John Wayne Airport

Aviation memorabilia at John Wayne Airport (SNA)

Hang gliders on display at John Wayne Airport (JWA)

One nice perk of visiting lots of airports is getting to see great art and history exhibits, even if your trip doesn’t leave much time to hang out in many museums around town.

We miss that right now. But we are glad airports continue to share their fresh exhibits with us online.

A great example:

In California, the John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County now has an exhibit featuring aviation memorabilia and historical artifacts highlighting the history of women in aviation.

The displays include items that date back to the early 1900s.

The exhibit is put together by the Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots and tells the history of women pilots and aviation pioneers including Amelia Earhart, who was the first president of the Ninety-Nines.

Why “Ninety-Nines“?

The group was established in 1929 by 99 women pilots. The group name represents the 99 charter members who became the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots.

Look for this exhibit at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in the Vi Smith Gallery on the Departure (upper) Level in Terminal C across from Gate 14.

(Photos courtesy John Wayne Airport)

Travel Tidbits: Hawaii, Amtrak, Comic Book Art

Travel Tidbits from airports and airlines near you

Southwest expands Hawaii flights from California

Southwest Airlines announced new nonstop flights from Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to both Kona (KOA), on the island of Hawaii, and Lihue, Kauai (LIH) will begin flying in January 2020.

Once these flights begin, you’ll be able to fly to all four main Hawaiian Islands nonstop from SJC.

Southwest will start flights between SJC and Lihue four days per week (Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun) starting January 19, 2020. Flights to Kona will be three times a week (Tue/Thu/Sat) beginning January 21.

These new flights will be in addition to Southwest’s existing daily, nonstop flights between SJC and both Honolulu and Kahului (Maui), which began in May.

Take the Train – half off

You can’t take the train to Hawaii, but you can take it lots of other places – for half price.

Amtrak just kicked off its September Sale, offering 50% off tickets nationwide. The sale runs Friday, August 16 through Saturday, August 17, 2019 and covers travel anywhere between September 1 and September 30, 2019. Even better: no blackout dates.

Comic art at John Wayne Airport

Like comic books? Then you’ll love this comic book art.

Mixed Media Collage artist Fernando Del Rosario brings his “Real Heroes” collection of inspiring quotes and original composed art – made from comic books – to John Wayne Airport (JWA).

“My Real Heroes collection is meant to grab you, lose yourself within each piece and come out inspired, motivated, and creatively recharged,” said Del Rosario. “Every one of these comic book pages is from my collection as a kid. And this is my way of sharing my story and my inspiration with the public.”

Del Rosario’s artwork is on display in the JWA Community Focus Space from August 15 – September 17, 2019.

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you 

Multi-sensory room at Miami International Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and several others have them.

Now Miami International Airport has one too.

Miami International Airport now has a multi-sensory room just beyond the Concourse D TSA security checkpoint. The room provides a quiet area for young passengers with cognitive or developmental disabilities such as autism.

The dimly lit space includes sensory-soothing fixtures, including an aquatic bubble tub, wall puzzles, cushioned seats and a light projector. Hours: seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Party at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Amy’s Ice Cream is back at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and a good time to indulge is today during the kick-off party for the refreshed Asleep at the Wheel Stage in the center of the Barbara Jordan Terminal.

Located near Gate 19, there’s a 9-foot neon lighted guitar spinning above the area and seating for 190 patrons.

The party runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes a ribbon cutting ceremony and performances by Ray Benson, Heybale Band, and Love & Chaos.

NFL Hall of Famer Earl Campbell will be on hand to help celebrate the Heart of Austin area of the airport that includes the Saxon Pub Bar, Joe’s Coffee and Earl Campbell taco-themed food truck.

Fresh art at John Wayne Airport


A new photographic exhibit at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA by Jane Szabo’s is titled “Family Matters” and uses childhood posessions and simple objects to tell a complicated story of family dynamics.

After moving her 86-year-old father and 91-year-old mother into assisted living, Szabo began to organize the contents of their home of 36 years. “Family Matters” is a result of the final selection of treasures she kept before placing her parent’s home for sale.

Fiesta at San Antonio International Airport

San Antonio International Airport held its Second Annual Fiesta San Jacinto Day Parade recently, with mariachi music, parade floats, mascots and festive colors through both terminals of the airport.

Top airports share their secrets to success

What ‘secret weapons’ do airports use to make passengers happy? For my most recent “At the Airport” column on USA TODAY, I asked some of the ‘winners’ in the most recent JD Power suvey to share what they think makes their airports stand out against others.

Airports around the country are dealing wiht record high passenger volumes and a wave of major terminal construction projects. Yet, U.S. airports are doing a bang-up job of pleasing passengers.

That’s the major take-away from the 2018 North America Airport Satisfaction Study recently released by J.D. Power, which ranks everything from airlines and airports to electronics and cars.

The study says travelers’ overall satisfaction with airports is at a record high, based on factors such as terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

Of course, some airports rank higher in the study than others. And when we quizzed ‘winners’ about the secrets to their success, “a commitment to customer service” emerged as a universal theme. But so too did did a keen, good-hearted sense of competition.

The ‘mega’ airports

 

Among ‘mega’ airports – those serving more than 32.5 million annual passengers – Orlando International Airport (the 2017 category winner) and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas tied for first place.

Orlando International (MCO), Florida’s busiest airport, credits its return win to “a seamless arrival and departure experience that exceeds the needs of the traveler and instills a memorable imprint of the culture and environment of the region.”

The airport is meeting milestones in its $4.27 billion Capital Improvement Plan and has completed a variety of ‘passenger-pleasing’ projects ranging from improved Wi-Fi and baggage systems to a people mover system that transports passengers over waterways and landscape that evoke the Florida sense of place.

When McCarran International Airport (LAS) landed in the number 3 slot in J.D. Power’s ‘mega’ category last year, Rosemary Vassiliadis, Director of Aviation for Clark County, Nevada,  gathered her team together to strategize how to move up to first place.

“It’s personal for us,” said Vassiliadis, “Las Vegas is a destination city and our airport offers the first and last look for almost 50% of the people who visit. We want to let them know how much their visit means to us.”

To gain its first-place tie this year, LAS teams focused on upgrading terminal spaces, smoothing out checkpoint experiences and perfecting the “You’re in Vegas” vibe that includes slot machines, a neon “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, and a curated “Voices of Vegas” taped music program highlighting iconic Vegas acts and songs that name check the city.

At Detroit Metropolitan Airport (ranked third in this category this year) logo welcome mats have replaced industrial black runners. DTW officials also credit high passenger satisfaction ratings to amenities such as new nursing rooms, water bottle refill stations and light fixtures that can be programmed with seasonal and sport-team colors.

At Denver International Airport, which placed fourth in the ‘mega’ category this year, the secret to success is always looking for ways to “surprise and delight passengers,” said airport spokeswoman Emily Williams.

DEN offers everything from a Canine Airport Therapy Squad (that includes a cat) to airport events in an outdoor plaza that have featured a beer garden and an ice-skating rink.

And during its current terminal renovation project, DEN is having success delighting passengers with a series of “Pardon our dust” messages that embrace the conspiracy theories and rumors of alien inhabitants that date back to 1995, when the airport opened.

The best ‘large’ airports

Among ‘large’ airports serving 10 million to 32.4 million passengers California’s John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, ranked highest this year; Dallas Love Field ranked second and Oregon’s Portland International Airport ranked third.

John Wayne Airport 2006

With a departure curfew, passenger and flights caps and just 505 acres, “We’re a postage stamp of an airport, but passengers like our airport’s convenience.” said Deanne Thompson, spokeswoman for John Wayne Airport (SNA), which is located about an hour from LAX.

At SNA, passengers also appreciate ‘extras’ such as water bottle refill stations, pet relief areas, the vibrant art program and the nursing mothers lounge with adjustable lighting, said Thompson, “All amenities that make travel easy.”

Dallas Love Field Airport, which must contend with a gate cap, credits its customer satisfaction success to “personal touch and high-quality customer service.”

The airport offers a live weekday lunchtime music performance program, permanent and changing art exhibitions, a public piano, a children’s play area and information booths that are staffed from 5 a.m. until the last flight.

And at Oregon’s Portland International Airport, passengers enjoy the wide selection of local and regional shops and restaurants, true street pricing and a suite of amenities that includes a free movie theater, said PDX spokeswoman Kama Simonds.

“The secret sauce? The folks who work at PDX, who have an awesome sense of pride in the work they do and the travelers they interact with,” said Simonds, “And as we all know from when we’re travelers, that makes the whole experience that much better.”

The best ‘Medium’ airports

Among medium sized airports – those serving between 3 million and 9.9 million passengers – this year Buffalo Niagara International Airport ranks the highest, followed by Indianapolis International Airport and Fort Myers/Southwest Florida International.

 

In addition to focusing on customer service, “We also do things that go above and beyond,” said Kimberley Minkel, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which operates the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The airport has a branch of the Anchor Bar where Buffalo chicken wings were invented and the second largest ‘Paws of Love’ therapy dog program in the country. Thanks in large part to BUF’s award winning snow removal team, the airport never closes.

Among its ‘secret weapons,’ Indianapolis International Airport cites its bright, wide-open spaces and amenities such as human-powered charging kiosks and an extensive permanent and rotating art exhibition program. Events at the airport often mirror what’s happening in town: i.e. during Indianapolis 500 season, IND hosts a panel with drivers sharing stories of their racing experiences.

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And a Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, “Our secret to success is the sense of place at our facilities,” said RSW spokeswoman Victoria Moreland, “In the terminal you can look out huge windows at the busy ramp and runway areas while sitting at a table under a palm tree.”

Do you agree with these rankings? And have you noticed these ‘secret weapons’ employed?

Robots invade John Wayne Airport

 

A collection of more than 100 toy robots – many with their original boxes – and robot-related catalogs belonging to an Orange County, CA resident are on display at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in the Vi Smith Concourse Gallery, on the upper level across from Gate 18 through 21 in Terminal C.

 

Robots of a different kind – on display this week at the the SITA IT Summit in Brussels – may soon help ease long check-in lines at your airport.

 

 

SITA Lab has created KATE, a smart check-in kiosk that knows when it may be needed and can move on its own to congested areas in airports.

The robotic kiosk uses geo-location technology to find its way through the airport and will use Wi-Fi to connect to  airline and airport systems, says SITA Lab, so ‘Kate’ can move freely through the airport terminal using obstacle avoidance technology to avoid bumping into people or things.

The robotic kiosks are designed to give airports and airlines an added tool for managing peaks in passenger flow caused by delays, scheduling peaks or other situations and, while brand new, will soon be tested in airports.