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Santa’s workshop at Heathrow Airport

Stuck at The Airport is continuing coverage of Santa sightings at airports.

We are also sharing updates on what airports are doing this year to make things merry.

So today we bring you this update from London’s Heathrow Airport.

To help parents with kids asking lots of questions about how Santa does what he does, Heathrow has installed “magical” periscopes in Terminals 2 and 5.

The periscopes allow children (and adults) to check in on what Santa is up to as he and his team get ready for the big night.

Heathrow says the periscopes offer a 360-degree view of elves in action at Santa’s the satellite workshop, which is conveniently located right under Heathrow (!).

Scenes include Santa’s Toy Factory, the Department of Wrapping and the Mail Room.

Heathrow Airport is going all out this holiday season to make travelers feel welcome.

The day before Thanksgiving, passengers from a handful of flights arriving at Heathrow from various U.S. cities got a surprise at the baggage claim.

Before checked bags showed up, baskets of fresh-baked pumpkin pie came down the line.

Spot Santa at the airport? Send us a photo.

Stuck at the Airport? Lucky you!

Here are some new airport amenities that might make winter travel fun. Or less of a hassle.

Here’s a round-up I put together for USA TODAY of some new amenities you’ll find in airports this season.

Airport ice-skating

Denver International Airport (DEN) has brought back its free outdoor skating rink for the fourth season.

The rink opens will be open through January 20 and is in the pre-security area on the DEN Plaza between the airport terminal and the Westin hotel. Skate rentals will also be free.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through January 20, 2020. As a bonus, on Friday afternoons there will be hot chocolate, hot cider and a variety of winter activities, including live entertainment.

More airport ice-skating

The TWA Hotel, across the road from the JetBlue terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport will also be setting up an ice-skating rink.

This rink opens November 30 adjacent to the hotel’s 1958 Lockheed Constellation Connie airplane-turned-cocktail lounge and will stay open through February.

Free skating shows are planned, but if you want to get out on the ice admission will be $15 for adults and $10 for kids under 12. Skate rentals will be $10; $8 for kids under 12.  Hours: Monday to Thursday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Even more airport ice-skating

If you find yourself at Germany’s Munich International Airport this holiday season, you’ll find free ice-skating (and a curling rink) too.

For the 21st year, the large roofed open space between Terminals 1 and 2 at Munich Airport has been transformed into a winter wonderland, with a winter market, more than 45 Christmas trees, live music, activities for kids and adults, a pine forest and a free ice-skating rink. Skates can be rented for a small fee.

Germany’s Dusseldorf Airport has ice-skating too.

“Airport on Ice“ offers passengers and visitors free ice-skating from November 30 until January 5. Skate rental is also free. Hours: Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays: 11 am to 7 pm.

Free short stories

The list of airports where hurried passengers can pick up a free short story is growing.

In October both Oakland International Airport (OAK) and Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) in Madison, WI installed short story dispensers in their terminals.

The dispensers, by French Company Short Edition, are slim kiosks that invite curious readers to push a button to request a short story that will take an estimated one minute, 3-minutes or 5-minutes to read. Stories print out on eco-friendly paper and there’s an option to request kid-friendly stories.

You’ll also find short dispensers at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL); Ohio’s Akron-Canton Airport, in Lansing, Michigan at the Capital Region International Airport (LAN).

Canada’s Edmonton International Airport (YEG) has a short story dispenser, as do several French airports, including the Paris- Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Free beer or beer koozie

Colorado has a robust craft brewing scene and there are plenty of places to order a local or regionally brewed beer at Denver International Airport (DEN).

The airport even has a Beer Passport you can use to score a free pint.

Here’s how it works:

Pick up a beer passport at an airport information booth or at one of the four participating airport brewpubs, which include: the Tivoli Brewery (pre-security inside Tom’s Urban); Breckenridge Brewery (Concourse A, by Gate A71); New Belgium Brewery (Concourse B, by Gate B30); Great Divide Brewing Co. (Concourse C; by Gate C32).

Order a beer at each of the four brewpubs and be sure to get your passport stamped when you order.

Once you have all four stamps, swap the passport for a free pint at any of the participating breweries.

No need to drink all four beers in one airport visit: the free Beer Passport program runs through April 1, 2020.

At Nashville International Airport (BNA) your beer crawl can score you a free beer koozie.

Cuddle a cat before your flight

More than 70 airports around the country now have programs that invite certified therapy animals and their owners into the terminals to hang out with and help de-stress travelers.

Dogs make up the bulk of the animal team members but there are a few exceptions, including Stiches, an 11-year-old, 13-pound mixed-breed cat that recently joined the Animal Ambassador program at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

This holiday season keep an eye out for some of the other non-canine therapy animals that visit airports. Denver International Airport’s CATS program (Canine Airport Therapy Squad) includes 100 dogs and a cat named Xeli. LiLou the pig is an official member of San Francisco’s International Airport’s Wag Brigade. And miniature therapy horses from Seven Oaks Farm are occasional visitors at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

In Boston, arrive by boat, skip the TSA line

Boston Logan International (BOS) is serious about its commitment to reduce congestion and encourage passengers not to drive to the airport.

Their latest incentive is as creative as it is unusual and fun. 

Passengers who take a ferry operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) or commercial water taxi service to the Logan Airport Boat dock are given an orange “Ticket to Skip” pass when they board the free Logan Airport shuttle from the dock to the terminals.  Passengers can then give that orange pass to a security checkpoint officer to get preferred lane access and move ahead of the line.

The MBTA ferry and the water taxis run year-round and serve the Boston waterfront as well as the nearby Hingham and Hull communities.

More airports add gate pass programs

At first it sounds counter-intuitive: why would someone who is not flying want to go through the security checkpoint hassles just to hang out inside an airport?

Especially during the holidays.

But it can be a real bonus if you want to have a send-off meal or drink with a friend or family member, accompany them to their gate or be there to greet them when they step off their flight.

Through the holiday season (until January 5, 2020) Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is testing the DTW Destination Pass program. The program invites non-flying guests to apply for day passes to visit the airport. Passes are issued for both DTW terminals, Tuesday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Two other airports, Pittsburg International Airport (PIT) and Tampa International airport (TPA) have permanent gate pass programs in place.

The number of passes issued each day is limited at each airport, but on December 7, Pittsburgh International is inviting the community to come by for a Holiday Open House, which will include dining and shopping specials, live music and other entertainment and, of course, visits with Santa.

And officials at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) promise that a 7-day a week gate pass program will be rolled out “in the coming weeks” for the brand new MSY terminal.

Let’s all go to the movies – at Miami International Airport

Miami International Airport (MIA) offers a quarterly screening series featuring contemporary art and image-making by South Florida-based video artists.

On view now near Gate J7 is a series of short experimental films and video art addressing themes of migration, travel, and journeys that are both physical and surreal. The work on view is by artists Carola Bravo, Claudio Marcotulli and Dinorah de Jesús Rodríguez.

Here’s a video of Migration Dreams #3, from Carola Bravo’s series of video art inspired by The Migration Series and Bravo’s own history as a Venezuelan immigrant.

Claudio Marcotulli’s feature, Remo Memories is an avant-doc short film about a journey through childhood, memory, and water.

And Casas viajantes, by Dinorah de Jesús Rodríguez, mixes handmade celluloid film with digital video and includes footage of the artist’s family’s immigration journey.

Airports on Veterans Day

Veterans Day

Flying on Veterans Day?

Want to support veterans while you’re traveling?

HMSHost sent word that military veterans-turned chefs have created a special burger –the Pimento Cheeseburger – which is on the menu throughout November at more than 70 restaurants in dozens of airports.

The burger is topped with crunchy fried onions, pickle chips, lettuce and tomato; it is finished with pimento cheese and it is served on a brioche bun. 

Sound good?

Buy the burger during November 2019 and you’ll not only get a tasty meal but a portion of what you pay for that burger will go to Folds of Honor, which supports military families. 

Better yet, on Veterans Day, November 11, all active-duty and military vets with ID can order one of these special Pimento Cheeseburgers and have it for free at participating locations.

Participating burger locations include the Flying Dog Tap House at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI); the Dallas Cowboys Club at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Soho Bistro at JFK Airport, the Rolling Stone Bar & Grill at LAX and a long list of other HMSHost airport restaurants.

NOT traveling on Veterans Day?

Don’t worry. HMSHost also offers a year-round military discount.

There is a 15% military discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages at HMSHost locations throughout the United States.

The 15 percent discount is valid any day of the week for military members with valid identification at HMSHost-operated airport and travel plaza locations nationwide. 

While we’re talking veterans and airports

Be(e) aware that Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is home to the Bee Veterans Apiary, which is tended to by U.S. military veterans.

The Bee Veterans Apiary is a partnership with the University of Minnesota and the unique apiary is located on the west side of MSP airport.

The program is donor-funded and they’re trying to raise $15,000 to expand the program now.

The program offers beekeeping classes for veterans and is part of the airport’s ongoing efforts to promote sustainability.

The public can’t visit the apiary right now, but honey from the hives is sold at Worker B at the nearby Mall of America, so you be a supporter of the effort.