We’re declaring the virtual information booth an official trend at airports.
Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) rolled out its Virtual Information Booth back in May 2020. The super social distanced system lets travelers connect with a volunteer Airport Ambassador in a remote location via a live video feed.
In July 2020 Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) introduced a pilot virtual assistant program in Terminal 2. That system lets passengers have real-time conversations with customer service agents over a touch-free tablet at the real-world information booth.
Two more U.S. airports now have virtual information booths as well.
The Virtual Information Desk at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) is near the Southwest Airlines baggage claim belts 1-5. Passengers can get help from a Pathfinder staff member stationed in a safe, remote location.
During this holiday season, Denver International Airport (DEN) is testing a new Live Agent program. DEN’s program will let passengers interact with a live customer service agent via video, text messaging, and live chat.
At two information (one in the center of the terminal, near arrivals; one in the center of Concourse C) passengers can use iPads to contact a customer service agent for a virtual face-to-face interaction.
The pilot program, in partnership with Recursive Labs, also allows a traveler to use the camera on their smartphone to show the Live Agent where they are in the airport so the agent can help with directions.
Keep in mind that some of the features we love may be unavailable due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.
If we miss something you love about SDF Airport, or if you have an airport you’d like to be featured, please drop a note in the comments section below.
5 Things We Love About Louisville Muhammad International Airport (SDF)
1. The airport’s name honors Muhammad Ali
Louisville International Airport became Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) in 2019 to honor boxing legend and Louisville native Muhammad Ali.
Ali was born on January 17, 1942, and died on June 3, 2016. The Muhammad Ali Center, on Louisville’s Museum Row, explores his life.
2. The rocking chairs at SDF
Kentucky is bourbon country and we love that rocking chairs at SDF are made from bourbon barrel staves by local Wood Artisan Jason Cohen.
3. The Virtual Information Booth at SDF
SDF has a Virtual Information Booth staffed by volunteers from the Airport Ambassador Program who answer questions from a remote spot in the airport. A perfect social distance solution to customer service and safety.
We like the no-nonsense social distancing signage and floor decals.
And we are impressed that instead of waiting months for out-of-stock hand-sanitizing stations and plexiglass barriers, the Facilities and Engineering team at SJC is making its own.
At Your Gate + Grab = Service
Grab, the time-saving app that lets you order from an airport restaurant and then go straight to the pick-up line to get your meal is partnering with AtYourGate, the service that lets you order airport food via an app and have it delivered to you wherever you are in the terminal.
The partnership makes sense on many levels but is perfectly timed for these ‘no-touch’ times.
Grab already operates in over 50 airports in 4 countries. AtYourGate serves 10 airports now, with 40 more to be served in short order.
City or celebrity? Branding goals fuel airport name changes
Louisville, Kentucky is well known for bourbon,
the Kentucky Derby and Louisville Slugger baseball bats.
It’s also the city the late, legendary boxer
Muhammad Ali called home.
In his honor, Louisville International
Airport (SDF) was recently renamed Louisville Muhammad Ali International
Airport and a new logo honoring The Champ and his famous praise, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a
In addition to honoring a native son, the
airport name change is expected bring economic benefits to Louisville and both
built on and boost Ali-related tourism to the city.
“Even three years after our city’s most famous son’s
passing, Louisville continues to see people coming from across the globe to
discover and trace Ali’s legacy,” Karen Williams, President and CEO of
Louisville Tourism said in
a statement, “The airport rebranding supports current marketing efforts to
engage in Ali’s ‘Footsteps of
Greatness’ as a reason to inspire visitation to Louisville.”
Location, Location, Location
While Louisville added the name of a local
icon to its airport’s name, other airports are moving away from celebrity names
in favor of stronger geographic branding.
petition seeking to honor the late star of the locally produced “Mister Rogers’
Neighborhood” PBS TV program was signed by more than 15,000 supporters. But
airport representatives said vacation planners were more likely to search
online for “Pittsburgh Airport” than for “Fred Rogers.”
In southern California, regional Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is now Hollywood Burbank Airport.
The switch came in 2017 after airport
officials realized that while the general public knew that the late Bob Hope was
a comedian, few outside the region knew the airport was so located so close to
Hollywood and many top Los Angeles-area attractions.
“Some thought the airport was in Palm Springs,” said
airport spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf, “Others thought it was in Vietnam,” because
Hope had hosted annual USO Christmas tours to entertain troops during much of the
To help solve BUR’s identity problem, “We studied
what other airports had done and why,” said Michael Fiore, cofounder and
chief brand officer of the Anyone
for the most part we found the same answers: those with a geographic
identifiers attached to them were performing better than others.”
The name-change, coupled with branding and
marketing efforts that include everything from new signage at the airport and
on highways to online advertising, has garnered the airport national awards
and, more importantly, more passengers, said Fiore.
Some other airports have gently tweaked their
names in the interest of better branding.
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) was renamed St. Louis Lambert International Airport in February 2017. The move was made “to
improve marketing positions locally and globally while also expanding
connections with the St. Louis region,” according to the airport’s strategic
“This decision was made to better identify our
geographical location to travelers who are not from this region,” said MKE spokesman
Harold Mester, “Our new brand adds the name of our anchor city while still
honoring our namesake, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, who is considered to be the
father of the U.S. Air Force.”
“As we continue to market the airport in
international and west coast markets, we have found that these populations are
challenged to locate us,” said Kevin A. Dillon, Executive Director of the
Connecticut Airport Authority, “Accordingly, we are undergoing a review to be
completed by the end of the year to determine if it is feasible to change the
airport name, and, if so, how we can continue to preserve the memory of Eugene
Bradley at the airport.”
Bucking the Trend
While the benefits of geographic branding are
convincing some airports to change or tweak names, at least one airport is bucking
In 2017, the Hawaii Department of
Transportation (HDOT) changed the name of Honolulu International
Airport (HNL) to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
The much-beloved Inouye served as Hawaii’s
first representative in Congress in 1959 and went on to represent the Aloha
State in both the House and Senate for a combined 53 years.
This is the
fourth name change in the airport’s history, notes HDOT.
opened in 1927, HNL was named the John Rodgers Airport. After surviving the
attack on Pearl Harbor, in 1947 the airport was renamed Honolulu Airport. “International”
was added to the name in 1951.
It is too soon to tell if the name change will boost the local economy or increase tourism to Honolulu. But HDOT pegs the cost of new signage, parts, materials, labor and other tasks associated with this latest name change at one million dollars.
What do you think? Should an airport be named for a city or a celebrity?