Rebrand for San Jose Mineta Int’l Airport

Soda companies do it. Toothpaste companies do it. Car companies do it.

And airports do it too.

Since 2001 you have known it as Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (SJC).

But, thanks to a rebrand, from now on the San José airport will be going by a slightly different name: San José Mineta International Airport.

The name change may seem slight. But it is part of the airport’s goal to become more of a key player in the Bay Area and strengthen the airport’s geographical association with San José.

In addition to the new name, the rebrand includes a new logo, a new color scheme, and a new tagline: Fly Simple.

SJC’s first incorporated the name of US Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta in 2001. And, while many airports are named for people, San José was one of the few airports in the world to be named after a living person. Secretary Mineta passed away on May 3, 2022.

We’re fine with the name change. Just as long as the airport doesn’t mess with the cool public art. And with the charming topiary bear at the entrance.

San Jose Airport "Space Observer" sculpture
Space Observer – by  Bjorn Schulke

Best Airport Amenities 2022

From a first-place win for “America’s Best Restroom” to free miniature golf and ice skating, in 2022 airports around the country did a great job of offering passengers some great new amenities.

We did a full round-up of some of our favorites for The Points Guy site.

But here are some of the highlights of the Best Airport Amenities from 2022.

Award-winning loos

Airports were on a roll in 2022, with two finalists in the running in the contest for America’s Best Restroom.

Newark Liberty International (EWR) was nominated for an innovative all-gender restroom suite. But Tampa International Airport (TPA) cleaned up as the winner, for its new, locally themed loos.

Tampa International Airport also won our hearts for the ‘adoption’ of an impossible-to-miss 21-foot-tall sculpture of a pink flamingo in the terminal. The artwork by Matthew Mazzotta is titled “Home.” But after a community-wide vote, the flamingo was named Phoebe.

The Return of Marriage Licenses & Free Ice-Skating

Some ‘best airport amenities’ from 2022 were actually the welcome return of amenities that were set aside during the pandemic.

Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), and several others celebrated Valentine’s Day with free carnations for travelers. And in Las Vegas, the Marriage Capital of the World, the Clark County Clerk’s Office brought back its pop-up marriage license bureau to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).

And Denver International Airport (DEN) brought back free programming to the outdoor public space between the Jeppesen Terminal and the Westin Hotel.

Free miniature golf was offered in the summer and free ice-skating in the winter.

See the rest of our picks for Best Airport Amenities of 2022 here.

What to look for in airports this week

So many new things are popping up at airports for the holiday season. Here are just some of the items we spotted over the weekend.

Toy Planes at St. Louis Lambert Int’l Airport

Toys Take Flight is a new exhibit by the Field House Museum now in the Lambert Gallery at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL). In addition to toy airplanes and model plane kits, the exhibit includes some great photographs.

Avatar at Sinagpore Changi Airport

Little Free Libraries Filling Up at Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport

You may have noticed Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood encouraging people to leave books and take books. Some airports around the country host Little Free Libraries too, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is the newest addition. Look for two artist-painted Little Free Libraries at SEA. One is at the top of the escalator leading down to the SEA Underground train at Concourse A and the other is in front of the Children’s Play Area in Concourse A.

Last time we passed through the airport we were pleased to see that the Free Little Library by the play area was chock full of kids books.

Holiday Travel Heats Up, But Service Cuts Continue

(This is a story we wrote for NBC News)

Airlines service cuts that ramped up this summer show no sign of relenting this holiday season, leaving more travelers likely to pay higher fares for fuller planes at crowded airports.

Service has been slashed in half from pre-pandemic levels at 59 small and regional U.S. airports, according to the Regional Airline Association, largely because of pilot shortages and high fuel costs. As of last month, 112 airports had lost at least a third of their flights, the RAA’s review of flight schedules shows, out of 430 U.S. airports with scheduled passenger service.

“The drastic decline between 2019 and 2022 is dramatic and, if not unprecedented, only rivaled by post-9/11 loss,” said Faye Malarkey Black, the RAA’s president and CEO. And while dozens of small cities receive federal subsidies to support air travel through the long-running Essential Air Service program, Malarkey Black said even 29 of those communities are facing potential cutbacks due to pilot shortages.

“And I believe the knife is still falling,” she added, with more reductions expected by year’s end.

Americans already face pricier airfares this season. The travel platform Hopper has forecast Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares to be the highest in five years, with domestic round-trip tickets averaging $350 over Thanksgiving and $463 at Christmas. Overall, airfares were up by a whopping 43% in October from the same month a year ago, the latest inflation data show.

More headaches for communities with no air service

“Travelers who need to drive far to reach another airport and pay for short- or long-term parking while they are on their trip are likely to see total costs for holiday travel rise this year,” said Hopper’s lead economist, Hayley Berg. Hotel stays and extra meals before or after those flights will also eat into wallets.

For the regional flights that do remain, “fares are up markedly as a result of service cuts,” said Scott Keyes, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Ithaca Tompkins International Airport in New York, for example, lost its twice-daily American Airlines flight to Philadelphia on Sept. 6. On the remaining United Airlines route to Newark, New Jersey, and the Delta Air Lines route to Detroit, Hopper found the fares for Thanksgiving and Christmas at Tompkins to be around double the national average for domestic round-trip flights. Round-trip Thanksgiving airfare from Ithaca to U.S. destinations is averaging $552, 39% higher than at the same time in 2019, according to Hopper. And Christmas flights from the city cost 10% more than 2019, at $605.

Major U.S. carriers have cited pilot shortages for their cuts at regional airports, with some of them saying the labor crunch would take years to resolve.

United didn’t comment on the potential for further trims. It said it “regularly adjusts its schedule for a variety of reasons including demand, the broader needs of our network and more.”

American, which has left 15 cities since 2020, still has 100 regional aircraft on the ground that it doesn’t have enough pilots to fly, said spokeswoman Andrea Koos, who added that the airline is working with its three wholly owned regional carriers “to ensure we’re able to operate a more reliable regional schedule in the future.”

Delta said that it hasn’t pulled out of any airports entirely since 2020 and that its staffing challenges are in line with the industry’s.

So far, however, consumers appear undeterred. Nearly half of holiday travelers plan to fly, up from 37% last year, according to the 2022 Deloitte Holiday Travel survey. Those looking to save some money should consider shifting their celebration dates by a few days, travel experts say, or at least avoiding the busiest days to dodge the highest fares at regional airports and larger hubs alike.

Hopper said it expects comparatively lower ticket prices on the Monday before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving Day, and on the Friday afterward compared with the Tuesday and Wednesday of that week. And for Christmas, Hopper suggests looking at flights on the Monday or Tuesday before the holiday, which falls on a weekend this year.

Tips to Tackle Holiday Travel

If you’re driving to an airport, check for discount parking coupons there or at nearby lots. And make a parking reservation so you don’t risk being turned away from a full lot. If you need to book a hotel so you can catch an early flight, explore “Park, Stay, Fly” rates at hotels near your airport, which often combine a week or more of parking with a one-night stay.

Holiday travelers should also scan Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Tuesday sales posted by travel booking platforms, hotel chains, and individual properties — many of which are already live. While there will be blackout dates, some of the promotions may include discounted or upgraded stays at airport hotels over the holidays.

In the meantime, some airports in cities suffering cutbacks say they’re fighting to restore lost service.

“The loss of flights has affected businesses and educational institutions in our area,” said Roxan Noble, the director of Tompkins International Airport in Ithaca. She said she’s spending a lot of time on the phone and on Zoom asking major carriers to return or increase their service.

“We’re also looking for a low-cost carrier to come in to serve our leisure market,” she said. “It may not fully fill the gap, but it would help.”

Toledo Express Airport in Ohio lost American Airlines flights to Chicago and to Charlotte, North Carolina, leaving only the ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant offering Toledo residents service to Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona, and to three Florida locations — Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Orlando/Sanford and Tampa/St. Petersburg — albeit with nondaily flights.

“All airports are vying for the same aircraft, the same pilots, the same crews,” said Joe Cappel, the vice president of business development for the Toledo-Luca County Port Authority in Ohio. So, in addition to putting competitive incentive packages in front of airlines, Toledo Express is also offering to help new airlines with everything from marketing and advertising to baggage handling. “Anything you can think of is on the table,” he said.

And Dubuque — where the lack of air service “disconnects [the city] from the global marketplace,” according to Molly Grover, the president and CEO of the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce — has just hired a public relations firm to help pool the efforts of similarly affected communities to work on restoring air service.

“Commercial air service is an expected amenity to both businesses and residents alike,” Grover said, promising to work “relentlessly, tenaciously” to restore it

How satisfied are passengers with airports right now?

Flown anywhere lately?

After being grounded by the pandemic, most folks are pretty darn excited to go to the airport to fly to just about anywhere.

But once at the airport, the excitement seems to fade.

That’s what the J.D. Power 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, released on Wednesday, tells us.

According to the study, satisfaction is down 25 points (on a 1,000-point scale) this year because travelers are disappointed with fewer flights, more cancellations, crowded terminals, limited food and beverage offerings in the terminals, and limited places to park.

“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage, and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water has created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.

“In some ways, this is a return to normal as larger crowds at airports tend to make travelers more frazzled, but in cases where parking lots are over capacity, gates are standing room only and restaurants and bars are not even open to offer some reprieve, it is clear that increased capacity in airports can’t come soon enough.”

Airport Rankings

That doesn’t mean travelers are more pleased with some airports than others.

In the ‘mega’ category – Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport ranks highest in passenger satisfaction, followed by San Francisco International Airport. Both Detroit Metropolitan
Wayne County Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport land in a third-place tie.

Among large airports, Tampa International Airport ranks highest, followed by John Wayne Airport,
Orange County and Dallas Love Field.

And in the medium airport category, Indianapolis International Airport ranks highest, with Pittsburgh
International Airport in second place and Jacksonville International Airport and Southwest
Florida International Airport in a third-place tie.

The 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study measures traveler satisfaction by looking at six factors. In order of importance) those factors are terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

Where does your favorite airport land in the ratings this year?