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Airports empty – but busy

Airports keeping busy

As travel begins, very slowly, to gear up, most airports still feel quite empty.

But that doesn’t mean airport teams aren’t keeping busy.

Someone was having fun with the airport code for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL):

Denver International Airport (DEN) shared some very corny jokes:

Dallas Love Field (DAL) is celebrating its history:

And McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas is having fun with its Vegas-themed public awareness campaign.

Winners: World’s Best Airports for 2020

Even if spending time in an airport was once your least favorite part of traveling, we bet standing in line to go through security is probably sounding pretty good.

And when the time comes to begin traveling again, we hope that adventure will begin or end in one of the winners from the 2020 Skytrax World Airport Awards.

To no one’s surprise, Singapore’s Changi Airport wins the award for the World’s Best Airport for the eighth consecutive year.

Already a four-terminal wonderland of shops, restaurants, gardens, wide-open spaces and fun activities, in 2019 Changi opened The Jewel.

The bonus addition connects three of the airport’s four terminals and is filled with more shops, restaurants, gardens and activities built around a circular 130-foot tall Rain Vortex that is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

Courtesy Changi Airport

Changi also won the award for the World’s Best Airport Leisure Amenities, ahead of South Korea’s Incheon Airport and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

Here’s the full list of the winners for World’s Top 10 Airports 2020:

  1. Singapore Changi Airport
  2. Tokyo Haneda Airport
  3. Hamad International Airport Doha
  4. Incheon International Airport
  5. Munich Airport
  6. Hong Kong International Airport
  7. Narita International Airport
  8. Central Japan International Airport
  9. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
  10. Kansai International Airport
Richmond, British Columbia on December 16, 2015. (BEN NELMS for YVR)

In the Best Airports in North America category, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) took the top spot, followed by Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), Denver International Airport (DEN) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

No North American airport shows up on the 2020 list of winners for World’s Cleanest Airports (Tokyo’s Haneda Airport wins that category) or World’s Best Airport Dining (Narita International Airport in Tokyo wins there).

However, the Houston Airport System took first place in the World’s Best Website and Digital Services category.

See the full list of winners in all categories on the Skytrax World Airport Awards website.

Closed concourses, shuttered concessions: airports in the age of coronavirus

Covid-19 is disastrous for airlines and air travel, with thousands of flights already axed and more cuts being announced daily.

But the deep drop in passengers is also hammering airports.

Fewer than 100,000 passengers and crewmembers were screened at U.S. airports on April 8. That was a record low and a 95% decline from the same date a year ago, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

But airports are essential community services and must stay open.

“Especially in the time of crisis when critically needed supplies are being shipped and medical workers are being asked to travel to the hardest hit cities,” said Kevin Burke, President and CEO of airport member organization Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA).

In a recent economic bulletin, ACI-World predicts that, globally, COVID-19 will wipe out almost half of all revenues for airports for 2020.

In the U.S., Burke says ACI-NA expects total airport operating revenue will decrease by roughly $12.3 billion for 2020, a nearly 49 percent reduction.

Some of these losses may be offset once the U.S. Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration begins distributing the $10 billion airports are slated to receive from the recently signed CARES Act.

“However, we expect our losses will increase as this crisis continues,” said Burke.

How are airports coping?

Airports around the country are taking a wide variety of measures to cope and cut costs.

Efforts include closing and consolidating security checkpoints, locking yoga rooms and kids play areas, and shuttering restaurants and concessions. Many airports are even turning off escalators and moving walkways to save on electricity bills.

At Pittsburgh International Airport, which has seen a 90% reduction in the number of passengers, so many commercial flights have been canceled that the airport is using one of its four runways as a parking lot for almost 100 grounded planes.

The parking fees for those planes won’t come close to replacing revenue losses from the airport’s key income sources which, like other airports, include fees related to airline and passenger activity, said airport CEO Christina Cassotis.

But the airport must stay open and operational as an essential part of the country’s transportation system,” she said.

“And whether we have one passenger or one plane, we must do the same work to make sure everything is in good working order, from wildlife management to cutting the grass and making sure the airfields are free of debris,” said Cassotis.

At Los Angeles International Airport, the airport’s Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP) and terminal modernization projects are continuing as planned. But other airports are freezing work on major construction projects.

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) has 25 planes parked in ramp areas and de-icing pads, said airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer. Inside the terminals, close to 50% of concessions are now closed.

Denver International Airport has closed one of its six runways and is now operating with one 24-hour checkpoint. Among a wide variety of other measures, the airport disabled the air hand dryers in restrooms to reduce the spread of germs, closed the Interfaith Chapel and is stopping valet parking in its east and west garages on April 10.

And at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), both concourses remain open with only three of the airport’s 13 stores and three of its 15 restaurants operating. Because the airports’ volunteer ambassador program has been suspended, the airport’s traditional and very popular Mother’s Day flower giveaway has been canceled for this year.

“There are no volunteers to hand the flowers out and really very few passengers traveling through the terminal,” said JAX spokesman Greg Willis.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) reports that passenger counts are down as much as 90 percent. The airport’s children’s play area is closed, both the live music and the Visitor Pass programs are suspended and a long list of bars, restaurants and shops are shuttered.

To help concession operators, some of which opened new shops, bars and restaurants in just the last month as part of the airport’s expansion and modernization programs, the Port of Seattle established a short-term emergency relief package that includes a two-month deferral of rent and fees.

Airports elsewhere are figuring out how to help tenants as well.

Rent and fee deferrals will help in the short run, But the Airport Restaurant and Retail Association, which represents more than 20 large and small airport concessionaires, is asking U.S. airports to consider offering 12 months of rent abatement.

“Our businesses are part of the nature and character of airports and were projected to do $10 billion worth of sales in 2020,” said Pat Murray, ARRA Board Chairman and Executive Vice President at SSP Group, “$2.5 billion of that would have been paid in rent and fees to airports. Now we’re looking at a sales drop of over $9.5 billion.”

If some sort of relief isn’t offered, he said, “our sector may cease to exist.”

Do you miss shopping for souvenirs at airports?

The “stay home” command in response to COVID-19 is keeping us out of airports.

Besides the travel, what we’re really missing are all the souvenir-shopping opportunities airports offer.

So this week we’ll share some of the fun and offbeat souvenirs we’ve spotted at airports here and there.

First up: themed candy “poop.”

We’re not sure why this is a ‘thing.’ But we get a kick out of it. And since so much in the world right now seems to have turned to sh#!, we may as well start with some of our collection of perfectly fine chocolate and other candy spotted in airport shops that’s labeled as souvenir ‘poop.’

We’ve found Alien Poop in Houston, Turtle Poop in Florida, Sasquatch Poop in Seattle and Horse Poop in Kentucky. And, of course, Carpet Poop from the Portland International Airport.

We’ll add other non-poop souvenirs we’ve picked up at airports in the days to come. But if you have a favorite airport souvenir – or type of airport souvenir – to show off please leave a note in the comment area below.

(Not shot glasses, please..)

Grounded. For now

The fallout from the coronavirus got much worse over the weekend.

Seattle, Los Angles, New York and other cities ordered restaurants and bars closed and put a ban on how many people could gather in public spaces.

United Airlines, American Airlines and many other airlines grounded flights and announced major cuts in the days and weeks to come. And rumors are swirling about a government-ordered grounding of all passenger flights.

With so few passengers flying, airport shops are reducing hours or closing temporarily.

All airport USO lounges are closing too.

What’s next? Of course, no one knows.

Just try to stay safe. Stay away from other people who may have the virus or may get it from you.

And wash your hands.