Pittsburgh International Airport

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.

Seasonal news from PIT, LAX, BWI, MKE, PHX & SAN airports

Whether or not you’re flying during the holidays, it pays to keep up to date with what airports are doing to serve passengers during what is sure to be another unusual season.

Here are some tidbits we’ve already spotted this week.

PIT has its holiday tree up

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) won’t be having its annual Holiday Open House this year. And local choirs and bands won’t be offering holiday performances.

But PIT is setting up a holiday-themed selfie station in the Airside Center Core and hosting distanced (instrument-only) performances by local musicians. And there will be terminal visits from the PIT PAWS airport therapy dog team.

The holiday tree is already there. Here’s a fun time-lapse video of it going up. PIT reports that 20 people worked to raise the 26-foot-tall tree over a span of eight hours and that this year’s tree has 538 ornaments, 42 yards of fabric, and 166 strands of lights.

Take a 360 Virtual Tour of LAX

Missing airports? Us too. So we’re excited as all get out a new virtual 360-degree of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) airfield.

This is the same airfield tour that used to be offered to students, community groups, and others curious about LAX operations before COVID-19 arrived. Now anyone can access the immersive, high-resolution 360-degree video experience online using a smartphone, tablet, computer, or VR headset.

Coat check reopens at MKE

If you’re flying from Milwaukee to Hawaii, Florida, or some other warm spot, you probably won’t need your winter coat when you arrive.

So, for the second winter in a row, Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Mitchell Internation Airport (MKE) has opened it popular coat check service.

The Coat check program operates in partnership with retail partner Paradies Lagardère and is offered inside the Summerfest Marketplace store, which is located pre-security. Each coat is wrapped in protective plastic and the charge is a very reasonable $2 per day, or $10 per trip.

As far as we know, this is still the only U.S. airport offering this service.

Fresh art at PHX

Fun and games from BWI

New experiences from SAN’s artist-in-residence

And, thanks, LAX for reminding us that it is December. Already.

Stuck at the Airport: PHL +PIT, & some scary galaxies

At PHL: Grab and At Your Gate now partners

It is officially called an ‘integrated food service.’ And it is part of the growing trend of digital food delivery in airports.

But we say it is a ‘this makes perfect sense’ amenity that is one part convenience and two parts sign of the social distance times.

Grab, the e-commerce platform for pre-ordering meals for pick-up from airport food outlets is partnering with AtYourGate, the in-airport food delivery service.

The service rolls out at other airports soon, but the first airport to offer it is Philadephia International Airport (PHL).

Here’s how it works:

Passengers can order food through the Grab app, a special section of the PHL website, or scan Grab QR codes in the terminals. Merchants are searchable by food type and terminal. And orders can be delivered to wherever you are in the terminal.

Convenient, right?

Participating restaurants at PHL include Auntie Anne’s, Bar Symon, Bud & Marilyn’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Chickie’s & Pete’s, Dunkin’, Gachi, Geno’s Steaks, Jack Duggan’s, Jamba, Piattino Pizza, Smashburger, and Vino Volo. 

More merchants will be added soon.

There is a small charge for delivery. But first-time users can use the promo code ‘RUSH’ to save 20% – up to $5 – off their first order.

Roving robots at PIT cuter than ever

In May 2020, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) introduced its team of autonomous cleaning robots with ultraviolet (UV) light technology.

Since then, other U.S. airports have rolled out cleaning robots. But PIT was the first.

Now PIT is making the hard-working robots even more endearing by giving them eyes.

The robots also have names:

Amelia is named for Amelia Earhart, the famed pilot and female aviation trailblazer.

Orville and Wilbur are named after the Wright brothers.

And the fourth PIT robot is named Rosa. She’s named after Rosa Mae Willis Alford, the sole female mechanic to work on the planes of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Travel to a scary galaxy

In the spirit of the Halloween season and the scary, bizarro times, we’re printing out frameable copies of these science-inspired Galaxy of Horrors “travel” posters from NASA’s Exoplanet Travel Bureau.  

The posters look like vintage horror movie advertisements, but they are really out of this world.

Gamma -Ray-Ghouls features a “dead” galaxy. Galactic Graveyard is inspired by an explosive gamma-ray burst caused by colliding stellar corpses. And the third, Dark Matter, is a voyage to the unknown via ever-elusive dark matter.

Bonus: the posters are also available in Spanish: Cementerio GalácticoMateria Oscura, and Demonions de Rayos Gamma.

The posters are free to download and are produced by NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program Office, which is located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

More robots to help keep travelers safe and sanitized

We adore the rolling little “Ask me!” robots some airports have hired to answer questions and help passengers find their way around.

But they seem more entertainment than essential.

But thanks to the pandemic, robots are getting a promotion at many airports – as super cleaners.

Robots clean up before we fly

Airports and airlines are scrambling to get the latest technology in place to keep terminal spaces and airline cabins disinfected and sanitized.

And robots are doing their part.

In May, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics put a pair of self-driving, robot floor scrubbers on duty.

In July, JetBlue kicked off a 90-day pilot program at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) to evaluate Honeywell’s UV Cabin System.

These robots use ultraviolet light to clean an aircraft cabin in about 10 minutes.

Other airports and airlines have deployed robot-like tools as well.

And now San Antonio International Airport (SAT) enters the picture with its shiny new purchase: the Xenex LightStrike robot.

This robot is billed as “the only ultraviolet (UV) room disinfection technology proven to deactivate SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.”

SAT says the LightStrike uses environmentally-friendly pulsed xenon and can disinfect an area in less than 10-15 minutes without warm-up or cool-down time. They plan to use it pretty much everywhere in the airport, including jet bridges, gate areas, ticketing counters, baggage claim, concessions, elevators, and restrooms.

And it looks like the LightStrike robot is here to stay. SAT airport plans to have a contest to give the robot a name.

Airports ready for the return of travelers

Airports are empty. And hurting.

Airports Council International now estimates a drop of more than 4.6 billion passengers globally for all of 2020.

The airport trade group also estimates that total airport revenues worldwide will drop by more than $97 billion for 2020.

Still, airports are making plans for welcoming back travelers.

Orlando International Airport (MCO) says passengers will see new social distancing signs and markers through the airport terminal. Acrylic protective screens are being installed at ticket counters and at retail food and outlets as well. Cleaning crews are also out in force. And passengers are being urged to wear face masks in the airport.

Tampa International Airport (TPA) is also getting ready.

TPA rolled out a plan that includes, among other things, wider security lanes and recompose areas, and plastic shields in high traffic areas.

The airport is also blocking some seats in gate areas and only allowing ticketed passengers in the terminal.

And at Pittsburgh International Airport, robots are moving in.

Courtesy PIT Airport


Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has joined other airports around the world in adding robotic cleaners to its maintenance crew.

The airport’s new germ-killing robot uses UV light to eliminate microbes in high-traffic areas, increasing the cleanliness of the airport.

Here’s the robotic scrubber in action.