airport lounges

Travel Tidbits

Here are some of the travel tidbits we’ve gathered so far this week.

Delta extends middle seat block

Most other airlines have stopped blocking the middle seats. But Delta Air Lines says it is extending its policy of blocking middle seats on all flights through April 30, 2021. Perhaps others will do the same.

“We want our customers to have complete confidence when traveling with Delta, and they continue to tell us that more space provides more peace of mind,” said Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer, in a statement. He added that the airline will “continue to reassess seat blocking in relation to case transmission and vaccination rates.”

SkySquad partners with At Your Gate

As Valentine’s Day approaches, here’s a nice match-up of airport services.

SkySquad, a service that provides airport assistance services from the curbside to the plane door, and from the gate to the curb, is partnering with airport food delivery company At Your Gate.

SkySquad’s customers include families with young children, seniors,
pet owners, and anyone who needs a helping hand through the airport.

The company currently operates at Washington’s Reagan National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). The partnership with At Your Gate extends the SkySquad services to JFK, Newark, Boston, and Philadelphia airports. At those airports At Your Gate staff will step in to escort SkysSquad customers through the terminals.

Bonus United Miles for donations during Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, United Airlines, Chase and Visa are giving bonus miles for donations made to select non-profits that provide educational opportunities to Black students and which support human and civil rights policies.

Now through March 15, 2020, United Explorer and United Club cardmembers will receive five miles for every dollar up to $1,000 donated to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and The United Negro College Fund. More details here.

New Centurion Lounge at Denver Int’l Airport

American Express has opened its 14th Centurion Lounge. This one is at Denver International Airport (DEN) on the Concourse C Mezzanine, near Gate C46.

The new lounge is 14,000-square-feet (the second-largest Centurion Lounge location to-date) and has some enticing amenities, including Italian-inspired cuisine, a live-action cooking station, a Craft Beer Bar with seasonal selections from Colorado breweries. The lounge also includes a new feature: a game room with pool and shuffleboard tables, and other activities.


Preview of Paine Field – “Seattle’s 2nd Airport”

Commercial passenger service begins March 4 from Paine Field in Everett, WA., about 30 miles north of downtown Seattle. And travelers in the area are pretty darn excited.

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines will be the only airlines flying from this upscale, two-gate terminal. But their offerings stretch pretty far:

Alaska Airlines has a schedule of 18 daily roundtrips to 8 west coast cities – Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. Service starts March 4 with flights to Portland, Las Vegas and Phoenix and expand to the full schedule by March 12.

United Airlines will begin flying six daily flights from PAE on March 31: two daily roundtrips to Denver and four daily roundtrips to San Francisco.

I’ve got a column posting shortly on USA TODAY with more information, but here are some snaps from my visit to the terminal, which looks more like an upscale lounge than a small airport.

Solari board behind in check-in lobby will have the retro flipping sounds.

Waiting area has a very upscale lounge feel. But it’s for everyone.
Jet-bridges at both gates are glass sided.

Great seats for the great views out the windows: the passenger terminal sits on the same airfield where Boeing has a giant assembly plant.

Front of the new Paine Field passenger terminal in Everett, Wa.

More to come.

4 ways to sleep, work or be alone when you’re stuck at the airport.

My column for CNBC this week is a round-up of options for finding a place outside airport lounges to sleep, have a quiet conversation or just have a little quiet time to yourself.

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Business travelers once looked to airline club rooms as calm oases offering quiet areas to relax, work, conduct important phone calls or, perhaps, catch a nap.

But now it’s not unusual for airline-operated and independent lounges to be as crowded and noisy as the congested airport terminals and gate hold areas many frequent travelers are willing to pay a fee to avoid.

Alternatives exist. Sort of.

Outside the United States, travelers seeking alone time might check into one of the Napcabs equipped with beds, worktables, touch screens, WiFi and baggage storage inside Germany’s Munich or Berlin-Tegel Airports.

Elsewhere, Yotel offers cozy, cabin-like hotel rooms equipped with futon-like beds, WIFI, flat screen TVS and bathrooms inside airport terminals in Amsterdam, London (Heathrow and Gatwick), Paris CDG and, soon, Istanbul and Singapore. 

In the United States, travelers seeking sleep, a place to work or a quiet place to have a phone conversation have an increasing range of options.

Downtime at Dulles?

Boston-based Sleepbox plans to cut the ribbon on a post-security micro-hotel on Concourse A at Dulles International Airport next week.

The 16 stand-alone modules have no bathrooms, but are soundproof spaces with mood lighting, WIFI, Bluetooth capability, fold-down work tables, space for storing luggage and beds with memory foam mattresses. Bookings are made via the same smart phone app that allows guests to unlock their room and control features such as the temperature and mood lighting in their unit

Pricing: Average hourly rate for compact rooms (about 30 square feet) is $25 per hour. Standard rooms (45 square feet): $35 per hour. After the first hour, additional 15-minute increments are $5 for the compact room, $7.50 for the standard-room. Rates top out at $120 for a 12-hour stay in a compact room and $140 for 12-hours in a standard room.

Room to relax

Minute Suites is a short-stay hotel chain with six post-security locations in four airports: two in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (Concourses B&T); two in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (Terminals A&D), one in the Charlotte Douglas International Airport atrium and one in the A/B Connector at Philadelphia International Airport.

The basic 56-square-foot suites have sofa daybeds with a pull-out trundle beds, sound-masking systems, HDTVs (with DirectTV and Netflix) that can also be used as computers, WIFI, and desks. A few suites in the DFW location are larger.

The company is adding four additional locations in ATL airport, a second location in Charlotte and has just announced Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) as its next city. Plans to open branches in four additional airports are being finalized now.

An uptick in the number of millennial travelers is helping drive Minute Suites’ expansion.

A recent Hipmunk travel survey found that more than half of all millennials (54.4 percent) would like  airports to offer nap rooms  

“The second most requested amenity was board games,” said Minute Suites co-founder and CEO Daniel Solomon, “And we have now added board games and other desired services such as exercise cycles and yoga mats to our locations.”

Rates for Minutes Suites start at $42 per hour and drop to $32 per hour after two hours. The overnight rate (8 hours) is a flat $155. Showers (available in DFW Terminal D) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport are $20, with suite rental; $30 without. 

Want to be alone? Step into a Jabbrrbox

Phone-booth sized workspaces from Jabbrrbox, offering travelers private, quiet places to work and make phone calls, are available at New York’s LaGuardia Airport Terminal B, Pittsburgh International Airport (Concourse B and C) and on Concourse B at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

Two new booths were installed in New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport Terminal 4 this week.

Users make reservations using touchscreens on the exterior of each unit and, once inside, will find WIFI, a desk, chair, power panel and another, larger, touchscreen that is used to control the color and brightness of the booth lights, track flight status and take photos.

Jabbrrbox pricing is $10 for 15 minutes, $15 for 30 minutes, $30 for an hour and $60 for two hours.

Work, stand, stretch

Business travelers who need to work but who also want to stretch their legs before or between flights can do both at the complimentary Varidesk co-working space at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Opened in December and located in Terminal C, the staffed workspace has about two dozen height-adjustable standing desks, 75 charging ports and a conference room with moveable walls.

Varidesk chief marketing officer, Sean Scogin, says the company plans to open co-working spaces at other airports soon and may add its new state-of-the-art phone booth to the mix.

Have you found a good way to get out of the fray when you’re stuck at the airport? Share a tip below.

Snaps from British Airways’ lounges at JFK Airport

On my way to London via British Airways from Terminal 7 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday, I was invited to tour the newly refurbished British Airways  First lounge, look inside the exclusive Concorde Room and spend time in the Galleries lounge.

Here are a few snaps from the day:

 

The new First lounge is now 60 percent bigger than the previous lounge – and includes a pre-flight dining area (shared with the Galleries /business lounge), a pleasant quiet work area and this lovely large bar area.

When I passed through it seemed to be both self-serve, with bartenders nearby.

Around the corner from the bar is a Wine Room with an enomatic dispenser serving 1-ounce tasting pours of a variety of specially chosen wine. Right now “Chardonnays of the World” are featured.

In addition to a quite bountiful buffet in the dining area, there was this dim sum bar nearby.

And (my favorite, after the complimentary 15-minute facial offered in the Elemis spa) –  a roving Gin and Tonic cart that was visiting both the First and Galleries loung areas.

Have you visited these lounges? Let us know what you think of the new and improved (and almost finished…) spaces.

United Airlines partners with that exclusive private lounge at LAX

You may remember stories about a private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport where passengers pay a premium fee to get special service before their flight, including private and personalized check-in and baggage handling, private security screening, a swank ride directly to the aircraft and a very upscale lounge to hang out in.

The cost? Fees are up there in the rarified “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it” categories:

Membership is $4500 a year, which gives a discount rate on individual visits of (only) $2700 when flying on a domestic flight and $3,000 when flying one-way internationally.

Not a member? Those one-time visits cost $3,500 for a domestic flight and $4,000 for someone traveling internationally.

Want a “cheaper” way in?

United Airlines and The Private Suite have partnered up to offer what it describes as “a highly preferential rate” that will be included in some business-class fares.

Exact pricing isn’t mentioned in the airlines’ release about the new partnership, but on the webpage for the United Private Suite, it says:

“With this service, you’ll save $4,500 on The Private Suite’s annual membership fee that’s normally required for travel with other airlines. In addition, you’ll enjoy favorable rates when compared to making separate bookings for travel and The Private Suite experience.”

Want to book it?

United says the The Private Suite experience is initially available only if you book through select corporate travel booking desks and travel agents, but that passengers will soon be able to purchase the perk  on united.com or through the United app as part of a premium-cabin ticket fare.