Despite challenges, airports landed welcome new amenities this year
[This is a slightly different version of the story we prepared for USA TODAY]
Despite the challenges set out by COVID-19 this year, airports pressed forward and introduced new features, new art, new technologies, and new amenities for passengers.
For example, in January 2020, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), went smoke-free, one of the last major U.S. airports to do so. And in February, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) introduced a coat-check service. It is still the only U.S. airport offering this service.
Here are some other new amenities airports introduced in 2020. Keep in mind that some may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns.
New art, attractions, and a new terminal
As part of the much acclaimed rebuild of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, in November a 25-foot-tall water feature turned on in Terminal B, In addition to displaying various patterns and shapes, the water falling from the towers’ nozzles serves as a backdrop for projected laser shows.
During November, Denver International Airport (DEN) celebrated the arrival of the 27-foot-tall ‘Luminous Wind’ sculpture at the light rail station stop right before the airport.
And in September and October, Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) debuted its new Terminal B. This is the first phase of the first new hub airport built in the U.S. in the 21st century.
New Observation Decks and a record-breaking sky bridge
In February San Francisco International Airport (SFO) opened the SkyTerrace. The pre-security deck in Terminal 2 is open to the public and offers 180-degree views of the busiest section of SFO, where all four runways intersect.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) claimed a spot in the record books in February with the installation of a 780-foot long pedestrian bridge that is now the world’s longest structure over an active taxiway.
And as part of its Gate Expansion Program, in November, Denver International Airport (DEN) unveiled an outdoor deck on the west side of Concourse B. In addition to outdoor seating, the deck has a pet relief area and fire pits.
While most airports had to put their in-terminal music and performance programs on hold, airports continued to offer entertainment.
Almost two dozen airports banded together in August and again in May for JetStream music festivals. The free, multi-hour livestream events featured musicians from the entertainment line-up offered by the participating airports.
Over the summer, California’s Ontario International Airport (ONT), which has served as movie set for some popular films, set up movie screens and drive-in movie nights. In October, Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) and Nebraska’s Lincoln Airport (LNK) had drive-in movie nights for Halloween-season movies.
And Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) debuted an entertaining Coca-Cola themed lounge in Terminal D complete with charging stations, seating, activities, and memorabilia-filled exhibits.
Fresh Services for health and safety
Of course, in response to the COVID-19 health pandemic, airports have been focusing time, energy, creativity and, of course, money on making sure the terminals are clean and safe for travelers.
Since March, airports throughout the country have sprouted hand-sanitizing stations, PPE vending machines, and temperature-check programs. They have developed contactless systems for bag check, check-in, security screening, and boarding. And both Grab and At Your Gate have expanded their offerings for in-airport food ordering and delivery.
Cleaning and sanitizing robots have joined the permanent staff at airports in Pittsburgh, San Antonio and many other cities.
In May, Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) introduced a virtual information booth. Los Angeles International Airport, Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI), and Denver International Airport (DEN) now offer similar services. And as the holiday season kicks off, COVID-19 testing stations, many in partnership with airlines, are quickly proliferating at airports across the nation.
Did we miss a new airport amenity you spotted in 2020? Please let us know in the comments section below.