Outagamie County Regional Airport

Fresh airport amenities for summer travel

In my msnbc.com column this week –Fresh airport amenities make the wait fly byI offered a run-down of some of the programs and services air travelers can take advantage of this summer.

One amenity that didn’t make it into the story is self-service ice-cream sundae machine at Boston Logan International Airport.

Make-your-own sundae machine at Boston Logan Airport

We all scream for ice-cream at the airport

Using a touchscreen, customers choose a flavor (12 are available) and a mix-in. The machine then prepares and delivers the dessert.  Boston Logan Airport has two  MooBella machines installed: one is at Terminal C at the Back Bay Café (Gates 11-21); the other is at Lean & Green (Gates 40-42).

If you test it out, please send a report – and a photo.

What else is fresh and new at airports this summer?

Philadelphia International Airport offers entertainment this summer

Mimes among the entertainment at PHL this summer

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) now has free wireless and a Passenger Chillin’ Zone with sofas, tables, chairs, ottomans and foliage (Gate D-3). Throughout the summer, PHL is also hosting a Just Plane Fun program with live music, appearances by mascots from local sports teams, contests and other activities.

From now through the end of August, Miami International Airport is throwing weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) parties with a different theme each week. This weekend’s theme is Havana Nights, with domino tables, mojito demonstrations, a DJ, rumba dancing and cigar rolling.  August 20-23 you’ll find a flamenco dance show, Latin food sampling and more.

Observation Deck at Los Angeles International Airport now open

Observation Deck at LAX now open on weekends

At Los Angeles International Airport, the outdoor observation deck on top of the Theme Building in the center of the airport is finally open. Closed since 9/11, and during the building’s $12.3 million renovation and earthquake retrofit, the deck is open weekends, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free telescopes offering great views of arriving and departing aircraft, the airport grounds and the surrounding area. Pink’s, an iconic Hollywood hot dog stand, has also opened a branch in the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

At Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW) in Appleton, Wisconsin, they’re still lining up to get candy from the giant purple machine with flashing lights.

Candy-dispening machine at Outagamie Airport

Willy Wonka candy machine dispenses mixed candy treats

Located pre-security, the Willy Wonka candy machine is one of 25 such machines in the country (there’s one at the Mall of America) and is currently the only one at an airport.

Passengers had so much fun during the special events held at Vancouver International Airport during the 2010 Winter Olympics games that the airport decided to host Take-off Fridays festivals all summer, complete with face painting, DJs spinning music, prize drawings, meal specials and frees samples from a variety of airport shops.

And San Francisco International Airport is presenting You are Hear concerts again this summer. Performances take place every Friday through August 28th between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at three different stages in the airport. This week the line-up includes Quinteto Latino in the International Terminal, Lavay Smith & The Red Hot Skillet Lickers in the United hub and, in Terminal 1, Threeocracy. See the SFO website for the full season schedule.


More fun freebies at airports

Free is good. And these days many small and mid-size airports are trying to build loyalty by offering travelers free amenities.

In my At the Airport column this month on USAToday.com, I write (again) about the free cookies they hand out at Indiana’s Fort Wayne International Airport as well as some of the fun freebies offered at other airports.

Florida’s  Jacksonville International Airport distributes free flowers to passengers each year on Valentine’s Day and on Mother’s Day.

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport offers free local phone calls year-round.

In Milwaukee, home of Harley-Davidson Motor Company and the Harley-Davidson Museum, the General Mitchell International Airport offers free parking for any traveler who arrives on a motorcycle.

At Ohio’s Port Columbus International Airport, children are given free crayons and blank post-paid postcards and asked to please mail back a picture from their travels for display in an airport gallery. The airport has also purchased its own popcorn machine and hands out free bags of popcorn during quarterly customer appreciation days. “It’s a great way for us to say thanks,” says CMH communications manager Angie Tabor, “Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of popcorn?”

And in Wisconsin, the Outagamie County Regional Airport gives out free toothbrushes.

Airport marketing manager Kim Sippola says: “We noticed that many business travelers would get off the plane, go into the bathroom, and search through their bags for a toothbrush because they were going right from the airport to a meeting. So we thought we’d reduce some stress for our customers by providing them with toothbrushes.”

The airport partnered with a local dentist and now stocks post-security bathrooms with travel-sized oral hygiene kits that contain mouthwash, dental floss and a toothbrush with a single-serving of toothpaste.

Have you found a great airport freebie? Please let us know so we can tell other travelers about it.

Fun free stuff you’ll find at airports

Google’s “Free WiFi for the Holidays” program – the one that made wireless Internet access free at a boatload of airports – ends on January 15th.

But don’t fret. Too much.

Plenty of airports had free Wi-Fi before the promotion and continue to offer it.  And once the Google airport promotion ends, you’ll find a few airports that once offered fee-based Wi-Fi continuing to offer it for free.  Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is one of them.

I’m working on a list of others.

I’m all for free Wi-Fi at all airports. It will happen. In the meantime, I’m keeping tabs on some of the other airport freebies that are out there. I’ve included some of them – including free cookies at Fort Wayne International Airport(FWA) and free toothbrushes at Wisconsin’s Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW)  – in a column that will post on USAToday.com tomorrow.

But here are few others I didn’t have room for.

For the past year, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) has been giving away luggage tags. Thousands of ‘em.

At Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) they (still) hand out plastic wings (pins); mostly to kids.

Just about every terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) offers complimentary shoe shines (tips are encouraged).

And in at least one small airport in Minnesota, early risers get coffee for free.

“We fire up the coffee pots on our cafe counter in the terminal and give away free coffee to passengers for the first flight out (07:10) each day,” says Shaun Germolus, the Executive Director of the Range Regional Airport (HIB)in Hibbing, MN.  “We try to do the same thing whenever we are aware of flight delays as well.”

Have you found a great freebie at an airport? Let us know!

Souvenir Sunday: Cheese curds, cheesy cup holders and toothbrushes

Although Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW), in Appleton, Wisconsin, isn’t very big – it’s served by just 4 airlines – it does have a couple of free, much appreciated, amenities.

Like what?  Well, in addition to free wireless internet access, the airport stocks the post-security bathrooms with free, pocket-size, dental kits complete with mouthwash, dental floss and toothbrushes with a dollop of toothpaste.

Once you’ve freshened up (or “Freshin’ed Up”) with the complimentary dental supplies, perhaps you’ll want to hang around and do a bit of  souvenir shopping in the airport gift shop. If you do, you’ll find plenty of  cute, Wisconsin-identified items.

Like this cheese-shaped cup holder.

And this bag of cheddar cheese curds that, an airport official assures me, are OK to take through the security checkpoint.

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

It may end up on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday.