Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Airports + National Bee Day

Honey bees are experiencing a drastic decline in the United States and that’s having a negative impact on the global ecosystem.

Creating habitats where they can thrive is part of the solution. And on National Honey Bee Day, Saturday, August 20, we recognize the contributions honey bees make to our lives.

Airports abuzz

Airports around the country are doing their part to help the honey bees thrive by hosting honey bee hives on airport lands.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), and Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport (MSP) are among the airports that have apiaries on site.

The bees at MSP Airport are there as part of the University of Minnesota Bee Veterans program, which provides free beekeeping education for Minnesota Veterans, including monthly workshops, including in-person and online workshops.

Here’s a video from MSP showing honey bees in the hive.

Does your airport have hives? (Tee-hee) Let us know and we’ll update our list.

MSP Airport’s Mock Airplane Cabin

(This is a story we first wrote for NBC News)

Long delays, rampant cancellations, and packed planes have turned air travel into an endurance sport for even the most seasoned travelers. And the challenges can be even greater for the more than 25 million Americans with disabilities that make travel difficult even in ordinary times.

 A handful of airports, airlines, and community groups have made an effort to provide certain flyers the opportunity to navigate security, crowded airport terminals, and the boarding process beforehand.

But such programs are limited, and the industry continues to have a poor track record in transporting wheelchairs and scooters and providing reliable and consistent service to passengers with additional needs such as mobility and physical issues as well as sensory and cognitive disabilities. 

 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is out to change that. 

 In an industry first in May, the airport  — in partnership with Delta Air Lines  —  installed a mock airplane cabin on-site to give flyers with a wide range of special needs an opportunity to become familiar with a realistic aircraft cabin. 

 “Being able to test out an airplane cabin could help people who have never flown, who use wheelchairs, older adults, people with autism, and anyone who has any reservations about flying,” said Eric Lipp, executive director of the Open Doors Organization, which works with businesses on accessibility issues, “It will recognize that everyone’s needs are different and encourage more people to fly.”

In the two years preceding the pandemic, nearly 15 million people with disabilities traveled by air, generating $11 billion in revenue for airlines. That was up from $9 billion in 2015, according to a report from the organization. And, Lipp said, “The true economic impact is potentially double since people with disabilities typically travel with one or more other adults.” 

 The 33-foot-long cabin had been used to train Delta’s in-flight teams in Atlanta and includes a (nonworking) lavatory and 42 standard coach seats from a retired Boeing 737. Delta shipped it in pieces to the Minneapolis airport, where it was reassembled in an unused retail space. Airport carpenters added cutouts so that every row has a window, and local youth artists painted the cabin and the surrounding walls with blue skies and landscape to make it sensory-friendly. 

 “My 5-year-old son, Remi, has autism and I felt it was important for him to experience the airport before the day we actually had to travel,” said Cassandra Welch, who brought him to the mock cabin recently. “Remi did well and sat nicely in his seat and was able to see what the cabin looked like, and what the airplane bathroom looked like.” 

 Welch also brought along her family and some relatives. “We will be traveling together in August, so it was great that we could all be there for this experience.”

Tiffany Owen, a first responder, also wanted to give her traveling companion a chance to get acquainted with flying before she booked a trip. Hazy, a rescue pit bull, is Owen’s service dog and helps her manage stress and anxiety. The visit was arranged through Soldiers 6, a local nonprofit group that provides service dogs to military veterans and first responders in Minnesota.

“I’ve flown before, but Hazy has never been on an airplane,” she said. But Hazy quickly got the hang of it.  ”When we walked in, Hazy wanted to have her own seat next to me,” she said. “I had to train her to realize she’s on an airplane and would be sitting on the floor between my legs.”

Owen said it means a lot to her that the airport “has gone to great lengths to make sure that both me and my service animal feel comfortable, and that we can go back to the airport again for more training if we need to.”

The mock cabin, which is free and available by appointment,  isn’t just for flyers.  

Airline personnel, flight crews, and companies that provide service to passengers who need help getting to or from their airplane seats have access to the cabin for training, too. 

 The Minneapolis-St. Paul branch of Prospect Airport Services, which provides wheelchair attendants and other services for airlines at airports across the country, now runs weekly staff training sessions in the mock cabin. There is a big focus on transferring passengers in wheelchairs to their seats, which can be a complicated and delicate process. 

Loretta Halligan, the company’s general manager at the Minneapolis airport, said that before the mock cabin arrived, orientation for new passenger service assistants mainly took place in a classroom, with a wheelchair, an airline seat, and a video. The actual training in how to transfer passengers didn’t begin until new hires could shadow someone with experience.

 “Now, new employees can start practicing lifting a person on and off an aisle chair on a ‘real’ plane right away,” she said, adding that watching a video “is nothing compared to having that hands-on experience during your first day of training.”

That training could have been invaluable during the earlier days of the pandemic, “when social distancing made it difficult for people to be lifted and transferred to vehicles or planes,”  Lipp said. “Guiding people who are blind also became more difficult with social distancing.” 

Although the mock cabin has been open for just about two months, Phil Burke, assistant director of customer service at the airport, says sessions are getting booked up far in advance. He also said airports in Houston, Denver, and Kansas City, Missouri, have been in touch with him and are planning to install mock airplane cabins in their terminals, too.

Farmer’s Fridge lands at MSP Airport

Eating healthy while traveling is more important than ever.

So the food review team at StuckatTheAirport.com is pleased to see that Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has installed Farmer’s Fridge vending machines in the terminals.

The smart-tech refrigerated vending units are filled with fresh salads, meal bowls, and healthy snacks in jars that can be returned to the machines for recycling.

At MSP, you’ll find seven vending machines in Terminal 1, with locations in the Main Mall Food Court, and near gates F8, E12, C7, C10, C18. Additional machines are in baggage claim near Carousel 6 and in T2 near gate H10.

You’ll find Farmer’s Fridge vending machines at other airports too. Multiple machines are located at JFK Airport (JFK), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Philadephia International Airport (PHL) and O’Hare (ORD).

Indianapolis International Airport (IND), Milwaukee Mitchell Airport (MKE), Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have Farmer’s Fridge vending machines too.

Farmers Fridge also has an app to help you find vending machine locations in airports and out in the world at hospitals, office buildings, universities, and other locations.

Vote for the airport amenity of the week.

We used to think that putting roulette wheel numbers on the baggage carousel was the coolest thing you could do with that space.

MSP’s new bag claim carousel

But Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has done something better.

Instead of the annoying buzzer and flashing light that announces the arrival of bags at some airports, the newly redesigned bag carousels at MSP airport send up the alert with nature sounds and a light show.

We’re making this the first nomination for Airport Amenity of the Week.

Hand washing help

Our second nomination for Airport Amenity of the Week is this high-tech hand-washing station Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) installed to encourage travelers to wash their hands and “scrub away germs in 12 seconds flat!”

O’Hare Airport’s new Twitter Bio

Pete Buttigieg, who has been named transportation secretary nominee by President-elect Joe Biden, put a spotlight on O’Hare International Airport (ORD) during his formal introduction on Wednesday.

During the event, Buttigieg noted that he proposed to his husband, Chasten, at O’Hare. “Don’t let anybody tell you that O’Hare isn’t romantic,” he said.

Avgeeks know that.

So does United Airlines, which sent out a tweet identifying the engagement gate.

And O’Hare Airport even change its Twitter bio.

It now begins “Place of romance.”

Which would you pick as Airport Amenity of the Week?

MSP’s bag carousel? PIT’s hand washing station? O’Hare’s new status as place of romance?

Let us know in the comments section which of these airport stories you’d pick as Airport Amenity of the Week.

And feel free to nominate an airport amenity for next week’s Airport Amenity of the Week.