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.
Front of the new Paine Field passenger terminal in Everett, Wa.
Earlier this month, more than 200 ‘fake’ passengers showed
up at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
They weren’t working a scam. And they weren’t there to
Instead, they were there volunteering to help Sea-Tac airport
test the operational readiness of a satellite terminal undergoing its first
major expansion and modernization in 45 years.
Happy to be spending their Saturday morning at the airport, 3-year-old
Ari Weinstein and his 6-year-old brother, Micah, were toting tiny rolling
suitcases for the day’s pretend flight.
“We thought it would be fun to check-out the new airport
addition and see how easy it was for kids,” said the boys’ dad, Ben Weinstein,
a Boeing engineer, “I’m also curious to see how the latest airport design works
with new airplanes.”
72-year-old Vicki Lockwood and her 93-year-old mom, Ruby
Griffin, had signed up to be testers too.
“I wanted to see what was happening so I can tell my friends
at the senior center what it’s all about,” said Griffin.
Travel agent Rufo Calvo volunteered as a tester so he could
get an early look at the new terminal area and tell his clients what to expect.
And Toffee Coleman, who travels four or times a month for her job in marketing
and sales, was curious to find out what the expanded terminal would offer for business
travelers. “I hope it measures up to the central terminal in terms of ease of
use, amenities and accessibility,” she said.
Opening day for the first phase of Sea-Tac airport’s
expanded North Satellite was less than two weeks away. The bathrooms, drinking
fountains, food concessions and visual paging systems weren’t quite ready, but this
“passenger-flow simulation” was testing the journey between the main terminal
and the expanded satellite as well as the process of boarding and deplaning a
flight at one of the new gates.
“We’ll also be asking the volunteers if the temperature in
the terminal is comfortable and if they can hear the overhead announcements
clearly,” said Charles Goedken, Sea-Tac’s senior manager for Operational
Readiness, Activation and Transition, or ORAT, which is the system of best
practices many airports use from the design stage forward to make sure a new
airport or new terminal is ready for opening day.
“What you try to do is to start working early with the planning and construction team so that when the airport or the facility is open everyone knows what to do,” said Lance Lyttle, the managing director of Sea-Tac Airport, “You don’t want to find issues on opening day; you want to find them before opening day.”
Lyttle was with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport when each opened new terminals and says no airport wants to relive the opening glitches experienced by Heathrow and Denver airports.
In the early 1990s, the high-profile failure of an
expensive, computerized baggage-handling system delayed the opening of Denver
International Airport by 16 months and increased the construction budget by
millions of dollars.
After that, “DEN returned to manual baggage systems,” said
Denver International Airport spokeswoman Alex Renteria.
In 2008, the grand opening of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport’s
turned to mush thanks to a cascading series of staffing and baggage-handling
problems that forced British Airways to suspend luggage check-in and cancel more
than 200 flights over four days. Thousands of passengers missed their flights and
more than 15,000 pieces of luggage were delayed.
“If you have a failed opening of a facility it lives as part of your reputation forever,” said Sea-Tac Airport’s Lance Lyttle, “People use it as an example. And not in a good way. Heathrow underestimated the value of ORAT. But the next time [the opening of Terminal 2, in 2014] they went overboard and got it right.”
New terminals and terminal upgrade projects are underway at
all three New York-area airports and at airports in Istanbul, Singapore, Salt
Lake City, San Francisco, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and many other cities and
testing is key to those projects.
At Turkey’s new international in Istanbul, which is expected
to be fully open by March, 2019, the ORAT (Operational Readiness, Activation
and Transition) team reported for duty more than 20 months ago.
than 60,000 airport community staff have gone thru a familiarization and
training program,” said Stephan Schwolgin, Istanbul Airport’s ORAT project
manager, “More than 175 trials have been conducted with nearly 10.000 fake
passengers and 7 real aircraft.”
experience of unbiased, fake passengers is valuable for gathering feedback on
everything from wayfinding and flight information display systems to walking
distances and the availability of power sockets, said Schwolgin.
On February 6 Finland’s Helsinki Airport will hold a test
day with more than 200 fake passengers at the airport’s new central plaza,
called Aukio, which will serve both departing and arriving passengers.
“We will test the functionality of
services and passenger paths, especially the state-of-the-art security check
with a full body scanner,” said Joni Sundelin, Helsinki Airport’s executive
director, “The trial day includes testing not only of the passenger flow,
signage, restaurants and bathroom facilities, but also services and processes
for passengers with reduced mobility.”
During a previous test of a
different part of the airport, “There was a funny
issue with the toilets,” said Sundelin. “Test passengers were wearing brightly
colored vest and when the testers entered the bathroom all the automatic water
taps with motion sensors activated. Apparently the sensors were so sensitive
they recognized the bright yellow and orange vests moving even from the
distance,” said Sundelin.
When testing with fake passengers for San Francisco International Airport’s Boarding Area E, “We learned there was some signage too small or not universal enough,” said Kristi Hogan, Associate Vice President, Transportation for engineering firm AECOM, “No one could find the yoga room.”
For a passenger-flow simulation scheduled for
June 6 in advance of the July opening of 9 new gates at SFO’s Terminal 1,
volunteers of all ages and abilities will be asked to test the terminal signage;
flush toilets and use faucets and automatic hand dryers in the bathrooms; locate
flight display boards; test the Wi-Fi and make phone calls on their cell
“We’ll have some fake passengers arrive on the
BART train and have others get dropped off at the curb,” said Hogan, “And we’ll
also ask them to become arriving passengers and make their way to baggage
claim, to taxis or to BART.
Trials and simulations will also soon be
underway in advance of the scheduled May 15 opening of the new terminal at Louis
Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
“These simulations will test everything from
parking, ticket counters, security checkpoints, flight monitors, restrooms,
gates, concessions, emergency exits, lost and found, and ground transportation,”
said MSY spokeswoman Erin Burns.
Emergency response systems, baggage systems,
PA systems and everything on the facility maintenance side will also get
tested, said Burns, including simultaneous toilet flushes & sink use, seating,
power access and severe weather operations.
Employees and fake passengers will performed many
of these tests but, with perhaps the Denver and Heathrow terminal debacles in
mind, Burns said data on how MSY passengers might experience the facility will
also be gathered during sneak peaks events held in the terminal right up to the
New York’s LaGuardia Airport is in the midst of an $8 billion makeover and the first 11 gates are now open in the state-of-the-art Terminal B.
Airlines operating out of this new concourse include Air Canada, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. They’ll be joined by United Airlines in 2019.
The space includes soaring ceilings, a colorful children’s play area, charging stations throughout the seating areas and a nursing room.
The kids’ area has a 16-foot interactive display that allows users to design their own aircraft on a tablet and watch it come to life on a giant digital wall. Next to the kids area is an indoor green space with greenery, benches and plenty of natural light.
A slection of New York-inspired food, beverage and retail offerings include a branch of toy store FAO Schwarz and dining options such as Shake Shack, La ChulaBar & Taqueria (Mexican taqueria), Osteria Fusco (Italian), Kingside Bar & Restaurant, Irving Fam Coffee Roasters and Five Boroughs Market.
In-airport food and retail delivery service ‘At Your Gate’ is up and running in LGA Terminal B as well.
The terminal also has an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, with a United Club scheduled to open in 2019.
Other retail offerings include independent bookseller McNally Jackson, Hudson, LaGuardia Dufry Duty Free Shops, Spa Here, M∙A∙C, and District Market, with specialty Made in Queens products.
“You’re going to love the new LaGuardia Airport,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said in a tweet.
Not about those bedbugs at KCI. The airport was quick to take care of that problem.
And not about that survey which claimed to find high levels of germs on screens at check-in kiosks, gate area chair armrests and water fountain buttons in three unnamed airports.
“It was a poorly designed semi-study with no real science,” said Marilyn Roberts, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. “Anywhere there is high hand contact will have lots of bacteria. But unless you are immunocompromised, old, or very young this should not be an issue. We are surrounded by bacteria all the time and the majority are harmless.”
The best way to avoid harmful germs at airports (or anywhere) is – no surprise – to practice good hygiene. “Be mindful about washing your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes,” said Roberts. And keep hand sanitizer handy.
Travelers will also be reassured to learn how serious most airports are about cleaning and how technology is helping an increasing number of airports maintain restrooms, gate hold rooms and public spaces.
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh International Airport are among the airports that have replaced multiple types of packaged harsh cleaning chemicals with onsite technology and machines that use tap water to create non-toxic cleaning solutions on demand.
In addition to eliminating much of the staff time previously spent purchasing, storing and managing traditional cleaning solutions (and discarding all the packaging), “We’ve replaced six cleaning products with two that allow airport staff to do deeper cleaning without harsh chemicals,” said David Shaw, Vice-President of Facilities and Infrastructure at the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which operates PIT Airport.
Pittsburgh International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are among airports that have tested autonomous floor scrubbing machines that allow custodial staff to spend more time doing tasks that require more skills and attention. (PIT’s tester came from Nilfisk and Carnegie Robotics; the machine at PHX is by Brain Corp.)
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, an automatic floor scrubbing machine is already part of the full-time cleaning team, operating four or five hours overnight polishing high traffic floors and, as a bonus, providing entertainment for late-night passengers.
“It acts like my co-worker,” janitorial worker Jack Lloyd explains in a C& W Services video about the machines, “I set it up, it works and I’m doing something else.”
Laser-focus on the lavatories
Restrooms are among the most highly-visited parts of airports and, in surveys, dirty restrooms are often cited by passengers who are dissatisfied with their airport experience.
In response, airports, which now compete against each other for “Best Passenger Experience” awards, are focusing increased time, attention, and technology on making their restrooms shine.
High-tech features that helped clinch that award were turbine-powered low-flow fixtures and occupancy sensors that monitor restroom use and signal maintenance crews to clean based on the use and number of visitors, said MSP spokesman Patrick Hogan.
Air is pumped into and out of the MSP restrooms in a way that helps dry surfaces quickly and minimizes odors and digital signs outside the restrooms direct travelers to the nearest open facility when a restroom is closed for cleaning.
Starting in 2016, housekeeping staff at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) have been wearing Samsung Gear smartwatches and using the TaskWatch app to match staff resources to peak restroom times instead of cleaning restrooms on a set schedule.
Wireless counters at each restroom entrance collect data and once a pre-set threshold is reached an automated message is sent to everyone wearing the watch. “The nearest housekeeper responds, inspects, addresses and clears the alert,” said CVG spokeswoman Mindy Kershner.
Cleanliness scoring for the airport’s restrooms increased so much (7 percent year over year) that what started as a six-month pilot program has been continued.
Now CVG airport is exploring how to use the TaskWatch system in other parts of the airport.
Officials at the Houston Airport system believe detailed attention to maintaining facilities – especially restrooms – that are clean, attractive and accessible, contributed to both George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby earning 4-star ratings last year from Skytrax, a major airport and airline rating service.
“Using the industry clean standards set by the International Sanitary Supply Association, custodial and maintenance staff at both airports work hard to ensure the facilities are maintained at or above those standard levels,” said Bill Begley, Houston Airport System spokesman.
HOU and IAH are also among a growing number of airports nationwide that, like MSP, have ‘smart’ data-gathering programs in restrooms and in other parts of the terminals.
“Everything pushes out data now,” said Tracy Davis, CEO of Atlanta-based Infax, one of the software services companies that collects real time data from passengers and from trash cans, lighting, restrooms fixtures and other things in airports.
“We take that data in and can let airport staff see on a map where there’s a spill or a trash can that needs to be emptied,” said Davis, “We also give maintenance crews predictive information about when flights are due in so they know when restrooms will experience peak hours.”
In addition to high tech tools, airports are also focusing on the basics to keep terminals tidy.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where that autonomous floor scrubber is earning its keep, airport cleaning crews use cordless vacuums to avoid creating a tripping hazard and use microfiber cloths to constantly wipe down screens on passport control kiosks and common use check-in kiosks.
And SEA Managing Director Lance Lyttle (who previously served as Houston Airport System’s Chief Operating Officer) keeps a plastic glove in his pocket so he’s ready to pick up bits of trash he spots when checking in with his staff in the airport terminal.
Lance Lyttle, Managing Director, Aviation, Port of Seattle, at Sea-Tac Airport, 3 February 2017.
That attention to detail sets a keep-it-clean tone. “It certainly does,” says SEA airport spokesman Perry Cooper, “When the boss does it, you pick up random litter as well.”