airports

How to survive Thanksgiving travel

Flying somewhere this Thanksgiving? Here are tips to keep sane.

 

A lot of turkey wishbones – and travel records – are set to be broken during the Thanksgiving holiday this year.

AAA expects 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the holiday, a 4.8 percent increase over last year and the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005.

For the 48.5 million Americans expected to travel by car over the holiday, the best advice is: leave early. INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts that in the country’s most congested cities the Thanksgiving drive over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house could take four times longer than it might on a ‘normal’ travel day.

Traffic at airports and in the skies will break records as well.

For the holiday period, which officially begins Wednesday, November 21 and runs through Sunday, November 25, the Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 25 million people at U.S. airports, a 7 percent increase over last year.

Looking a bit broader at the 12-day Thanksgiving air travel period already underway, Airlines for America (the airline trade organization) predicts a record 30.6 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines.

That’s up from the estimated 29 million passengers who flew during Thanksgiving last year.

Flying over Thanksgiving? Travel tips for the airport

As with driving or going anywhere over the holiday, the key advice for flying is: leave for the airport early.

That not only helps reduce stress, but builds in extra time for all those things that can go wrong, such as discovering your favorite airport parking lot is already filled up or there’s a hiccup with your airline ticket.

Transportation Security Administration officials say new screening technologies, coupled with an additional 80 passenger screening canine teams and more than 1,200 TSA officers will help with the increased volume of passengers at airport security checkpoints this year. But there may still be long, slow-moving lines at many airports.

To make sure you’re not the person holding up the line, take some extra time when prepping and packing to make sure your carry-on items are checkpoint-savvy.

*Dress for success: Transfer small items, such as wallets, phones and keys, from your pockets to your carry-on before you get to the checkpoint. Wear shoes or boots that are easy to take off and put back on.

*Download and print your boarding pass. Putting your boarding pass on your mobile phone means one less paper to keep track of. But a paper version is good back-up in case your phone loses its charge while you’re waiting on a long line, or if the checkpoint scanner can’t read the downloaded version of your pass.

*Review the rules. If you’re an infrequent traveler, find a quart-sized clear bag and take a moment to read TSA’s primer on the liquids rule.

If you’re traveling with food to eat during your journey or with a turkey or something else destined for the Thanksgiving table, you will likely be asked to take it out of your bag and put it in a separate bin for a ride through the x-ray machine.

TSA allows turkeys, turkey sandwiches, pies cakes and other baked goods through the checkpoints, but foodstuffs that are liquid, such as jellies and cranberry sauce, need to travel in checked bags.

Unsure if your food it a liquid or gel? TSA’s “What can I bring” tool, available on line and as an app, can help and you can send a question about a specific item to @AskTSA on Twitter.

Here are some other tools and tips that might help smooth out your Thanksgiving flying journey.

*Charge up your phone and other travel gadgets, including one or more back-up chargers, before you leave home. While airports have added more power ports, finding an empty one can still be a challenge. Show up with a power cord with extra plugs, and you’ll be a hero.

*Download the apps for your airline and all airports you’re traveling through and sign up for the alerts for each of your flights.

*Get numbers. Make a list of all the phone numbers you might need for your trip. The list should include not only your airline, but also the rental car or shuttle company you’ve booked with, your hotel, the person picking you up and the person who dropped you off (in case you left something behind). Put those numbers in your phone and on paper.

*Pack extras. Bring along snacks, a hefty amount of patience, and your sense of humor. Add a stash of ‘mad money’ to your wallet. That way, if something goes wrong despite all your planning and preparation you’ll be prepared to buy yourself or your family a stress-busting treat.

 

Enjoy the holiday!

 

Improved, free Wi-Fi for LGA, JFK, EWR Airports

Finally!  Travelers now get unlimited, free, high-speed Wi-Fi at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), Newark Liberty International (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA) and New York Stewart International (SWF) airports.

 

Previously, passengers were limited to 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi via Boingo.

After that, you needed to switch devices to get another free session – or pony up cash.

Now, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey says the new high-speed Wi-Fi service offers  free two-click access to Wi-Fi running a minimum of 20 megabits per second (Mbps) and up to 50 Mbps – in unlimited four-hour sessions.

“While the unprecedented rebuilding of our region’s airports is a multi-year effort, passengers shouldn’t have to wait for better Wi-Fi,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “Simply put, free, reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi has become a bedrock expectation for today’s customers.”

Look for new signage about the enhanced Wi-Fi at the airport terminals and parking garages.  To access the new and improved service, log on to the “Free Wi-Fi”  listed  in the drop-down menus at each airport (i.e. “LGA Wi-Fi,”).

The service is free, but you may need to sit through a short ad before getting your free session.

We can complain all we want about the NY cit -area airports (and now we can complain on better airport Wi-Fi), but the Port Authority seems to be trying to make improvements:

In addition to Wi-Fi, the agency notes that recently-launched mobile-friendly websites give easier access to information such as taxi wait times and lost-and-found info. There are also upgraded restroom facilities in many terminals outfittedwith real-time monitoring of bathroom conditions via customer feedback push-buttons.

Dining options are getting makeovers in many parts of the airports as well.

Longer term:  There’s the $8 billion redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport, which should get its first new gates by the end of the year. Newark Liberty recently broke ground on a $2.7 billion construction of a new Terminal One to replace Terminal A, And a $13 billion plan to transform JFK was just unveiled promising two major new international terminals  at the south and north ends of the airport.

 

Best U.S. airports. Another celebratory list.

When it comes to travel, there are plenty of lists that claim to rank the best (and worst) airports, airlines, hotels, loyalty programs, etc.

Some are created by experts in the field. Others are the results of surveys (some scientific, some not). And still other are created (somehow) by companies hoping to get their names mentioned in a story.

Conde Nast surveys it well-traveled readers to put together its long list of travel bests each year.

Here’s their Top Ten list of airports for 2018:

  1. Indianapolis International Airport
  2. Portland Oregon International Airport (PDX)
  3. Bradley International Airport (BDL)
  4. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
  5. Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  6. Detroit Metro Airport (DTW)
  7. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  8. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  9. George  Bush International Airport (IAH)
  10. Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)

Any of your favorites on this list? Or any airports you think were robbed of a spot?

Airport Restaurant Month is back

It’s back. For the fourth year running, HMSHost is hosting Airport Restaurant Month.

 

Taking a cue from the popular Restaurant Week promotions that take place in many cities this time of year, HMSHost is hosting Airport Restaurant Month at more than 50 North American airports.

Prices and menus may vary a bit in the participating restaurants in airports across the country, but during HMSHost’s Airport Restaurant Month you’ll find a featured seasonal menu:

  • Seared Salmon – topped with basil pesto.
  • Vegetarian Flatbread – topped with basil pesto, goat cheese, tomato compote and sunflower seeds
  • Roasted Chicken Breast – topped with basil pesto and sage chicken jus
  • Better Than Bacon Burger – topped with fontina cheese and bacon-tomato compote
  • Grilled Pesto Shrimp Wrap – baby kale, roasted mushrooms, peppers and asparagus served with mushrooms and asparagus

Each entrée is being served with roasted mushrooms and asparagus, crispy smashed potatoes tossed with baby kale and a serving of fresh fruit.

This year there’s also a special cocktail for Airport Restaurant Month. In most of the participating venues you can order “The Temptation,” which features Templeton Rye whisky with a touch of malbec, lemon, and maple syrup – all topped with grapes. (Here’s the recipe, so you can mix this drink up at home.)

Go. Eat. Food in airports is getting better.

Bees delay a plane in South Africa

As I reported in a recent At the Airport column for USA TODAY, airports deal with all sorts of unwanted wildlife, from worms to whales.

At King Shaka International Airport in Durban, South Africa, the unwanted wildlife was a swarm of bees.

On Sunday, Mango Airlines reported that a swarm of  about 20,000 bees was discovered building a nest inside on of its airplane engines, causing a delay to several flights.

Bee removal experts were called in and successfully gathered up and removed the bees. According to South Africa’s News 24 website,  the bees were taken a beekeeper’s home and will be likely be transferred to an area macadamia farm or to another beekeeper.

Incidents of bees swarming airplanes aren’t all that unusual. In March, 2017, an American Airlines flight from Miami to New York’s JFK airport was delayed by about four hours due to a swarm of bees that had landed on the side of an airplane.

Bee careful out there.