Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

At the airport: snakes, Prince and plastic bottles

A new store called “Prince” is selling merchandise related to the late musician known as Prince in the south end of the mall at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

The concessionaire (Airport Retail Group) says it worked closely with Prince’s estate to make sure all products are the proper shade of purple.

What’s for sale in the Prince store? Apparel, souvenirs, CDs, LPs, and photography books. Also: tickets to Paisley Park, Prince’s private estate in production complex in Chanhassen, southwest of Minneapolis.

MSP’s Prince store also displays Prince memorabilia, plays Prince music and has a large bank of screens showcasing Prince’s music videos.

Snakes at the Airport

Courtesy TSA

TSA reports that this harmless 15-inch ring-necked snake was left behind at the security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday, August 19.

“It’s common for travelers to accidentally leave items at the checkpoint,” said TSA’s New Jersey Federal Security Director Tom Carter. “Typically people leave items such as their keys, sunglasses, ID, hats and gloves, but this is the first time someone has left a snake behind. We have a fairly robust lost and found program that reunites passengers with their lost items, but this passenger doesn’t need to call us about his snake.”

Watch the water at SFO

And the ban on single use plastic water bottles has gone into effect at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). A good solution? Bring your own refillable bottle and use the airport’s free water bottle refill stations.

Holiday offerings at airports

Airports around the country are rolling out their holiday decorations and entertainment.  Here is a sampling.  Let us know if you’ve got more to share.

At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the selfie-friendly Snoopy statue is ready for the holidays. Local groups, including Crochet Twin Cities, Machine Knitters Collaborative and the Textile Center in Minneapolis worked together on a special holiday sweater for Snoopy, complete with decorative, 3D characters and ornaments. 

Miami International Airport is offering live music by local school groups December 14, 17, 18, 20 and 21 at 10:30 am in the Central Terminal Lobby. 

San Francisco Intertnational Airport is holding regular drawings for cool gift giveaways. The prizes include a goodie bag filled with treats available at Napa Farms (drawing: December 13), a $300 Airport Butlet gift certificate for arrival or departure Services for up to 2 passengers( drawing December 20), a one-year CLEAR membership  (drawing December 27) , a $200 Gift Card for parking at any SFO-opreated garage or lot (drawing January 3) and a GoPro HERO7 Black Camera (drawing January 10).  

Be sure to enter

Alaska Airlines offers early boarding on Dec. 21 for guests wearing holiday sweaters.

And, in honor of National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day, Alaska Airlines will be granting early boarding on December 21 to passenges who wear their  holiday sweaters (ugly or not) to the airport. Festive holiday-themed boarding music and free holiday movies are playing all month to help get guests into the holiday spirit.

Skip the shuttle: choose a cool airport hotel

I’ve got a story this week in the CNBC Road Warrior section all about  airport hotels and some of the newest ones on the horizon. 

Here are the highlights of that story.

Skip the shuttle: At-the-airport hotels take flight

With the official ribbon-cutting this week for a new four-star hotel at Minneapolis-St. Paul International, travelers now have one more major domestic airport where it is possible to skip the hotel shuttle and go directly from a hectic day of flying to a comfortable night’s sleep in a fluffy bed.

The 12-story, 300 room InterContinental Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Hotel is connected to Terminal 1 via a sky bridge and has a spa, conference center and its own security checkpoint, offering quick access to the gates for those flying with just hand baggage.

MSP’s hotel is a public-private partnership (with Graves Hospitality) and is just the latest example of airports recognizing that in addition to offering convenience, having an on-site hotel is a revenue generator that can give an airport a competitive edge.

In 2015, Denver International Airport opened the doors to the 519-room Westin Denver International Airport hotel and conference center on the plaza adjacent to the Jeppesen Terminal. In addition to on-site dining and an indoor pool and fitness area, the hotel has an extensive art collection and commuter rail access to the city.

Courtesy Denver Westin International Airport

At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport there are two hotels directly accessible from the terminals: a Hyatt Regency DFW at Terminal C and a Grand Hyatt DFW inside Terminal D with an outdoor rooftop pool overlooking the runways, multi-dining options and a Terminal Re-Entry program that gives guests access to the amenities inside the terminals.’

The Wayne County Airport Authority recently partnered with Starwood Hotels and Resorts to give the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport Hotel attached to the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport a $15 million makeover.

The hotel has conference rooms, day rates and a fitness enter with a pool offering runway views (day passes $15), and a TSA security checkpoint adjacent to the lobby. Hotel staff can also arrange gate-passes into the terminal for guests.

Miami’s airport has had an in-terminal hotel since 1959. The Miami International Airport Hotel now sits pre-security in Concourse E and offers day rates as well the first airport Air Margaritaville restaurant (on the lobby level) and, on the top floor, the country’s first Viena Brazilian restaurant.

At Orlando International Airport, the 25 year-old in-airport Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport is owned by the airport authority and operated by Hyatt,

“The hotel serves as an extension of the airport’s goal to provide the best ‘Orlando Experience’ possible and is a wonderful amenity for all airport customers,” said airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell, “It is also a significant driver of the airport’s annual revenues.”

Among a variety of perks offered guests staying in the Orlando airport hotel is luggage delivery service. “Just get off the plane, come to the front desk, provide your bag claim ticket and our bellmen will deliver the bags directly to your room,” said Fennell.

Elsewhere in the U.S., travelers will find hotels inside or connected to several other airports, including Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (a Marriott), Boston Logan International Airport (a Hilton), Philadelphia International Airport (a Marriott), Hartford’s Bradley International Airport (a Sheraton) and Chicago O’Hare, which offers day $20 passes (with discounts for Hilton Honors members) to the indoor pool and extensive fitness center.

Airport hotels of future

In the next few years, travelers will be able to check into on-site hotels at more airports.

A Grand Hyatt with 351 rooms, 15,000 square feet of meeting space and direct access to the AirTrain light rail system is scheduled to open in summer 2019 at San Francisco International Airport.

An InterContinental hotel is set to open at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2020.

And the Chicago Department of Aviation hopes to both build a new hotel next to Terminal 5 and renovate and modernize the current O’Hare Hilton by 2023.

In the meantime, work is progressing on the much-anticipated TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

When it opens in early 2019, Eero Saarinen’s iconic 1962 TWA Flight Center will be transformed into a swank 505-room retro-modern hotel with 50,000 square-feet of art, meeting and event space; a 200,000 square-foot lobby that may lay claim to the title of the largest hotel lobby in the world; and a rooftop observation deck with a pool and an aviation museum.

Have you stayed at an in-airport hotel- or choose these over near-the-airport hotels? Please share your comments and suggestions in the comment section below.

Back to school shopping – at the airport

Hammer Made at MSP Airport

Back-to-school sales are starting and now might be a good time to send out the reminder that airports can be great places to take advantage of tax-free shopping.

Minnesota and Pennsylvania don’t charge sales tax on clothing or shoes – so look for shops in the mall-like shopping areas of both Minneapolis-St. Paul International and Pittsburgh International Airports.

Ecco shoes at PIT Airport

And don’t forget the super-charming pre-security shopping street at Portland International Airport.  There no sales tax on anything in Oregon and while at the airport for a meeting last week I rushed through the shops just looking and somehow came away with a whole new wardrobe.

 

 

MSP Airport is ready for Super Bowl fans to arrive – and leave

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is ready for the Super Bowl 52 fans to arrive – and leave .

“For many Super Bowl attendees, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will be their first and last impression of Minnesota, and we want to ensure it’s a great one,” said Brian Ryks, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates MSP.

The airport has spruced up with a special Super Bowl info page on its website, an enhanced Wi-Fi system, new carpeting, new furniture, new shops and restaurants and has added lots of NFL signage and pop-up Super Bowl souvenir shops in the terminals.

Extra volunteers have been recruited to help travelers with airport wayfinding and extra space has been arranged for all the taxis, rental cars, limos and Uber and Lyft cars that will be supplementing public transportation options at the airport.

Weather contingency plans are in place. Airport police and fire crews have been working with city, county and federal law enforcement agencies on how to deal with various scenarios. And the Transportation Security Administration is bringing in extra officers and passenger screening canines to help process passengers heading home after the game.

“TSA operations at MSP following the Super Bowl will be an ‘all hands on deck’ operation,” said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers, “From uniformed staff to plain-clothes administrative personnel, everyone will be working.”

TSA and MSP expect to set passenger records on the Monday and Tuesday after Super Bowl, but airport officials are confident their team is up for the challenge.

“We have a solid plan in place to keep everyone safe, the operation running smoothly, and travelers’ experience positive,” said MSP’s Ryks.

Safe and smooth is good, but MSP’s Super Bowl welcome team is also offering fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots some fun extras.

A 10-day “Performing Arts Spectacular” is underway, with a lineup of events featuring everything from Bollywood, hip-hop and flamenco dancers to vocal and drum performances. The airport’s animal ambassadors will be out in full force. And giveaways in the terminals will include a series of Super Bowl/Winter-themed MSP buttons and foldable terminal maps with disposable hand warmers attached.

Several airlines, including Delta, Southwest, American and United, have added flights to MSP from Boston, Philadelphia and many other major hubs for Super Bowl ticket holders and last-minute planners heading to the Twin Cities to partake of Super Bowl festivities.

In addition to the extra flights, American Airlines, the official airline for the Philadelphia Eagles, is handing out Eagles rally towels to all passengers flying on from Philadelphia to Minneapolis-St. Paul through Sunday, February 4.

And on Saturday and Sunday, United Airlines is serving “football favorites,” including hot dogs and macaroni salad, to customers visiting the carriers’ lounges in its hub cities. United Club visitors in Boston, Philadelphia and Minneapolis will also find extra treats, including lobster roll and New England clam chowder in Boston; Tastykakes and a build-your-own hoagie bar in Philadelphia; and Captain Ken’s Wagon Trail Chili (a Minnesota favorite) in Minneapolis.