ATL

Free Wi-Fi coming to NY-area airports

Free Wi-FI at airport

Looks like we won’t have the NY-area airports to kick around – Wi-Fi-wise- for much longer.

The Associated Press reports that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Wednesday approved a plan that -perhaps by the fall – will offer passengers at Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi.  After that, passengers will have pay the $7.95 day fee.

While that 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi s good news, of course, 30 minutes is hardly enough time to get anything done.  So here’s hoping free unlimited  Wi-Fi is in the future for the JFK, EWR and LGA airports.

Harstfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recently changed its plan and now offers all passengers unlimited free Wi-Fi, with an option to get an upgraded service for a fee.

 

 

Delta adding outdoor terraces at JFK and ATL

ATL_Sky_Deck

Many frequent travelers buy memberships or occasional day passes for access to airline lounges in order to tap amenities such as complimentary snacks and drinks, reliable Wi-Fi and quiet, comfortable places to escape the hubbub of the airport.

These lounges are typically either tucked into windowless spaces at airports or offer views of the airfield through sealed windows.

But for fliers seeking a bit of fresh air, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is raising the stakes by adding outdoor terraces, called Sky Decks, to the Delta Sky Club lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport and in the new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

To develop the look and feel of the Sky Decks, Delta partnered with Architectural Digest, which brought in interior designer Thom Filicia, familiar to some as one of the experts featured on the popular TV show, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

JFK_Sky_Deck

In additional to living room style seating, power outlets and greenery, “the decks will have red stretched canvas awnings to provide shade,” said Delta Air Lines spokesperson Leslie Scott. The Atlanta club deck will be an extension of the current Sky Club and offer close -up views of aircraft and runway activity. “The JFK Deck will be on the roof level and offer amazing views of Jamaica Bay and of the runways,” Scott said. “Plane spotters will be able to see liveries from around the world.”

“This is a great move from Delta,” said Dan Gellert, CEO and co-founder of the airport travel application Gate Guru. “Delta’s Sky Clubs at JFK and ATL specifically are rated average at best in GateGuru, so it is great to see them getting a bit more aggressive in these airports to lure business travelers.”

Gellert says airline lounges in the U.S. “have not done much over the recent years to really push the envelope regarding new features or functionality to their lounges,” but he’s hopeful more airlines will expand upon this innovation, “especially in warm weather cities such as Orlando, Los Angeles and Houston.”

Over the past two years, Delta has opened or renovated airline clubs in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, Seattle and other cities. At JFK, the rooftop terrace will be part of the Delta Sky Club in the expanded Terminal 4 and is scheduled to open in May. At the Atlanta airport, the Sky Deck will be next to the existing club room on Concourse F and is scheduled to open this summer.

Delta is not the first airline to recognize that frequent travelers — who spend a lot of time indoors, in artificial light — might like to spend some time outside before boarding a plane. “Virgin Australia’s recently opened lounge at Gold Coast, a popular sun destination on Australia’s east coast, features an outdoor area called The Deck,” Raymond Kollau, founder of Airlinetrends.com, told NBC News.

And airports in Amsterdam, Honolulu and Long Beach, Calif., have landscaped outdoor areas open to all passengers.

“The Delta Sky Deck differentiates the airline’s lounge experience by offering a bit of a boutique feel,” Kollau said. “And aviation enthusiasts will love the backdrop of the busy airport tarmac and even the occasional smell of airline kerosene.”

(Photos courtesy Delta Air Lines)
(My story about Delta’s new Sky Decks first appeared on NBC News)

Welcome Home a Hero program ending at DFW

 

Those American flags and welcome signs won’t be needed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport anymore.

Every day, for the past eight years, at least one chartered plane carrying U.S. soldiers heading home for two weeks of rest and recuperation from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan has touched down at both Dallas/Fort Worth and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airports.

And for every flight at DFW, volunteers in the “Welcome Home a Hero” program have gathered to enthusiastically greet the returning soldiers.

“The welcome is a festive event with recorded patriotic music and anywhere from 30 to 300 cheering people holding flags and homemade signs and banners,” said Donna Cranston, coordinator of the Dallas/Fort Worth program. The greeting has become so well-known that some soldiers request to arrive in the U.S. via Dallas instead of Atlanta, Cranston said, even though that means they may have to wait longer for a connecting flight home.

But the drawdown of troops in Iraq and the shift to shorter deployments means there are no longer two full planes of R&R-bound soldiers returning home each day. So the U.S. army has decided to consolidate the flights into Atlanta.

March 14 will be the final Dallas arrival.

The conclusion of the flight is bittersweet news for some troops and for many volunteers who have welcomed home more than 460,000 inbound soldiers who have touched down in Dallas since 2004.

“The soldiers get a hero’s welcome when they come through Dallas, and it’s an uplifting and emotional experience,” said Army Lt. Col. Trisha McAfee, commander of the army’s Personnel Assistance Point at the Dallas airport. “They didn’t get that in other wars. But the consolidation is a good thing because it means many soldiers are spending less time in the war zone and getting home sooner.”

In Dallas/Fort Worth, many volunteers who welcome home troops at the airport also joined the USO so that they could be part of the send-off activities for active-duty military as well. “One volunteer has made more than 45,000 neck pillows to give to soldiers on their way back,” said McAfee.

“It’s always a happier occasion when they come in,” said Linda Tinnerman, 71, who with 78-year-old Constance Carman became known as one of the “Huggin’ and Kissin’ Grandmas” — dispensing free hugs to every returning soldier. “We are also there just to talk and visit with the soldiers.”

While the final R&R flight will arrive at Dallas/Fort Worth on March 14, the last departing flight is scheduled for March 30. After that, the U.S. Army’s daily chartered R&R flights will arrive and depart solely from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where there’s a much smaller “Welcome Home a Hero” and send-off program.

“It’s a matter of logistics,” said Mark Brown, Personnel Assistance Point commander at the Atlanta airport. “At DFW, the soldiers come out into the non-secure side. In Atlanta, they stay on the secure side to connect to their flight. So we have airport employees come out to help with the welcome.”

(A slightly different version of my story appeared on msnbc.com Travel)

Tidbits for travelers: connect at the airport

If you’re heading to or through the Dallas/Fort Worth or Atlanta airports there are now money-saving reasons to make sure your smartphone is charged and accessible.

DFW introduced a program that links the Foursquare and Facebook Places location-based mobile applications to 85 (so far) of the airport’s concessions. Now if you check in when you’re at the airport you’ll see deals and discounts offered at food outlets and shops right around you.

For the next several weeks, you’ll notice “brand ambassadors” in the terminals telling people about the service, teaching them how to use it and handing out giveaways.

Back in April, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport introduced discount offers available via quick response (QR) codes printed signs around the airport.

The QR codes direct passengers to the airport’s mobile website — www.iflyatl.com — where there are downloadable discount coupons.

The TSA is also using QR codes. According to a recent post on the TSA Blog,  the agency is testing QR codes on checkpoint signage at a few airports to point travelers to information about lost and found, customer service, procedural information and travel tips.

 

At Atlanta Airport: no reason to be bored or rumpled

Technology is our friend at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

In addition to videophones for the deaf and hard of hearing that are being installed on all concourses, near north and south baggage claims and in the rental car center, ATL airport has installed a MiMuzicBox kiosk (on Concourse T) that allows users to quickly download music, movies, audiobooks and other entertainment to their own electronic devices.

Far more intriguing is the new U*tique.

Described as an “automated luxury retail outlet,” this giant vending machine on Concourse A sells 50 kinds of make-up, hair and skin products and has a touch-screen offering video demonstrations and information about each product.

So no excuses for looking rumpled at the airport.