Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Tidbits for travelers: airports roll out fresh amenities

Here’s a quick round-up of some fresh amenities airports are offering.

On Wednesday, May 18th, 2011, Oakland International Airport will put into service eight ChargePoint networked charging stations for “new generation” electric vehicle (EV) such as the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Roadsters and others.



Los Angeles International Airport now has a cadre of bomb-sniffing canines on duty who are trained not just to sniff out explosives, but to pick up the scent of explosives in the air and track down the person who may be carrying the explosive material -even if that person is on the move.


And some time next year there will be a new food hall on Delta’s Concourse G at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport filled with new food and beverage outlets that are branches of, or partnerships with, local favorites.


The $2 billion concourse upgrade will include a Media Bar that OTG Management is billing as the first virtual newsstand. Passengers will be able to rent an iPad and download publications, movies, music, apps and other items before boarding a plane. (Those with their own iPads will be able to download material as well.) If you do rent an iPad, you’ll be provided with a postpaid envelope so you can mail the iPad back when you’re done.

The OTG Media Bar is going launch at MSP airport, but plans are already in place expand the program to other locations.

Sugar rush at Minneapolis-St. Paul Int’l Airport

Yes, you should eat well when you’re on the road, but if you’re you’re stuck at the airport, you deserve a little something sweet.

And now finding that sugary treat just got a lot easier at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A candy-filled store called Sugar Pop recently opened in mall area of Terminal 1-Lindbergh, and the offerings include retro candy such as Sugar Babies, Pop Rocks, Runts and Lemonheads (remember those?) as well as specialty items such as these giant rainbow lollipops.


Souvenir Sunday: Socks and pet services

Yesterday’s Snack Saturday feature served up Tastycakes and other Pennsylvania-made treats for sale at Harrisburg International Airport’s (MDT) Perfectly PA shop.

Tastycakes, made in Pennyslvania

That same shop is where you’ll find one of this week’s Souvenir Sunday picks: socks decorated with an Amish horse and buggy scene.

 Novelty socks

Novelty socks for sale at MDT Airport

I’m sure there’s a shop or two over at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that stocks novelty socks as well. (Moose anklets, anyone?)  And it’s a good bet there’s a coupon in the airport’s summer coupon book that can be used towards that purchase.

Don’t need any socks? It’s still a good idea to download the coupon book from the MSP website or pick up a copy at an information booth inside the airport. There are dozens of two-for-one and free-with-order drink and meal deals in there, along with discounts and gift-with-purchase deals in many airport stores.

You should also pick up the MSP summer coupon book if you’re a pet owner. MSP has a 24-hour pet boarding facility – it’s called Now Boarding – on airport property and there’s a coupon in the booklet good for a free bath or nail trim for pets staying overnight.  That seems like a great airport souvenir for pets – and their people.

Now Boarding - pet boarding at MSP airport

Did you find a great souvenir last time you were stuck at the airport? If it’s under $10, “of” the city or region and, ideally, a bit offbeat, please snap a photo and send it along. Your souvenir may be featured on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday on StuckatTheAirport.com.

Airports discover courtesy can help the bottom line.

Noticed some extra nice lately?

For airport employees around the country, courtesy and empathy are becoming part of the basic job description.  Not just because those are nice traits in workers, but because in these belt-tightening times, airports are hoping better customer service can help shore up the bottom line.   In my Well Mannered Traveler column this week on MSNBC.com, I take a look at some of the ambitious customer service programs underway at airports around the country. Here’s a preview.

Polite in Portland

Oregon’s Portland International Airport (PDX) regularly wins awards for its services and maneuverability.  But customer relations manager Donna Prigmore says that’s just not enough anymore. “The economy being what it is, we can’t afford to lose passengers.”  So this month the airport rolled out a “roadway to runway” initiative that challenges everyone who works at the airport, including taxi drivers, TSA staff, and shop employees, to be nicer.  Those who do, can win prizes.

Mindful in Minneapolis

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) also regularly wins award for its services and amenities.  Volunteers staff eight information booths but, as you know, not everyone will stop to ask for directions.  So the airport is training a team of roving ambassadors whose job it will be to approach passengers who seem like they could use a bit of assistance.

Lessons at LAX, Plans in Pittsburgh

Around the country, many other airports have signed up for the Tom Murphy’s Resiliency Edge program, which is based at New York’s Fordham University. Scores of workers at the New York City-area airports (Newark Liberty, JFK, and LaGuardia) have already taken the course, which teaches employees strategies that can help them deal – calmly and effectively – with passengers who are apt to be stressed out, clueless, irate, confused or, often, all of the above.  I had the opportunity to sit in on one of the classes at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and watched a role-playing exercise that pitted a gaggle of needy and insistent passengers against a customer service employee.  Murphy’s advice to the class: you can’t solve every problem but try to be empathetic, a good listener, adaptable, and a creative problem solver.  “If you can do that well,” says Murphy, “You’ll be more resilient, less stressed yourself, and better able to neutralize the irritations in a customer’s experience. We call that N.I.C.E.”

During the recent winter storms, nice-training benefited some arriving passengers at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT). Late on a snowy Friday night, planes were still landing and passengers were still arriving, but taxis and hotel shuttle buses had stopped running.  Instead of allowing about 125 people to spend the night stuck at the terminal, several airport workers arranged for one of PIT’s employee buses to drive those travelers to area hotels. “It will cost the airport a couple of hundred bucks to cover that,” airport executive director Brad Penrod to me, “But they saw a problem, solved it, provided a needed customer service, and created a great deal of good will.”


Have you noticed airport employees going out of their way to be nice? Please share you story.