Boston Logan International Airport

Dude, where’s my ride? Airports move Uber/Lyft away from curbside

At many airports, curbside pick-up is moving away from the curb.

On October 29, Los Angeles International joins the growing list of airports where curbside traffic has gotten so bad that taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber to Lyft are no longer permitted to pick up at passengers at the curb.

“We have heard from our guests that the current system with ride pickups can be frustrating.” “said Keith Wilschetz, Deputy Executive Director for Operations and Emergency Management at Los Angeles World Airports, said in a statement

“Frustrating” is a polite way of describing how excruciating and time-consuming using a ride-app at LAX can be.

During peak times, app users now often spend upwards of 45 minutes to an hour between waiting for their ride to arrive curbside and sitting in traffic to get out of the Central Terminal Area.

“That’s if the drive doesn’t cancel on you,” said LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery.

At LAX, bad curbside traffic is about to get worse as the airport construction associated with terminal redevelopment and the new automated people mover begins.

“We will be losing more than 30% of our curb front, so doing nothing is not an option,” said Montgomery.

The solution at LAX is to move the pick-up area for both taxi and ride app users away from the terminal curbsides entirely to a new area, dubbed “LAX-it,” just east of Terminal 1.

Passengers will be able to walk to the new pick-up area from some of the terminals and a shuttle will pick-up passengers at all terminals in a dedicated lane on the lower/arrivals level lane.

LAX officials say getting from the airport to the pick-up lot should be no more than 15 minutes (from most terminals) and exiting the terminal should be faster because drivers no longer must battle backups in the Central Terminal Area.

Once it rolls out on October 29, the LAX-it system will no doubt need some tweaks.

For now, some passengers are worried the new system will be confusing and pick-up time will be no shorter than it is now. In a statement, Lyft said it looks forward to working with LAX on providing “the best possible pick-up and drop-off experience for all users,” but Uber outlined its long list of concerns with the plan in a letter to airport officials.

How do other airports tackle curbside congestion?  

Back in 2016, Seattle Tacoma International Airport worked with ride-app providers to move pick-ups inside the airport parking garage, adjacent to space set already aside for other commercial ground transportation operators.

“We have since made traffic flow process improvements,” said SEA spokeswoman Kate Hudson, “We’re lucky in Washington state that cars must have front and near license plates as it allows passengers to locate their vehicle from both angles.”

The Port of Seattle staffs the ride-app pick-up area and contracts for additional ambassadors during peak times. 

With a goal of diverting at least 45% of ride-hailing pick-up activity away from the terminal roadways, in summer 2018 San Francisco International Airport relocated pickups for Uber Pool, Express Pool and Lyft’s shared categories to the Domestic Parking Garage. And in March 2019, Uber X and Lyft offered their customers the option to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage at $3 less than the curbside rate.

“To date, these measures have only shifted about 21% of [ride-hailed] pickup activity off the terminal roadways, falling short of the 45% diversion rate,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel, so as of June 5, 2019 SFO relocated all domestic terminal pickups for ride-apps, including Uber, Lyft, and Wingz, from the curbside to the 5th floor of the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

In mid-November 2018, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) moved the pick-up area for all taxis and ride-app companies to the ground level of the airport’s Rental Car Facility.

“In the new space, dedicated taxi lanes are to the immediate left, while three ride share pick-up lanes are on the right,” said AUS spokesman Bryce Dubee, “The three ride share lanes are color-coded in blue, red and yellow with corresponding numbers 1-4 so that both passengers and drivers have a specific spot to meet up.”

The overall walking distance is about 750 feet, so before the switch was made the airport purchase four ADA-compliant 12-passenger electric shuttles to provide transport between lower-level locations and also leased an electric autonomous vehicle to transport passengers on the upper level of the garage.

Looking ahead, at the end of this month, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) will move both pick-ups and drop-offs for app ride passengers to new dedicated curb areas.

The new areas – conveniently located in the Central Parking – will be protected from the weather, brightly lit, and connected to all terminals via moving walkways,” said BOS spokeswoman Samantha Decker. “The new areas will also provide all the services passengers expect, including luggage carts, wheelchair services, and bag check service.”

(My story about airports relocating pick-up spots for Uber, Lyft, Wingz and taxis first appeared on USA TODAY)

How to cut the checkpoint line at Boston Logan AIrport

Want to skip to the front of the airport security checkpoint line?

We all do.

To get the courtesy, you can pay for TSA Pre-Check. You could pay for a CLEAR membership.

Or, if you’re flying out of Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), you could take a boat to the airport.

Boat service has been offered for quite a while. But in a new program, passengers who take water transportation to Boston Logan International Airport will now get complimentary priority access at the airport security line.

Under the plan, passengers who take the MBTA ferry or water taxi service to the Logan Airport Boat Dock (Fare: $15) will get a “Ticket to Skip” pass when they get off the boats and board the free Logan Airport shuttle to the terminals.

The orange ticket can then be presented to security checkpoint staff in exchange for preferred lane access.

In good weather, taking the water taxi from Boston waterfront is a great adventure and can be quite convenient.

The small boats leave from Long Wharf, which is right by the New England Aquarium, the North End, Faneuil Hall and other popular Boston landmarks you might be visiting on your way out of town anyway.

So the ride to the airport can be part of your vacation.

Find more information about getting to and from Boston Logan International Airport (Bos).

Will more airports ban religious services?

A wing and an organized prayer: OK at some airports, but no longer in Orlando

Chapel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

My story this week for CNBC is about airport chapels. Here’s a very slightly different version of that piece.

They’re not as ubiquitous as cocktail bars and souvenir shops, but chapels and inter-faith prayer spaces, many with full or part-time chaplains and regularly-scheduled services, are among the amenities offered by more than three dozen airports around the country.

Some prayer rooms occupy what has, over time, become prime real estate in pre or post-security areas of airport terminals. Others are tucked away and may be hard to find on mezzanines, down back corridors or in bag claim areas. 

But a recent rise in violence at churches, mosques and synagogues prompted Orlando International Airport to rethink holding religious services at its interfaith chapel and reflection space, prompting some concern about whether other airports will make similar changes. 

Interfaith chapel at Orlando International Airport

Earliest airport chapel

In 1951, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) was the first U.S. airport to set aside dedicated space for prayer. “It was explicitly meant for people working at the airport. A neon light pointed to the chapel,” notes Wendy Cadge, an expert in contemporary American religion, in “A Brief History of Airport Chapels.”

Today Logan’s appropriately named Our Lady of the Airways is located in the airport’s public area. It seats 250, is open around-the-clock and offers mass daily for passengers, airport and airline employees and the general public. 

Orlando International Airport makes a change

At Orlando International Airport (MCO), an interfaith chapel with a Tree of Life stained glass window dates to the airport’s 1981 opening. A second reflection space for prayer, with accommodations for Muslim travelers, was added in 2015, as part of a customer service enhancement project.

Both spaces are located post-security and for many years Catholic mass has been offered in MCO’s chapel each Sunday morning and during holidays. But, citing increased passenger volume, space allocation and safety, the airport board recently revised it policies.

Now, while ticketed passengers and employees are welcome to visit the prayer spaces anytime, organized religious services of any kind are not permitted.

“Every airport authority has to make the decisions that they think are the best for their environment and location,” said Susan Schneider of the Interfaith Airport Chapels of Chicago, which offers religious services and passenger support services at both O’Hare and Midway Airports. “If Orlando feels this is something they must do at this time, you have to trust the decision. You just hope it’s the right decision.”

Reverend Rodrick Burton, a pastor is St. Louis, is certain the authorities at Orlando International Airport have made the wrong decision.

“I believe Orlando’s actions are stunning in their shortsightedness and in an effort to be politically correct or to misinterpret the constitutional right of freedom of religion,” said Burton, who serves as president of the St. Louis Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy, an organization that has offered “prayer, religious services, spiritual guidance, empathetic listening” and other assistance at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) for more than 33 years.  

“There’s nothing sacred about those spaces if Chaplain’s don’t attend to them. Those chapels will become quiet rooms,” he added.

Status of other airport chapels

I polled about two dozen other airports around the country on the status of their interfaith spaces and organized religious services.

Reflection room at San Diego International Airport

Airports in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and many other cities have chapels, quiet rooms, meditation spaces and/or reflection rooms that welcome travelers at all hours, but do not offer religious services. “No regular services are held here. It is strictly self-service,” said Greg Willis, Marketing Program Manager at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport, “We provide a book where customers can write down their thoughts and prayers.”

Interfaith chapel at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Some airport chapels have been ensconced in airport terminals for a long time. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the ATL Interfaith Airport Chapel was established in 1979. Pittsburgh International Airport opened its post-security interfaith chapel in 1992, along with the current terminal. And the quiet room at Philadelphia International Airport was created just last August.

T1 chapel entry at St. Louis Lamber International Airport

In addition to the scheduled religious services offered at Boston Logan and St. Louis Lambert International Airport, airport chapels in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, New York (JFK) and a handful of other airports offer organized religious services. All airports that responded to my query say they currently have no plans to follow Orlando’s lead in banning these services.

A solution that works

Meanwhile, back in Orlando, after some scrambling and, no doubt some prayers, there’s now an alternative arrangement for those seeking to attend Sunday mass at the airport.

Instead of being offered in the post-security airport chapel, starting this Sunday, mass will be held in the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport hotel, which is attached to the main terminal of the airport.

The solution is being hailed as a godsend for the both travelers and the airport.

“Security and Safety will always be a top priority at Orlando International,” said Tom Draper, Senior Director of Airport Operations for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, “By moving these activities to a larger and more private location, we are minimizing activity in secure areas while enhancing the guest experience for those traveling through the airport.”

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Boston Logan Airport – and others – are reminding travelers that Uber & Lyft driver are planning a strike today, which might make getting to and from this and other airports a bit more complicated.

Delta Air Lines announces a “Reclaim My Status” loyalty benefit for its customers. Nice.

And the newest exhibit at St. Louis Lambert International Airport is curated by the Griot Museum of Black History.

Batik Story Quilts: Yoruba and Other Cultural Proverbs, displays Batik tapestry quilts made by artist Tunde Odulande.  

The exhibit includes seven quilts:

The Fairytale of the Blue Ghosts and Their Magical Spree,” Musicians Make Music While the Audience Makes Orchestration,” “Has Man Finally Arrived?,” “If you Don’t Know Where You Are Going, Any Road Will Do,” and “Our Heritage” are on display across from carousel 1 in the Terminal 1 Baggage Claim area.

Sweet Mother” and “Mask of Peace” are on display near the A Concourse entrance. Batik Story Quilts: Yoruba and Other Cultural Proverbs is on display at STL through October 23, 2019 

The 9/11 Memorial at Boston Logan Int’l Airport

Take some time today to think about how the world changed on September 11, 2001.

And if you’re at Boston Logan International Airport, today or anytime, take some time to visit the Logan Airport 9/11 Memorial, which is a permanent structure in a small park honoring the passengers and crews of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.

Those were the two planes that started out that day from Logan Airport for Los Angeles that were hijacked by terrorists and flown into the  World Trade Towers in New York.

The memorial was dedicated on September 9, 2008 and is 20-by-20-foot glass cube that glows with a soft light at night. Inside the cube are two glass panels etched with the names of the people who were on each flight.

The memorial is located in a smalll park-like area between Terminal A and the Hilton Boston Logan Airport and can be a bit difficult to get to. Ask for directions and don’t give up.