airport events

Flight of Lights returns to Dane County Regional Airport

Now that we’re into year two of “how things happen in a pandemic,” we’re coming up on some ‘2nd annual’ events that may stick around even after things return to normal.

The “Flight of Lights” program that Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) in Madison, WI is bringing back for a second year may be one of those keepers.

The free, drive-through light display along International Lane in Madison opens Saturday, March 20, and will run daily each evening from 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm through April 4th.

The light-show will feature six different light displays along the route and will include tributes to first responders; the medical community; Wisconsin sports; animals and nature; tropical and nautical; and destinations people can fly to from MSN.

Organized last year at the onset of the state’s Safer at Home order, Flight of Light follows social distancing rules as a drive-through event with only members of the same household in each vehicle.

Here’s what the Flight of Lights event at Dane County Regional Airport looked like last year:

Lights displays are being installed now and MSN airport officials will share snaps from the test run when available.

In the meantime, we’ll put this on the nomination list for “Airport Amenity of the Week.”

Valentine’s Day at airports

Charles Lindbergh-themed Valentine

Ready for Valentine’s Day?

If you’re flying somewhere on Valentine’s Day, we hope it’s on a flight that wings you to your sweetheart.

If not, take heart from some of the efforts airports and airlines will be offering throughout the day.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) will be giving out complimentary chocolates to passengers from world-renowned chocolatiers.

Southwest Airlines will be serving a free alcoholic drink for passengers 21 years older on Valentine’s Day and dishing out “surprise and delight” treats throughout the day.

Phoenix Sky Harbor and many airports around the country will be pressing their therapy dogs into service on Valentine’s Day.

 Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) will have a “Smooches from Pooches” Kissing Booth event.

Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) Pets Unstressing Passengers Program (PUP) and Southwest Airlines will team up for the annual “Flying Kisses” event on Friday, February 14 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Terminal 1, post-security.

Free flowers

Free carnations (while they last) will be handed out at Jacksonville International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport on Valentine’s Day. And employees will be handing out chocolate roses in Terminal 1 and Terminal 4 at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The FLL Ambassadogs will be providing free kisses to passengers.  

Free Valentines and conversation hearts

Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) will be handing out boxes of Conversation Hearts on Valentine’s Day, along with airplane-themed valentines. Tampa International Airport (TPA), will be handing out blank Valentine’s Day cards as well.

To accommodate all the lovebirds that fly to Las Vegas to get married around Valentine’s Day, Nevada’s Clark County clerk’s office has a pop-up marriage license office in the Terminal 1 bag claim at McCarran International Airport (LAS) open through the end of the month. Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

And Amtrak is having a buy-one-get-one-free sale in honor of Valentine’s Day from Thursday, February 13 through Monday, February 17. Customers can buy one coach ticket and get the second free for nationwide travel between March 9 and August 30, 2020, with no blackout dates. Use the code V214 at the Amtrak site.

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.

Giant puppets at San Diego Int’l Airport

 Halloween may be over, but at San Diego International Airport there’s more to go.

Today, November 1, the airport is marking Dia de los Muertos (the “Day of the Dead”) by inviting the San Diego Guild of Puppetry and their larger-than-life, 10-foot-tall puppets back for a giant puppet parade.

The parade takes place today from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. in the pre-security baggage claim area of Terminal 2.

The San Diego Guild of Puppetry has been creating large-scale puppet parades in the community since 2004 and its Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) figurines are the creations of Felix Diaz, his family, and his students.

Puppets in the Day of the Dead parade at SAN will include versions of skulls, skeletons and butterflies, which represent the spirits of the departed returning to join their families for the celebration.

First look at Jewel Changi Airport attraction in Singapore

With a butterfly garden, pool, free movie theaters and much, much more, Singapore’s Changi Airport is all about the wow.

With the opening of the Jewel Changi Airport attraction, this award-winning airport is even more wow.

Located right in front of Terminal 1, on space formerly occupied by a parking lot, the Jewel is a large dome-shaped structure with a lush “Forest Valley,” a Rain Vortex that’s now the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, a 130-cabin YotelAIR hotel and 280 shops and restaurants.

I was on-site today for the opening-day preview events. Here are some snaps from the day.

More details about the attraction to come.