robots

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.

Airports of the future

What will the airport of the (near) future look like? I’ve got a story in the current issue of AFAR that lays out that scenario.  Here are some of the highlights.

Photo -by Harriet Baskas

Your face is your ticket

Get ready for single-token travel. A facial scan and an initial look at your passport is already all you need at some airports.

Smart(er) security lanes

Time-saving, stress-busting security checkpoints will soon be universal. Improved technology speeds up the bin-loading process and allows TSA officers to scan carry-ons quicker and find bags containing prohibited items in a flash

In-airport delivery

Food and merchandise comes to you, wherever you are in the airport. OTG’s tablet-centered ordering and grocery-style self-checkout lanes are expanding, as are app-powered mobile delivery services such as Airport Sherpa and At Your Gate, already on-duty at the Baltimore, San Diego and Newark airports.

 Where’s my bag?

Lost luggage is a bummer. But more bags arrive as promised thanks to airports that employ tools such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and monitoring apps to track bags from the time they’re accepted at the airport to delivery at the bag claim.

Find your car – and an open restroom stall

High-tech lighting systems guide travelers to open spaces in giant airport parking garages and direct home-bound passengers to lost cars. Airport restrooms are high-tech too, with occupied/unoccupied signals over the stalls and technology that alerts maintenance teams to lavs that need cleaning.

Count on cryptocurrency.

Australia’s Brisbane International led the way by letting travelers pay for purchases with cryptocurrency. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport followed with kiosks that exchange leftover cash for Bitcoin. Count on airports, the first and last city stop for international visitors, to embrace digital currency as its popularity rises.

A nap or a night at the airport

Short-stay cocoon sleeping pods and microhotels from the likes of Minute SuitesSleepbox Hotel, and Yotel offer weary passengers recharging rests inside terminals. For longer stays, look for more full-size airport-adjacent hotels, such as the InterContinental at Minneapolis−St. Paul Airport, opened in July, and the TWA Hotel at JFK International, due in 2019.

Airport cities offer milk, medical facilities and more

No longer ‘just’ transportation nodes, airports are branching out with full-service grocery stores, medical facilities, movie theaters and entertainment centers. The observation deck at Incheon Airport’s new Terminal 2 offers virtual reality experiences, while Singapore’s Changi Airport 10-story Jewel complex (opening 2019) promises the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

Go to Miami – or Mars

 

As space travel and space tourism moves closer to reality, some airports plan to double as spaceports, so travelers can set out across an ocean – or out of this world.

What features are you hoping pop up at the airport of the future?

 

Robots, cool art for basketfall fans at San Antonio Int’l Airport

San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is geared up to welcome an estimated 93,000 visitors to the city for NCAA Final Four.

Arriving passengers will be greeted by SAT Ambassadors, NCAA Final Four volunteer greeters and art installations by local artist Cruz Ortiz,

Ortiz’s large-scale “Come as Rivals, Leave as Friends” artwork is in Terminals A and B and features flag-waving basketball fans, clasped hands and #Friends4Ever in Ortiz’s iconic style.

“This project at the San Antonio International Airport was super cool because it gave me the chance to present work on a large scale,” Ortiz said in a statement, “This special opportunity allowed me to show people getting off planes from all over the world what the soul of San Antonio is about.”

There are also robots helping travelers find food and other amenities at the airport: