Airports

Tips for sailing through airports. Any day or busy days.

It is a stay at home holiday for some people today. But a travel day for millions. At that means some people will end up stuck at the airport.

It can happen anytime, of course. But as the busy summer travel season kicks into gear, I’ve been asked to work up some airport travel tips for the Weather Chanel audience.

Here are my notes for my appearance, currently scheduled for early Tuesday. Please feel free to add your notes too

Practice. Seems silly, but often in the rush to get to the airport we forget that we’ll have to partially unpack at the security checkpoint.

Make sure you’re wearing socks without holes, shoes that are easy to take off and put back on. And have your potions and lotions and electronic gear easiy accessible in your carry-on bag. 

Leave your guns at home.

TSA finds about 100 guns – most loaded – at checkpoints each week. I’ve given up wondering why people need so many guns. But if you carry a gun around town, check to see that you’ve taken it out of your purse or briefcase before you head to the airport.

Don’t miss the fun.

Look at the “passenger amenities” or “services” section of the airport website. (And subscribe to StuckatTheAirport.com).

Many airports have art or history exhibits, a unique shop or restuarant, even a special observation deck you may miss if you just get to the airport and stick by your gate.

Bring a wide mouth refillable water bottle. You don’t have to buy an overpriced bottle of water. More and more airports have bottle refill stations. Spend your money on something else.

Charge your phones and gadgets before you leave home.

Yes – there are more outlets in more places in airports. But someone else always seems to be using them when you’ need them.

And often they don’t even work. (Expert tip: check to see if that bank of chairs with outlets is plugged in before you use a chair outlet.)

To be a hero bring along a power cord with extra plugs so others can share.

Check to see if there are mobile apps – such as GRAB – you can use to order food ahead that you can just pick put at airport restaurant instead of waiting in line. 

An increasing number of airports have At Your Gate and Airport Sherpa – which allow you to order food (and even neck pillows) and have the order delivered to you anywhere in the airport. 

Bring snacks. You never know when you’re going to be delayed at the airport. Having something in your bag will keep you from getting cranky and from overspending at the airport and on the airplane, where free snacks can be limited or non-existent.  

Shortcut the customs and immigration line.

If you’re traveling out of the country and don’t have Global Entry (a paid program) download the free Mobile Passport app for when you’re coming back through customs.

Either program allows you to shortcut your way through that often very long customs line. Look for the signs or ask the folks stationed along the lines for where to go as the Mobile Passport sign is often not easy to spot.

The Mobile Passport app lets you answer the customs questions on your phone before you even leave the plane and sometimes you can breeze right by the folks who have to wait on a line to fill out those questions at the Global Entry kiosk. Hah!

Bring mad money.

I carry a $10 bill – sometimes $20 – to use as mad money in case I end up stuck somewhere mad and frustrated. I buy myself a treat; a cocktail, some candy, an overpriced coffee drink, a silly souvenir. I deserve it.  

Have a tip to add to this list? Please include it in the comments sections below.

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Tampa International welcomes visitors past security

This week Tampa International Airport (TPA) introduces a program that offers non-ticketed guests access to the shops, restaurants, artwork and gate areas beyond security.

TPA’s program is called All-Access and will issue passes to 100 people each Saturday, starting on May 4. Passes will be good all day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

TPA has four distinct Airsides (A, C, E and F) and each week the 100 passes will be divied up by 25 passes issued for each Airside. So, to figure out which Airside to request, visitors should check out TPA’s shopping and dining guide.

Tampa International Airport is the second airport in the nation to offer non-ticketed guests this perk. Pittsburgh International Airport’s MyPITPass started in 2017 and offer passes on weekdays.

Airport Restaurant Month

HMSHost has brought back Airport Restaurant Month to 60 of its dining venues in airports across the country.

Throughout May, diners can choose from a selection of three appetizers and four entrees at the participating restaurants.

The menus may vary a bit by restaurant, but most will offer their take on Seared Salmon, Flatbread Prima Vera, a Spicy Slaw Burger, a Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich and an AM Wrap.

The meals include a dark chocolate sea salt bar as well.

See the menus and find the full of list of restaurants participating in HMSHost’s Airport Restaurant Month here.

SFO moves pick-up spot for ride-hailing pick ups

Starting June 3, travelers getting picked up by ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft or Wingz at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will have to head to the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

International Terminal pickups will continue in the current location (at the center island of the Departure level roadway) and all ride-hailing drop-offs will continue to occur at designated upper-level departure curbside areas.

The change is designed to lighten traffic on the airport’s terminal roadway and comes after Uber X and Lyft began offering their customers a $3 discount if they chose to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage instead of at curbside.

That didn’t do much to reduce congestion, so in June SFO is going ahead and moving all domestic ride-hailing ride pickups to the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, McCarran’s Las Vegas International Airport and an increasing number of other airports direct ride-hailing customers to a central garage area for picks ups as well.

And this from the TSA Week in Review:

Between April 22 and 28, TSA security officers found 85 firearms in carry-on bags at airports. 75 of those firearms were loaded and 28 of those firearms had a round chambered.

Alarmed?

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

More airlines join the TSA Precheck program

The list of airlines participating in the TSAPrecheck program, which gives travelers access to an expedited line at airport security lanes, is growing.

New on the list of participating airlines: Qatar Airways and Edelweiss Air.
That brings the list of participating airlines up to 67.

Edelweiss operates at 5 U.S. airports; Qatar has flights in and out of 10 U.S. airports.

Another robot for Austin-Bergstrom Int’l Airport

Need coffee when you travel? Of course you do.

At Austin-Bergstrom International Airport there are now two places you can have a robot-machine brew you a cup 24 hours a day.

Austin-based Briggo is opening its second robotic Coffee Haus location at AUS in May inside the new nine-gate expansion space. The first machine is at Gate 17.

What we’re reading: working conditions at Miami International Airport

Working conditions at airports in the news

This disturbing CBS Miami story is about terrible working conditions for many employess at Miami International Airport. The story raises real concerns not just about some of the lowest paying workers at this airport, but about working conditions for employees at other airports.

The story describes low pay and terrible and dangerous working conditions for many people hired to clean airplanes, move baggage and do others tasks key to keeping your trip on track.

Here’s an excerpt:

A crew of four cabin cleaners can be given as little as ten minutes to clean a plane. They claim that is not enough time. Eulen disagrees, stating “…our workforce is sufficient to meet and face the demand.”

One cabin cleaner described what they can face on a plane: “You can find blankets with blood, people puke in the blankets, you can find Pampers on the floor.”

He said his supervisor has told him not to waste time cleaning too thoroughly. “Just make it look like it look nice and clean, just a rag and you are done.”

The contractor referenced is Eulen America, which provides a variety of services to Delta, American and likely other airlines not just at MIA, but at Fort Lauderdale, Washington DC and New York.

Alarmed?

Odd things left at airports

Cellphones, laptops, neck pillows and books are among the most common forgotten items, but bowling balls, valuable jewelry and other treasures also end up in airport lost and found centers.

Last month, the pilot of a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight heading to Kuala Lumpur from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia requested permission to return to the gate after a mother realized she’d left her baby behind in the boarding gate area.

Last week authorities at Alaska’s Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) turned to social media seeking help in identifying the owner of a plastic bag containing human ashes that was left at a security checkpoint back in August.

Picture perfect

About 1000 items a day end up in the 5,000-square-foot warehouse managed by the Lost & Found department at Los Angeles International Airport. Along with the electronics, jewelry and photo IDs, LAX police found a still unclaimed script for the yet-to-air season premiere of a popular TV show that ended the previous season with a cliffhanger. (And no, LAX officials won’t reveal the show, nor the plot.)

Most airports keep found inventory for 30, 60 or 90 days before discarding, donating or auctioning the items. But a few years back, airport police at LAX could not bring themselves to discard a wedding photo album found locked in a briefcase along with a mirror, a tablecloth and matching napkins.

A Facebook campaign eventually helped identify the couple, who hadn’t even realized the album was missing.  

Questions about a quilt

Last May, a floral box with a handmade quilt inside and a card reading “Charlene and Lark” was found at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

It was obvious that a lot of time and effort went in to making the quilt. So the airport lost & found team held onto it longer than the 30 days they usually do.

Facebook led the team to the photographer for Charlene and Lark’s wedding, who shared a contact for Charlene. But because the quilt had been intended as a wedding gift Lark had left behind after attending the funeral of his aunt – the quilt maker – Charlene at first ignored emails and calls about a quilt she’d never heard of. But she eventually called back and claimed the quilt.

Serial numbers and skunks  

Airport teams often use investigative skills and, sometimes, compassion, in finding a lost item its home.

Earlier this year the lost & found staff at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport was able to reunite a St. Louis passenger with a valuable and sentimental piece of jewelry after calling Cartier customer service with the serial number on a found bracelet.

And, after an airline refused to let a passenger at Nashville International Airport take his pet skunk onboard or check it as baggage, customer service supervisor Chris Patterson agreed to look after Pepe the skunk for a few days. “After a week I realized that Pepe’s owner would not be coming back for him, and I was fine with that decision,” said Patterson, who adopted Pepe and later found him a home in a zoo.

Keeping an eye on lost items

After a Central Oregon festival celebrating the August 2017 eclipse, the lost and found in Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) was overflowing with everything from camping gear and hula hoops to drugs and psychedelic paraphernalia. Water bottles, neck pillows and sunglasses are the usual fare, said RDM spokeswoman Erinn Shaw, “But we also once had a live chicken.”

Portland International Airport also reports a wide range of odd left behind item, including a 9-pound zucchini and a glass eye. “The zucchini is long gone,” said PDX spokeswoman Kama Simonds, “But the glass eye has been in the lost and found for a few years.”

TSA’s favorites

Courtesy TSA

The most common items left at airport security checkpoints around the country are belts, keys, glasses (sunglasses and prescription), photo IDs and laptops, says TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, but she snaps and posts on social media photos of some odd left-behind items. On the list: diamond watches and engagement rings, bowling balls, canes and walkers, a Santa statue, Halloween masks and thousands of dollars in cash.

“The most unusual item I think I have seen left at a checkpoint was a portable child’s potty at Dulles Airport,” said Farbstein. It was returned.”

What’s up at Kentucky’s Louisville Int’l Airport?


To celebrate Minth Julep Month – and the Kentucky Derby, where the Mint Julep is the official cocktail – the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport has created a living wall with more than 700 fresh mint plants.

Here’s a video of the installation.

This week the airport also hosted a party, with this great cake. The occation: a celebration of the inaugural American Airlines flight from SDF to Los Angeles International Airport.

Here’s are some of the other reasons we’re celebrating SDF airport this week:

They have a mascot named Skye. They just opened a new room for nursing mothers. And the post-security Distillery District Marketplace enables travelers to buy Kentucky-distilled spirits to take home.