Airports

Stuck at the Airport goes to London

Tower Bridge at night – Courtesy London Partners

The Stuck at the Airport team is in London this week on a trip organized by our friends at Gatwick Airport (LGW).

The assignment?

Find out if it’s easy to land at Gatwick Airport on a flight from the U.S. See if it’s easy to take public transit to and from the airport to London, Brighton, and other nearby destinations. And find fun things to do.

As they say: tough job, but someone has to do it. And Stuck at the Airport is up for the challenge.

Here’s how our journey is going so far.

Seattle to New York

Our ride from our home base airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was on JetBlue, to connect to one of JetBlue’s flights to Gatwick.

The airline begins service between Boston and Gatwick on August 4, and we’ll be on the inaugural flight out of Gatwick. So stay tuned for details from that adventure.

But first: the TWA Hotel

We chose an overnight layover at JKF so that we could stay at the TWA Hotel, which is oh-so-conveniently connected to JetBlue’s T5 terminal via elevator and a red-carpeted flight tube that is the perfect passageway to the 1960s.

The hotel is built inside the restored and reimagined Eero Saarinen’s landmark 1962 TWA Flight Center at JFK and has restaurants, bars, retail outlets, and some fun 60s throwback activities in the lobby.

There’s an infinity pool on the roof (fees apply) and, out in the back on the ‘tarmac, there’s a Lockheed Constellation “Connie” L-1649A that has been transformed into a cocktail lounge. This summer, guests and visitors can go roller skating rink or ride bumper cars on the hotel’s tarmac as well. (Fees apply).

You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to enjoy the lobby and tarmac activities. And many activities, including photo ops in cool spaces, Twister, and long-distance phone calls on retro pay phones, are free.

Arriving at Gatwick Airport

The JetBlue flights to Gatwick Airport leave JFK at around 7:30 pm and land at Gatwick the following morning at around 7:30 am. That means you can plan a full day in the city.

Our flight landed early, so I was glad Gatwick Airport had arranged for me to rest and refresh at the onsite YOTELAIR London Gatwick Airport.

This was the first YOTEL to open in the United Kingdom – way back in 2007 – and offers short-stays (from 4 to 8 hours) in very compact ‘cabins’ that are perfect for naps, a refresh after a long flight, or an overnight if you have a very early flight or late arrival.

Each cabin is super compact, with a bed, bathroom, small desk, WiFi, USB ports, mood lighting, smart TV, and a little bit of storage space. (You can also leave luggage at the front desk, or ‘Mission Control.’)

I had everything I needed for a refresh and even discovered a small fold-out stool hanging on the back of my cabin door just as I was leaving. Coffee, tea, and bottled water are complimentary at the front desk and guests can borrow alarm clocks for wake-up calls. Meals can be ordered and delivered as well.

Here’s a snap of Gatwick Airport’s mascot, Gary Gatwick, checking out the Yotel cabin. You’ll see more (lot’s more) of him during our London visit as he’s my travel partner for the week.

Gatwick to London in less than 30 minutes

It’s always a delight to have an ‘aha’ moment when traveling and learn about a tool or service that you know will change your travel habits.

In the past, I’ve always arrived in London at Heathrow Airport and headed to town via the London Underground, known as the Tube. The new Elizabeth Line seems like its speeds up the travel time, but in the past, the ride from Heathrow to central London could take up to 45 minutes and become very crowded as it got closer to the city, especially during rush hour times.

But traveling from Gatwick Airport to London on the Gatwick Express was far easier and way more pleasant.

The ride from the Gatwick Airport train station to Central London’s Victoria Station on the direct Gatwick Express was a 30-minute breeze.

I liked that this is a train (not a subway) and that the train station is easy to access, with a major upgrade on the way. Trains run every 15 minutes and travelers can use an Oyster smartcard to pay for rides. Prices vary by time and type but are discounted 10% when purchased online or via the app.

Trains from Gatwick also go to the Sussex coasts, for example, Brighton and Eastbourne.

It would have been easy to transfer to underground Tube lines once I arrived at Victoria Station, but my hotel was an easy 10-minute walk and along the way, I passed the Victoria Palace Theatre, where Hamilton is playing.

As I mentioned, Gatwick Airport mascot Gary Gatwick is my tour guide this week, and he received a very enthusiastic welcome at the check-in desk at the St. James’ Court.

Our agenda this week will include a lot of touring in London, Brighton, and West Sussex – all places easily accessible from Gatwick Airport.

So please stay tuned as we catch up on our adventures each day. Have some tips on places we should go? Please add them to the comments.

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Drama at Dallas Love Field

Operations resumed late Monday afternoon at Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL) after a frightening incident involving shots fired inside the terminal building.

According to Dallas police, a woman entered the airport near the ticket counter, went into a bathroom, and exited wearing a hoodie and brandishing a gun. She began shooting at the ceiling and was taken into custody after being wounded by a Dallas police officer on duty.

No one else was injured, but flights were grounded for several hours. All passengers had to be rescreened, more than 1000 flights were delayed, and more than 100 flights were canceled as a result of the incident.

Portland International Airport roof report

Portland International Airport (PDX) is getting a new timber roof and it’s both quite impressive and quite a complicated undertaking.

Here’s a short video showing one of the important steps it takes to install a 9-acre mass timber roof over an existing terminal.

Here’s what it will look like when the project is done.

Meanwhile, over at PIT Airport

As long as we’re looking at time-lapse construction videos, here’s one from Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), where they’re building a new terminal.

Fun, helpful, quirky news from airports near you

The social media team at StuckatTheAirport.com is updating our Twitter follow lists this week.

Here are some of the fun, useful, informative, and just plain cute airport tweets we spotted today.

The U.S. claims top spots in World Busiest Airport list

The pandemic scrambled a lot of things in this world, including traffic at airports.

So this year’s list of 10 Busiest Airports in the World, compiled by Airports Council International (ACI) has some surprises.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is reclaiming its title of World’s Busiest Airport. Passengers traffic there increased by more than 76% over 2020, to 75.7 million passengers.

Next on the list: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which welcomed more than 62.5 million passengers in 2021, an increase of almost 60% over 2020.

In fact, U.S. airports took eight of the top ten spots in the World’s Busiest Airports list for 2021, due in part to the fact that Chinese airports, which usually dominate this list, lost so much traffic due to the pandemic.

Back to the list, then:

#3 on the list this year is Denver International Airport (DEN), where passenger traffic increased more than 74% over 2020.

#4 on the list: Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD), up 75% over 2020.

And at #5: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), up almost 75% over 2020.

Those upticks in passenger traffic look impressive. But keep in mind that traffic overall is still down compared to robust numbers from 2019. For example, 2021 passenger numbers at ATL were down 31% compared to 2019.

Still, the U.S. airports can celebrate this year’s rankings.

As you’ll see in the chart below, Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) lands at spot 6, Orlando International Airport (MCO), which ranked 27 last year, now takes spot 7. And Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas rounds out the 10 Busiest Airports List for 2021 in spot 10.

China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN), which was in the #1 spot last year, dropped to spot #8, and Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) snagged spot #9.

“The ACI World passenger traffic rankings tell the story of an encouraging trend of
recovery, with most of the recurrent busiest airports pre-COVID-19, back at the top,” ACI
World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “Although we are cautious that
recovery could face multiple headwinds, the momentum created by reopening plans by
countries could lead to an uptick in travel in the second half of 2022.”

PHX joins list of airports where you may reserve your TSA time

No one loves standing on airport TSA security lines. Except maybe Amelia the Airplane, the mascot for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

Now, PHX joins the list of airports where passengers may cut their TSA line wait time by booking ahead. The pilot program is called PHX RESERVE and it kicks off first in PHX Terminal 3.

Travelers may go online and book their reservations up to 72 hours ahead of their flight. When their reservation slot comes around, passengers then go through a dedicated entry TSA entry point.

Better yet: the program, which is an example of ‘virtual cueing’, is free.

Here is a bit more information about the program:

The dedicated PHX Reserve security entry point will be available daily between 4 a.m. and 3 p.m. Reservation times can be made for between 60 minutes and four hours before a passenger’s flight. Individuals can book a spot for themselves or for up to 10 people traveling as a group.

“We are proud Sky Harbor can offer another great service to our customers to make their travels easier and more flexible,” said Chad Makovsky, Director of Aviation Services for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department. “What’s good for our passengers and guests is good for the air travel industry as a whole.”

The ability to schedule a time to go through the airport security checkpoint line is a welcome amenity being offered at other airports too, under a variety of names. The list includes:

SEA Spot Saver at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

DFW Fast Pass at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

LAX Fast Lane at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

VirtuaLine in Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

If we missed the TSA reservation program at your airport, let us know and we’ll add it.