015, Denver International Airport opened the doors to the 519-room Westin Denver International Airport hotel and conference center on the plaza adjacent to the Jeppesen Terminal. In addition to on-site dining and an indoor pool and fitness area, the hotel has an extensive art collection and commuter rail access to the city.

Courtesy Denver Westin International Airport

At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport there are two hotels directly accessible from the terminals: a Hyatt Regency DFW at Terminal C and a Grand Hyatt DFW inside Terminal D with an outdoor rooftop pool overlooking the runways, multi-dining options and a Terminal Re-Entry program that gives guests access to the amenities inside the terminals.’

The Wayne County Airport Authority recently partnered with Starwood Hotels and Resorts to give the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport Hotel attached to the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport a $15 million makeover.

The hotel has conference rooms, day rates and a fitness enter with a pool offering runway views (day passes $15), and a TSA security checkpoint adjacent to the lobby. Hotel staff can also arrange gate-passes into the terminal for guests.

Miami’s airport has had an in-terminal hotel since 1959. The Miami International Airport Hotel now sits pre-security in Concourse E and offers day rates as well the first airport Air Margaritaville restaurant (on the lobby level) and, on the top floor, the country’s first Viena Brazilian restaurant.

At Orlando International Airport, the 25 year-old in-airport Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport is owned by the airport authority and operated by Hyatt,

“The hotel serves as an extension of the airport’s goal to provide the best ‘Orlando Experience’ possible and is a wonderful amenity for all airport customers,” said airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell, “It is also a significant driver of the airport’s annual revenues.”

Among a variety of perks offered guests staying in the Orlando airport hotel is luggage delivery service. “Just get off the plane, come to the front desk, provide your bag claim ticket and our bellmen will deliver the bags directly to your room,” said Fennell.

Elsewhere in the U.S., travelers will find hotels inside or connected to several other airports, including Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (a Marriott), Boston Logan International Airport (a Hilton), Philadelphia International Airport (a Marriott), Hartford’s Bradley International Airport (a Sheraton) and Chicago O’Hare, which offers day $20 passes (with discounts for Hilton Honors members) to the indoor pool and extensive fitness center.

Airport hotels of future

In the next few years, travelers will be able to check into on-site hotels at more airports.

A Grand Hyatt with 351 rooms, 15,000 square feet of meeting space and direct access to the AirTrain light rail system is scheduled to open in summer 2019 at San Francisco International Airport.

An InterContinental hotel is set to open at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2020.

And the Chicago Department of Aviation hopes to both build a new hotel next to Terminal 5 and renovate and modernize the current O’Hare Hilton by 2023.

In the meantime, work is progressing on the much-anticipated TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

When it opens in early 2019, Eero Saarinen’s iconic 1962 TWA Flight Center will be transformed into a swank 505-room retro-modern hotel with 50,000 square-feet of art, meeting and event space; a 200,000 square-foot lobby that may lay claim to the title of the largest hotel lobby in the world; and a rooftop observation deck with a pool and an aviation museum.

Have you stayed at an in-airport hotel- or choose these over near-the-airport hotels? Please share your comments and suggestions in the comment section below.

Freebies + cool offers to take advantage of now

Like the free ice water that made South Dakota’s Wall Drug famous, free stuff is a great treat when you’re on the road or out and about in your own town.

Here are few free offers and cool deals to take advantage of this weekend and into next week:

Free Museum Admission

On the first full weekend of each month, anyone who has flashes a Bank of America, Merrill Lynch or U.S. Trust credit or debit card and a photo ID gets free admission to more than 200 museums, science centers, gardens and other attractions participating in the Museums on Us program around the country.

Free food 

PotBelly Sandwich Shop is offering a bunch of free food items to members of its free-to-join Potbelly Perks program August 6-12.

Air fare deal

Need to bring a few suitcases of cash to the Cayman Islands? Or just want a great deal on a flight to this vacation destination?

From August 3 to 11, Cayman Airways is celebrating its 50th anniversary with some great discounted fares, plus extra perks such as 3 checked bags and lounge access, for flight from Miami, Tampa and New York booked for travel September 7 through November 7.

Fun hotel package for Pearl Jam fans

Not free – but fun: In Seattle,  The Edgewater over-the-water hotel has put together a package with the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). The Rock the Suite package includes tickets to the museum’s Pearl Jam: Home and Away exhibition, overnight accommodations at the hotel’s Pearl Jam Suite, and signature Pearl Jam cocktails in the  Six Seven Restaurant & Lounge.

Pearl Jam fans should also note that there’s a free Pearl Jam exhibit put together by the Museum of Pop Culture in the-presecurity area of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Know of a great freebie for travelers? Please send it along.

Celebrate International Beer Day – at the airport

You don’t need a holiday to have a reason to order a beer the airport.

Heading out on a trip is usually reason enough.

But International Beer Day – celebrated each year on the first Friday in August – is underway today, so this would be a great day to check out the beers on tap in airport brewpubs across the United States.

There are  way too many to list,  but a few places to check out include Leinenkugel’s Leinie Pub at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport, which has self-service taps. Cask & Larder at Orlando International Airport, Flying Dog Tap House at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Goose Island Bar at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Stone Arch at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and some of the others I list in this column about the history of airport brewpubs I wrote a while back for my ‘At the Airport’ column on USA Today.

There are oodles of others – so please add your faves in the comments section below and I’ll start making a list.

Infographic: Where is America's Craft Beer Capital | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

More stories of wildlife at airports

More stories of wildlife at airports

Courtesy Port of Portland

I’ve been getting more stories about wildlife ‘incidents’ at airports since my “At the Airport” column – “From worms to whales, the wildlife that worries airports,” appeared online and in print at USA TODAY and will share some of them in future posts.

In the meantime – in case you missed it, here’s a slightly edited version of that column that was inspired by the report of a large alligator caught on tape sauntering across a taxiway between two ponds at Orlando International Airport.

Whle the gator’s journey alarmed passengers and slightly delayed a Spirit Airlines flight on its way to the gate, at MCO airport wildlife visitors are not rare.

“For that reason,” said MCO’s Carolyn Fennell, “We have a biologist and wildlife unit on staff to help with planning new facilities, monitoring and relocating, when needed, various ‘critters’ on our property.”

All airports must manage resident and visiting wildlife because  birds (mostly), as well as deer, alligators, coyote, moose and even an excess of worms on the runway after a rain (a feast for birds) can create safety hazards that lead to costly and, in some same cases, deadly collisions between aircraft and animals.

A report from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that in 2015 alone wildlife strikes would ding the US civil aviation industry about $229 million in direct costs and require more than 69,000 hours of aircraft downtime. But despite lingering memories of the 2009 bird strike near New York’s LaGuardia Airport that led to the “Miracle on the Hudson,” Cody Baciuska of Loomacres Wildlife Management says “Passengers should not be concerned about experiencing a strike the next time they fly.”

His confidence comes from the fact that airports are aggressive about managing and monitoring wildlife and constantly network with each other about best practices for deploying a wide variety of tools that include everything from visual and auditory deterrents, fencing, netting and spikes to lasers and all manner of pyrotechnics

In 1999, Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers was the first airport to add a Border collie to it wildlife management team to help shoo away birds that might otherwise nest and roost on airport property. (The current dog is named Echo; previous ones were Jet, Radar, Sky and Aero.)

In 2007, Seattle-Tacoma International was the world’s first airport to install an avian radar system to monitor potentially hazardous bird activity near the airport.

Elsewhere, airports team up with airlines, environmental groups, community volunteers and others to humanely trap, relocate and resettle raptors such as hawks, ospreys and owls.

On the east coast United Airlines, Audubon International and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey work together to trap American kestrels (a climate-threatened small falcon) at Newark Liberty International Airport and send them to new homes on area golf courses with more welcoming habitats.

Each year Seattle-Tacoma International Airport carefully collects and relocates fuzzy baby chicks from the nests of resident red-tailed hawks.

“We actually climb the trees and take the chicks out of the nest and take them up north where we raise them to imprint on a different location,” said Mikki Viehoever, the wildlife biologist for the Port of Seattle.

Portland International Airport, located on the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers and along a Pacific migratory flight path for birds, has a very active raptor translocation program.

“Trapped raptors are taken to suitable release sites in Oregon & Washington by car or plane,” said Nick Atwell, wildlife manager for the Port of Portland. “We’ve partnered with Alaska Airlines for transport to northern Washington with the intent of increasing the distance from PDX.”

Atwell and his team tag and band each bird they relocate and keep an online database of sightings. “We want to track the success or failure of the program,” said Atwell. “And find out if a bird comes back to the airport and inform other airports what might be the best distance for translocating animals.”

Still, wildlife happens.

Some airports keep special vacuums in their tool sheds or a beekeeper on speed-dial to remove bees that sometimes swarm on airplane wings.

In January 2017, a 15-foot dead whale washed up near the end of a runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. “We worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to remove it,” said Laura Francoeur, chief wildlife biologist for the Port authority of New York and New Jersey, “Because you don’t want to leave a dead whale there to attract scavengers.”

Each year during nesting season for Diamondback terrapins, Fancoeur and her team also monitor the turtles migrating between a nearby wildlife refuge and the shores of Jamaica Bay. In past years, hundreds of turtles marched – slowly – across a runway, causing planes to be delayed. Now plastic barriers keep most of the turtles out of harm’s way, while staff swoop in to gather up and relocate any terrapins that insist on taking the shortcut.

Photo_Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

In addition to capturing and relocating alligators – some more than 9 feet long – at some southern airports, wildlife biologists and wildlife technicians from the USDA’s Wildlife Services unit help keep a zoo’s worth of wildlife away from taxiways and runways. Their ‘highlight’ list includes Nile Monitor Lizards, pythons, porcupines (whose quills can damage airplane tires) and loons.

Courtesy USDA Wildlife Services

“What most people may not know about loons is that they are unable to walk on land,” said USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa. Loons may land on a wet runway believing they’re landing on water and are then unable to get back up. “Our employees have had to physically pick loons up in order to release them,” said Espinosa.

At some coastal airports oysters, clams and other shellfish have become an issue, requiring teams to go out with sweepers.

“During low tides, gulls and other birds go hunting for shellfish and then drop them on open areas, such as runways, to crack them open,” said Espinosa, “While this is a great example of bird ingenuity, it is very dangerous for airports as sharp shell parts can puncture tires, get sucked into engines, damage aircraft and cause accidents.”

In Alaska, USDA Wildlife Biologists and Wildlife Technicians also help wrangle musk ox and caribou.

Musk Ox sometimes form defensive circles on the runways, said Espinosa and “And it can be very time consuming to get them out of the way.” Several hundred to several thousand caribou sometimes cross runways during migration. “It can be a beautiful sight, but also dangerous for human safety and air travel,” said Espinosa.

Last year salmon were spotted swimming across a flood-prone runway at Alaska’s Seward Airport and, after several days of storms, crew clearing snow at the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Utqiaġvik (the city formerly known as Barrow) came upon a 450-pound Bearded Seal lounging on the runway.

Courtesy Scott Babcock, Alaska Dept of Transportation Public-Facilities

The runway is about a quarter mile from the ocean, but airport staff believe the seal made a mile-long trek around the runway to get to its chosen spot.

“Animal control was called, and they loaded the seal onto a sled and pulled it off the runway with a snow machine,” said Meadow Bailey, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, “We refer to this as the day we warned of ‘low sealings’ at the airport.”

Have you spotted wildlife at your airport? Please share the story in the comments section below.

Can’t miss: giant cheese & maple syrup at Burlington Int’l Airport

 

It’s only Monday, but we already have a contender for “Airport amenity of the week.”

Travelers passing through Burlington International Airport in Vermont will certainly notice the 7-foot-tall jug of Dakin Farm maple syrup and the 7-foot-long block of cheese from the Cabot Creamery.

Dakin Farm and Cabot Creamery are ecstatic to add a little extra Vermont flavor to the Vermont’s most traveled airport, Burlington International Airport – BTV. Our hope is to promote the importance of pure maple and artisan cheese as Vermont’s marquee agricultural products and to put a smile on weary travelers faces. We're making it easy to send a taste of Vermont, nationwide, so anyone can enjoy Vermont’s delicacies anytime, anywhere. Next time you travel through, snap a pic and send it to us! We are already loving the pictures we've seen! 💚 @cabotcheese . . . #dakinfarm #cabot #cabotcheese #vtmaplesyrup #dakinmaplesyrup #btv #bulington #worldslargestmaplesyrupjug #maple #maplefordays #cheddarcheese #cheedarfordays

A post shared by Dakin Farm (@dakinfarm_vt) on

The giant, selfie-friendly food items not only promote Vermont-made products, they’re linked to a special on-line offer that includes a discount on a quart of real maple syrup and a free box of buttermilk pancake mix.

Many a Vermont visitor has likely ended up discarding or handing over just-bought bottles and jugs of maple syrup at the BTV security checkpoint, so the mail-order syrup offer is a good way to make sure souvenirs of Vermont make it home.

We’re putting this temporary airport amenity into the pot for Airport Amenity of the Week. But it is only Monday, so if you spot something cool at an airport this week, please add a note in the comment section and we’ll consider your nomination as well.