Stuck at the Airport

Which airports are tops in customer service?


Many modern-day airports mix transportation nodes with hospitality centers, focus on customer experience and offer fine dining outlets, luxury shopping outlets and full-service spas.

Which airports do it best? Each year, Airports Council International — the trade association of the world’s airports — conducts extensive passenger surveys to find out.

Here’s the story I wrote for on the results:

For its 2015 Airport Service Quality Award rankings, ACI surveyed more than 550,000 travelers worldwide about their traveling experiences. They ranked airports on everything from check-in and security to on-site amenities and food, beverage and retail options.

“Airports have evolved into complex, customer-focused businesses in their own right that in many cases are in competition with each other for passenger traffic,” said Angela Gittens, director general at ACI World.

“From duty-free and restaurants to ambiance, cleanliness, courtesy of staff, amenities, efficiency and more, air travelers are expecting big things from the airports through which they travel,” she added.

For the fourth year in a row, Indianapolis International landed in the first-place slot for airports in North America. The hub, which serves more than 7 million passengers a year, rolls out the red carpet for fliers who enter its gates. It has an extensive art program, many branches of local eateries, an apiary, a giant solar farm and a roaming robot that answers customer questions in real time.

“When you combine a beautiful facility with a generous dose of Hoosier hospitality, great things happen,” said Angela Cain, director of public affairs at Indianapolis’ Airport Authority.

“We are grateful to the hard-working Indianapolis Airport Authority staff, as well as our many business partners, for the customer service excellence they provide every day to our travelers,” she added. “We wouldn’t win this award, for the fifth time in six years, without them.”

Tied for second place among North American airports for 2015 were Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Tampa, Dallas Love Field, Jacksonville and Ottawa.

Third-place for North American airports also resulted in a tie, for Austin, Detroit, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airports.

“These awards are particularly meaningful, because they are based on real-time feedback from our customers, while they are traveling,” said Thomas Naughton, CEO of Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

See the full list of ACI Airport Quality Service Awards for 2015 here.

In progress: wish list of airport amenities for 2014

Hilo Airport one mile

2014 will arrive in just a few days and here at Stuck at the Airport we’re making a wish list of amenities we’d like to see touch down at airports in the new year.

Here’s a list of some of the “wants” that have been sent to me so far. Feel free to add your own…

“More outlets”

“More massage places”

“Free basic Wi-Fi in all airports”

“CVS-type stores”

“Wireless recharging spots”

“More relaxation areas like those at Helsinki and Taiwan airports”

“More 10-minute manicures and Minute Suites”

“Working electrical outlets”

“More work desks”

We’re got a few more days to add to the list, so please let me know what fresh amenities you’d like to see in airports in 2014.

Minute Suites expands into DFW airport

Minute Suites

When you’re stuck at the airport sometimes you simply need a place to nap, work, rest or just be alone.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and, now at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the folks at Minute Suites provide one option.

In each airport, travelers can pay $34 for the first hour in a private roomette with a daybed sofa, pillows, blankets, “noise neutralizing” systems and a “napware” audio program designed to help travelers get a power nap.Each suite also has a TV, work desk and internet access.

At the first of two planned DFW Minute Suite locations, which opened last week in Terminal D near Gate D23, travelers can also take showers – for $15 – with a suite rental – or $30, without.

Nice touch, Minute Suites. Now we just need to these in more airports. And maybe some happy hour-type pricing.

Surprised by Santa at Munich Airport

While I’ve had my share of long waits,  I’ve thankfully never been one of those passengers held hostage for hours on end on a plane waiting to take off or deliver passengers at an airport

So, last night, when the captain of my Lufthansa flight on a small plane heading from Munich Airport to Geneva – a one hour trip – announced we’d be sitting on the ground for at least an hour because snow removal had closed two runways, I thought “OK, now it’s my turn to be stuck on an airport for ten hours.”

I wasn’t prepared.  Neither my cell phone nor my laptop was fully charged. For food, I had a bag of licorice I’d bought as a gift.  And my book was in the carry-on suitcase I’d stuffed into the overhead bin.

I stole a look at my seatmate and at the people around me.  Were there kids or babies bound to start crying; who was likely to be traveling with good food or snacks; and were these going to be interesting people to be held hostage with on an airplane?

Luckily, I didn’t have to find out.

Within minutes of the pilot announcing our delay, flight attendants appeared with water and juice and trays of white cloth bags, each with a jolly embroidered Santa Claus on the front.


Inside each bag was a mandarin orange, a cheese sandwich on dark bread, a package of good cookies and a tiny chocolate Santa.

“Classy,” I thought. “Definitely not the bag of pretzels passengers would be getting if they were stuck on an airplane in the U.S.”

I immediately ate the chocolate Santa and half the sandwich. Then, already thinking like an airplane hostage, I  carefully re-packaged my snacks for later.

I didn’t end up having to swap that orange for a sweater, something to read  or the use of a charged cell phone to call my family or the hotel. After about an hour and a half of sitting out there in the snow, we were indeed on our way.

Good job, Lufthansa and Munich Airport. And thank-you, Santa!




Souvenir Sunday: travelwear from SUX, SEX, GIG, SIN and PEK

Each Sunday the focus here is on fun and offbeat stuff you can buy when you’re stuck at the airport.

This week, we take a look at some fun and offbeat stuff you can buy and take to the airport.

Air Wear, whose products are found on-line and in a shop at Los Angeles International Airport, has a fun line of travel bags, notebooks, coffee mugs and assorted travel accessories bearing logos for airport city codes around the world.

Right now the catalog includes logo-emblazoned items for airports in more than 130 cities. Included on the list are classics such as JFK, SFO and LAX, but GIG (Rio de Janeiro), MAD (Madrid), PEK (Peking) and SEX (Sembach, Germany) are also on the list.

Surprisingly, there’s nothing on the list from Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City Iowa, where the airport code is SUX. But that airport has its own line of SUX-memorabilia.

Don’t see your favorite airport on the Air Wear list? Don’t worry. For an extra design fee that’s a smidge less than $10 they’ll put the airport code of your choice on any of their stock items.

Curious about how airports get their codes?

Here’s a fun 300-second explanation from our buddy Kevin Maxwell: