We’re heading into another few weeks of record-breaking holiday travel and on our last few flights it seemed everyone was sick.
As the Centers for Disease Control – and your mother – will tell you, keeping your hands clean and washing them often with soap and clean, running water is one of the most important steps to take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
But in some public restrooms, the height of the sinks presents a hand-washing challenge to kids and short people.
That’s why the Stuck at the Airport hygiene team is delighted every time we encounter one of the Step ‘n Wash self-retracting step stools in an airport restroom.
At last count, close to 100 airports around the country have installed these handy stools in some or all of their restrooms. So keep an eye out for them when you’re traveling this season.
It’s only Monday, but we already have a nomination for Airport Amenity of the Week.
Singapore’s Changi Airport, which already wows travelers with free amenities that include butterfly and cactus gardens, movie theaters, and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, now offers free bicycle rentals to passengers with layovers in Singapore.
The year-long program offers layover passengers free two-hour use of a bicycle to explore outdoor attractions in the airport’s vicinity, including the Jurassic Mile, a free outdoor display of more than 20 life-sized dinosaurs and pre-historic creatures that stretch out over half a mile.
Layover passengers can cycle along the Changi Airport Connector cycling path that links to Singapore’s wider park connector network and visit beaches, Bedok Jetty – a popular fishing spot, the East Coast Lagoon Hawker Centre and nearby residential neighborhoods
To make it easy to explore Singapore on a layover, the airport has mapped out four different routes lasting two to six hours and provides pay-per-use shower facilities by the bike return point.
Want to go for a bike ride on your Changi Airport layover?
To take advantage of Changi Airport’s free bike rentals, you’ll need to have a layover of at least 5 1/2 hours but less than 24 hours between flights.
Advance reservations for free bike rentals at Singapore’s Changi Airport are available here.
That’s why we’re delighted to see airports adding or refreshing play areas with creative and engaging features.
The latest on the scene is at Portland International Airport (PDX). There, the Tillamook County Creamery Association has created a cool new kids’ play area on Concourse E.
The 600-square-foot space has steps, slides, and a flying van designed with children ages 3 to 8 – and people of all abilities – in mind. The bouncy flooring is made from post-consumer recycled materials and the mural on the wall is by illustrator Josephine Rais.
The Tillamook Market, also on Concourse E, serves up meals made with Tillamook’s famous cheese and other locally-sourced ingredients, scoops of Tillamook ice cream, exclusive branded merch, and grab-and-go favorites including famous Tillamook Cheese Curds.
And we’re big fans of the Farmer’s Fridge salad vending machines offering fresh meals at more than 20 airports.
The trend is growing.
Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) has a new Freshful Fridge vending machine filled with locally-sourced snacks, salads, and beverages. Look for it in the SBA baggage claim area on the first floor.
More Limits at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport
For a while now, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) has been placing caps on the number of departing passengers and flights. The action is an effort to deal with staff shortages that are causing long lines, canceled flights, and giant baggage backups.
Beginning “no later than 2025 – 26,” Schiphol will ban aircraft takeoffs between midnight and 6 am and all aircraft landings between midnight and 5 am.
Private jets and the noisiest airplanes will no longer be welcome at Schiphol. And plans for an additional runway are being scrapped.
“ We need to be sustainable for our employees, the local environment, and the world,” said Ruud Sondag, Royal Schiphol Group CEO. “I realize that our choices may have significant implications for the aviation industry, but they are necessary. This shows we mean business.”
KLM said in a statement that while it believes “operations should be in balance with our surroundings and the climate,” the airline is “astonished” that Schiphol is “unilaterally putting forward proposals that will have far-reaching consequences for airlines, without involving the industry parties in this process.”
Instead, KLM said, it would prefer “to work with the rest of the aviation industry on developing further measures to reduce CO2 emissions and noise pollution.”
And in July the US Department of Transporation issued a notice encouraging US airlines “to do everything in their power to ensure that children who are age 13 or younger are seated next to an accompanying adult with no additional charge.”
Airlines Beginning to Pay Attention
On Monday United Airlines announced a new plan to make it easier for parents and children under 12 years old to sit next to each other without paying an extra fee. That includes passengers who purchase Basic Economy Tickets,
The airline said the policy will extend to customers who purchase Basic Economy tickets. That category usually doesn’t allow seats to be assigned until boarding.
United says a new seat map feature that finds available adjacent seats at the time of booking makes this new policy possible. The seat map program will first review all available free Economy seats and then opens complimentary upgrades to available Preferred seats if needed, according to United.
Other airlines may follow suit by adjusting their policies to follow United’s lead.
For now, Delta Air Lines’ website says the carrier “strives to seat family members together upon request” and urges passengers who can’t find seats together to contact Reservations for help.
American Airlines’ website says”if you’re unable to choose seats, don’t want to pay for seats, or chose a Basic Economy fare, our system will detect that you’re a family traveling. The system will search for seats together automatically before the day of departure. We’ll try our best to keep you together, but if seats are limited, we’ll assign seats so children under 15 are next to at least 1 adult.”
Alaska Airlines’ site states that “if are unable to obtain seat assignments together for your family, we will make every effort to seat at least one adult with any young child (age 13 and under) from the same party.”
Like other carriers, JetBlue’s statement on family seating urges families to book early. But says “if seats together are not available, please let our airport gate crewmembers know when you arrive at the airport. They will do their best to find a seating solution. We cannot guarantee that seats together will always be available.”