Mineta San José International Airport

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Here’s some of the airport news that caught our attention today.

May I help you, virtually?

Our first encounter with a video help desk was at the massive Istanbul Airport in October 2019.

It seemed odd but, then, efficient to step up to what seemed like an unstaffed information desk and then have a live video chat with someone located offsite.

But now video chats are the socially distanced way to get questions answered in an airport.

As of May 2020, volunteer Airport Ambassadors staff the Virtual Information Booth at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF).

And now Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is running a Virtual Assistance pilot program in Terminal 2.

Travelers can have real-time video conversations with a customer services specialist over a touch-free tablet system installed at the information booth.

As health safety and social distancing concerns continue, we expect to see more airports offering some sort of virtual help desk.

San Jose International Airport shows off its ingenuity

Like most airports now, Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) is implementing new health and safety measures in its terminal.

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.

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.

“Bonus tracks” from San Jose Airport art tour

Wunderkammer detail SuttonBeresCuller

My At the Airport column on USATODAY.com this month describes some of the high-tech artwork at the newly opened Terminal B at Mineta San José International Airport.

You can read the entire column – High-tech art welcomes passengers at San José International Airport – on the USATODAY.com website, but I wanted to include some ‘bonus tracks’ here.

Without a doubt, the star attraction in the new terminal is the 26-foot-tall Space Observer sculpture by Bjorn Schulke in the middle of the terminal.

San Jose Airport "Space Observer" sculpture

The glossy, all-white ‘creature’ has antennas that take pictures of what it sees, a playback screen and propellers on a set of arms of that wave about. See it in action on this video.

Down on the baggage claim level, there are two glass exhibit cases displaying  Silicon Valley treasures.

Small Wonders includes technology-influenced “curiosities” by various artists.

San Jose Airport SMALL WONDERS art exhibit

The Wunderkammer, by SuttonBeresCuller, is “an imaginary natural history museum diorama of the San Jose region created using recycled materials that have defined Silicon Valley.”

Wunderkammer at San Jose Airport

And listen closely as you walk through some of the terminal jetways. You might hear wild Hawaiian Chickens, the sound of Texas at dawn or the songs of sparrows. They’re some of the soundscapes Bill Fontana created to connect San José with destination cities.

Sound like fun? I spent a several hours at Mineta San José International Airport and didn’t get to see – or hear – all the artwork. And are few pieces destined for Terminal B aren’t installed yet. So now I’m scheming for a reason to go back.

Souvenir Sunday: cherries & more from Mineta San Jose International Airport

Each Sunday at StuckatTheAirport.com we take a look at some of the fun and inexpensive souvenirs you can find at airport gift shops.

This week’s treats come from Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), which just opened its new high-tech Terminal B to the public.

Souvenir motherboard magnet

At SJC, there’s free wireless Internet access throughout the terminals, but in the new Terminal B, 25% of the seats are equipped with AC outlets and USB ports. So re-charging your electronics shouldn’t be a problem. But when you plug in, pay attention: I thought I was charging up my cell-phone only to look down a half hour later and discover that I was plugged into a bank of chairs that wasn’t ‘turned on’ yet.

San Jose Airport power port chairs

But let’s get back to Souvenir Sunday. I spent last Wednesday – the entire day – touring the new Terminal B at San Jose Airport.  So I had plenty of time to poke around.

In the San Jose store, which promises local souvenirs and memorabilia, I found shirts, caps, and water bottles branded with the San Jose Sharks hockey team logo, but all that stuff was more than $10.

San Hose Sharks Hockey team - souvenirs

The recycled motherboard notebooks and cute little frames made out of recycled keyboard letters seemed very Silicon Valley, but a store clerk said she was pretty sure those items were all made in China.

San Jose Airport souvenir recycle motherboard notebook

Moving on, I found a branch of C.J. Olson Cherries. For more than 100 years, this family-owned farm has been growing cherries and operating a fruit stand in Sunnyvale, which looks to be about a 15 minute drive from the San Jose Airport.

The airport shop is small, but it sells fresh cherries and other fresh fruit as well as dried fruits, nuts, fruit-flavored candies and cherry accessories.

C.J. Olsons cherries sign

For my Souvenir Sunday pick, I got a small container of fresh cherries.

C.J. Olson cherries

The cherry-themed apron fell outside my $10 Souvenir Sunday limit, but I found a plenty of cherry-flavored treats that fell well within my  budget.

chocolate covered bing cherries

Have you found a great souvenir while you were stuck at the airport? If it cost around $10, is “of” the city or region and is, ideally, a bit offbeat, please snap a photo and send it along.

Your photo may end up featured on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday.

And if it is, I’ll send you a special souvenir.

Stuck at Mineta San José International Airport (SJC)

I spent a full day this week poking around the brand new Terminal B at Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (SJC).  Only some of the restaurants and shops are open. And not all the artwork is installed. But what’s there is pretty impressive.

Here are two fun photos from my tour. More tomorrow.

Topiary bear greets travelers at San Jose International Airport

Topiary Bear welcomes travelers at San Jose International Airport

SJC airport may have a swanky new high-tech terminal, but this topiary bear on the entrance roadway has been greeting travelers for years.

Art work at SJC: Space observer

You must pass the Space Observer before entering security checkpoint

Now, this 26-foot tall, all white, interactive “Space Observer” sculpture by Bjorn Schulke greets travelers in Terminal B.

(Photos by Harriet Baskas)