Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Earth Day at your airport

Traveling on a fuel-gobbling airplane on Earth Day?

Don’t worry – you can still be green on the ground at many airports.

 

Boston Logan International Airport is reminding travelers that is has added GobiCab, a fuel-saving, taxi cab ride-sharing app (for iPhones) to the eco-friendly transportation options listed on its website.

 

BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is celebrating by christening eight new electric car charging stations.

Wichita Mid-Continent and several other airports will be holding earth day fairs at their terminals

San Francisco International Airport is having a little Twitter contest.

If you tweet to @flySFO between 8 a.m. PDT and 8 p.m. PDT with ideas on how to reduce your environmental foot print when traveling, you may win one of the recycled SFO banner luggage tags they’re giving away.

And Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport kicks off its First Annual Garden Show on Friday, with displays from four area organizations: Openlands, Trees That Feed Foundation, The Conservation Foundation and the Chicago Botanic Garden.  Look for the green beyond the security checkpoints in Terminal 3, between concourses H/K and L through May 13.

 

(Flower photos courtesy Robin Carlson, Chicago Botanic Garden)

Tidbits for travelers at ORD, AUS and on the train

A few fresh amenities you can enjoy at some airports – and on some Amtrak trains.

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, celebrity chef Rick Bayless has opened Tortas Frontera, in Terminal 1.  The menu includes Mexican sandwiches, tortas, a guacamole bar and a wide variety of other tasty dishes.  (Another branch will open soon in Terminal 3).

Today Amtrak announced that there’s now free Wi-Fi on the Cascades route between Eugene, OR and Vancouver, B.C.

And with the opening of a branch of the Saxon Pub (an iconic music venue in Austin), there are now five venues that offer live music at Austin Bergstrom International Airport for a total of 13 shows each week.

Saxon Pub ribbon cutting ceremony, photo by Carlton Wade

Dance at O’Hare, sip with Southwest, try the train in Miami

Dance at O’Hare

It’s Unity Month in Chicago and to celebrate, both O’Hare and Midway International Airports are treating travelers to live entertainment on Friday afternoons.

O'Hare Unity Month Chicago Samba

Chicago Samba

From 2 to 5 pm this Friday, September 17th, there will be dance and music groups performing on the secure side of the domestic terminals and on the lower level at the international terminal at O’Hare, and on the secure side at Midway. Friday’s line-up includes five different groups: M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Big City Swing, Chicago Samba, Big Slim Steppin’ Network and Cu’Roi.

The entertainment stages at O’Hare are in Terminal 1, B Concourse across from Duty Free; Terminal 2, across from CIBO Market; Terminal 3 near Concourse L and in Terminal 5, on the Lower Level across from the Information Booth. At Midway, the stage is near the Battle of Midway exhibit in Concourse A.

Sip with Southwest

The Southwest Porch at Skyline Park in Denver

Southwest Porch at Skyline Park - Denver

In Denver, Southwest Airlines opened The Southwest Porch at Skyline Park. Much like the ‘porch’ Southwest opened in Bryant Park in New York City in June 2009, this outdoor venue has comfortable seating as well as a restaurant and bar serving pizzas and drinks. You can read more about it on the Nuts About Southwest blog.

Try the train in Miami

And this week Miami International Airport (MIA) opened the mile-long Concourse D skytrain. The four-car, four-station train runs along the roof of the mile-long concourse, making the trip from one end to the other in about five minutes.

Miami Airport skytrain

MIA skytrain

Tidbits for travelers: Holiday entertainment, free parking & more

Entertainment in Chicago

Airports around the country are expecting long lines and lots of extra travelers this weekend, but in Chicago, both O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport will be offering up some entertainment to help move things along.

Chicago airports feature Chicago Jazz Festival entertainment

To give travelers a taste of this weekend’s Chicago Jazz Festival, there will be live performances at both O’Hare and Midway on Friday, September 3 from 2 to 5 p.m. Look for the stages set up past the security checkpoints at O’Hare in Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and on the lower level Arrivals area in Terminal 5; and in the baggage claim area at Midway.

The Chicago Children’s Museum will also offer a workshop for kids at O’Hare’s “Kids on the Fly” play area in Terminal 2 on Friday, September 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Free parking in Tampa

And as Steve Huettel of the St. Petersburg Times reports, at Tampa International Airport airport officials have decided to continue offering free first-hour parking in both the short and long term garages.

“Currently, no matter how long drivers stay in the garage, the first hour is free. Under the new policy, it’s free only if drivers leave before the hour is up. Otherwise, they’ll pay $3 starting Oct. 15.”

Free is free though, and it’s good news that – for now – this perk is staying in place.

Saving energy in Portland

In Oregon, Portland International Airport has installed moving walkways that only move when someone approaches. Popular in Europe and Asia, the four energy-saving, auto-start walkways are in the pedestrian tunnels connecting the parking garage to the terminals and are said to be the first such walkways installed anywhere in the United States.

Portland International Airport auto-start moving walkway

Aliens, UFOs & crop circles at the airport

My At the Airport column on USATODAY.com this month – UFOS at DEN? is all about aliens (from outer space), UFOs, crop circles seen at some airport and the secret messages in some of the artwork at Denver International Airport

Scary stuff – but really fun.

Officials insist the 26-foot tall statue of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis now standing outside the Denver International Airport terminal is there to promote a King Tut exhibit opening soon at the Denver Art Museum. But the giant image of the jackal-headed god tasked with protecting the spirits of the dead is alarming some travelers.

“I’m not superstitious, but it doesn’t exactly instill confidence when the god of the dead is staring through the window at you!” says Brian Olson, a Colorado resident who travels frequently through Denver airport.

The Anubis statue, which has also spent time at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, will leave Denver International Airport in mid-August. Staying behind will be several pieces from the airport’s permanent public art collection that some travelers consider ominous and, in some cases, out of this world.

Mile-high mysteries

Matt Chasansky, the public art administrator at Denver airport, has watched all the YouTube videos, answered many e-mails and read all the internet postings about the secret messages allegedly embedded in murals, sculpture and other art pieces in the airport. He’s glad people are responding emotionally to the airport’s collection but insists concerns about strange doings at DEN are just misunderstandings.

 

(Terry Allen’s Notre Denver, courtesy Denver Int’l Airport)

One traveler wrote to complain about the “demons” in the baggage claim area. Those demons are part of Terry Allen’s work, Notre Denver and are European cathedral-inspired gargoyles meant not to harm people, but to protect them from losing their luggage. Other travelers see a secret code in the words and images in 21st Century Artifacts, the four mosaic floors created by Carolyn Braaksma and Mark Villareal for Concourse B. “The piece is actually about geography, archeology and topography,” says the airport’s Chasansky, “And those are Native American words and symbols for the Colorado River and other sites around the area.”

On its website, the airport notes that “a few fanciful conspiracy theories have been generated” by Leo Tanguma’s mural titled Children of the World Dream Peace, but that none of those far-out theories “were intended by the artist.” And both the airport’s telephone-hold message and brochure for the self-guided art tour make reference to the uneasy feelings some travelers get from the glowing red eyes of the 32-foot tall blue Mustang by Luis Jiménez, who died while working on the sculpture. Dubbed “Bluecifer” by detractors, the sculpture rearing up on the road leading to the airport has spawned Facebook pages and campaigns calling for its removal.

(Mustang by Luis Jimenez; courtesy Denver Int’l Airport)

There are also rumors about the airport’s aliens. The ones that have supposedly come to earth and now live in the hidden underground areas at the airport. “One theory says you can put your ears against the columns in the terminal and hear alien voices from the basement,” says Chasanksy. Another describes how pushing the right combination of buttons on a keypad by the airport’s time capsule will signal the elevators to descend to the aliens’ underground base. Unfortunately for alien hunters, that ‘keypad’ is just a plaque with braille lettering on it.

“All those theories are fanciful and fun,” says Chasansky, “But none of it is true. And the aliens aren’t telling me to say this.”

Unexplained events at other airports

Fanciful or not, Denver International isn’t the only airport said to be visited by aliens. According to Peter Davenport of the Seattle-based National UFO Reporting Center, “There have been many reports which seem to be, in one way or another, associated with airports.”

Larry Bowron, now the Transportation Director for the city of Battle Creek, Mich., says back when he worked at the Scottsdale, Ariz., airport he saw something he still can’t fully explain hover over the runway and then zip out of sight. “It looked like a helicopter, but had no lights on it. All of sudden a white beam of light came on and within two seconds it accelerated and was out of my sight. There was no sound, yet it moved 100 times faster than anything I’d seen in my life.”

Bowron says prior to that experience he was “sort of a skeptic” about UFOs, but “You see something that defies logic and it makes a believer out of you.”

Travis McQueen, manager of Indiana’sHuntingburg Airport, hasn’t seen a UFO, but did jump in an airplane to take some aerial pictures of mysterious crop circles that once showed up on airport-owned land leased to a local farmer. He won’t say whether or not he believes it was aliens or local pranksters who left their mark in the farmer’s bean field, but McQueen did file a report with the local sheriff so that the farmer could file an insurance claim for his lost crops.

(Crop circle – courtesy Travis McQueen)

Then there’s the UFO that may or may not have visited Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on November 7, 2006. Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center says he received documents “that left no doubt as to whether the event occurred, or to its bizarre nature.” He estimates that the disc-shaped object seen hovering above Gate C-17 was observed by no fewer than three dozen people, including aircraft mechanics, airline supervisory personnel and others he calls “highly qualified observers.”

The Chicago Tribune and other news outlets published reports about the 2006 UFO incident. Davenport and others call the event “very dramatic” and “very well documented.” The only thing officials at O’Hare have ever said about the possible UFO sighting, though, is “No comment.”