Observation Decks

TSA’s Cutest Canine + Airport Open Spaces


Dina wins TSA’s 2023 Cutest Canine Contest

The votes are in. And Dina, a three-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) explosives detection canine at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS), is the winner of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) 2023 Cutest Canine Contest.

The contestants came from a field of 92 dogs nominated by TSA handlers from airports across the country. TSA employees weighed in and narrowed the field to four finalists. The public then voted on social media (X, Instagram and Facebook) for the cutest TSA canine of them all.

You’ll next see Dina on the front cover of TSA’s 2024 canine calendar, which will be released later this year.

Where to find fresh air at an airport

The Stuck at the Airport team is pleased to share some thoughts about the past and present of outdoor observation decks at airports for this Wall Street Journal article (subscription may be required to access).

Once a feature of almost every airport, outdoor spaces – especially free to access open spaces – are hard to find at airport terminals nationwide.

But you can find them. And, we’re happy to report, some new ones are on the horizon.

We love the outdoor decks (one pre-security, one post-security) at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the patios at Denver International Airport (DEN), the ‘wooftop’ at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK International Airport (JFK), and the outdoor gardens at Honolulu International Airport (HNL).

And we’re looking forward to the outdoor spaces that will part of the new terminal being built for Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).

(SFO Airport post-security outdoor deck)

(Denver International Airport outdoor patio)

(Gardens at HNL, Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport)

Do you know of outdoor decks and public spaces at other airports? Share your favorites in the comments section below.

Another airport gets an outdoor patio

At one time, outdoor observation decks and patios were common at airports and many modern-day travelers and avgeeks have pleasant memories of going to the airport just to see planes land and take off.

Unfortunately, many airport observation decks were closed due to modern-day concerns about security.

But some airports, including San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Denver International Airport (DEN), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK/T5 – JetBlue), and some others still have them.

Others are adding outdoor patios as a new and very welcome amenity.

Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), on California’s central coast, is the newest airport to add outdoor space for passengers to relax before their flight.

MRY’s Outdoor Courtyard is located post-security, at Gate 1, and offers comfortable seating and great views of the runway, Monterey Bay, and the surrounding area.

There is also an outdoor pet relief area for travelers with furry companions.

Here are some snaps of the outdoor space and the view.

Nonstop routes at MRY include Burbank, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Check out the view!

And, while Monterey Regional Airport is small, another great amenity is Chef Tim Wood’s latest venture, Woody’s at the Airport.

Located pre-security, on the upper level of the airport, the restaurant also overlooks the runway and the bay. (And they validate parking).

Do you have a favorite outdoor patio or observation deck at an airport? Let us know about it in the comments and we’ll update the list.

(Photos above courtesy Monterey Airport and SeeMonterey.com)

Denver Airport now has an outdoor deck

Denver International Airport (DEN) now has its first outdoor deck, thanks to the airport’s $1.5 billion Gate Expansion Program.

The deck is located on Concourse B, at the far western end of the concourse.

In addition to outdoor seating, the deck has fire pits, a pet relief area, and beautiful mountain views. Concessions will soon be available on the deck as well.

Along with the outdoor deck, DEN unveiled four new gates on Concourse B that are being used by United Airlines. These new gates are the first of 39 new gates and new passenger amenities that will roll out across three concourses.

The first new set of gates has six hold rooms, new restrooms, a nursing room, new seating, and a pet relief area.

“The new gates on B-West provide a glimpse into the future of DEN’s concourses,” said DEN CEO Kim Day. “It won’t be too long before the expansion work is completed on each concourse and we complete upgrades throughout each concourse, enhancing the experience for all passengers to enjoy.”

SFO Airport has a new outdoor observation deck

Airport observation decks are a treat – and a rarity – these days.

So it’s a big deal when an airport opens a brand new one.

Better yet, an outdoor observation deck that anyone – even someone without a ticket – can visit.

But that’s what San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has done.

On February 14 – Valentine’s Day – SFO opened a new $6.3 million outdoor observation deck called the SkyTerrace.

Located pre-security in Terminal 2, the 1,460-square-foot SkyTerrace is open to the general public and, as a bonus, offers 180-degree views of the busiest section of SFO, where all four runways intersect.

Visitors will find wooden chairs and benches at the SkyTerrace, drought-tolerant landscaping, bird-safe glass panels to provide wind protection and great views.

Food and beverages are permitted on the SkyTerrace, and later this year a café will open nearby. So this sounds like a great place to hang out with friends or family before a flight.

SFO’s new SkyTerrace will be open seven days a week from 7:00 am – 10:00 pm. And while no ticket is required to access this new observation deck, visitors must still undergo a security check as they enter the space.

As a nice bonus, the SFO Museum has installed an exhibit at the SkyTerrace titled The 1954 San Francisco International Airport Terminal, which explores the history and architecture of the building that was on the spot now occupied by the SkyTerrace.

Courtesy SFO Museum

Designed in the International Style, the seven-story building was dedicated on August 27, 1954 and had panoramic views of the airfield and San Francisco Bay from multiple spectators’ terraces.  The exhibition features objects and imagery from the first decade the building operated.

SFO’s other observation deck

And don’t forget that SFO airport has another snazzy observation deck.

That one also offers 180-degree views of the airfield and is post-security at the end of the International Terminal, Boarding Area G. It also has wooden chairs, tables, and chaise lounges, ten-foot bird-safe glass panels, drought-tolerant landscaping and three bronze sculptures. Hours: 7:00 am to 11:30 pm every day.

Austin-Bergstrom Int’l Airport opens outdoor patio

The downside of travel is that, sometimes, you can spend a full day long days inside airports and hotels and hardly ever step outside.

That’s why StuckatTheAirport.com is such a big fan of airports with patios and outdoor observation decks.

Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) has a new one to check out.

The 5,770 square foot east terrace patio is located post-security on the mezzazine level between Gates 1-2.

To reach it, walk up the stairs or take the elevator to what the AUS airport calls its “hip terrace patio.”

The space is open 24 hours, is non-smoking and is located adjacent to the new Detla Sky Lounge.

The patio has a view of the 9,000-foot east runway and offers a great opportunity for plane spotting as well as a view of ramp and apron-level airport activities.

Austin can get very hot, so there’s an air-conditioned section of AUS’s patio.

In the outdoor section, patio is partially covered with sunshade blade panels to mimic the wings of an airplane.

The décor of the patio is modern-outdoor round tables, patio-furniture type seating and awnings that cover the family-style bench picnic tables.

Landscaping includes water-friendly native drought-tolerant plants.

And, for those of you into statistics: the airport tells us the patio flooring is covered with 428 wood pavers and 276 concrete pavers. Each concrete paver weighs 150 to 206 pounds and is 30 inches wide x 30 inches long and 2.25 inches thick.

Enjoy! And please send StuckatTheAirport.com a photo of what you see when you’re enjoying this new outdoor space at AUS airport.