San Francisco International Airport

SFO Museum highlights aviation-inspired design

SFO Museum Aviation Exhibition

A new exhibit by the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport presents products from the 1930s to the 1950s that are great examples of aviation-inspired design.

Exhibition notes tells us that is was the Great Depression of the 1930s when the modern airplane became an inspiring symbol of hope.

SFO Museum Aviation Exhibition

“Sleek and shiny, the new all-metal aircraft lifted spirits and promised a brighter future. The emerging study of aerodynamics, using wind-tunnel testing, rapidly advanced the design of aircraft. With smoother streaming lines, airplanes were flying faster and farther and capturing the public’s imagination. The functionality of this new aerodynamic understanding, which became known as “streamline design,” extended to other forms of transportation, including trains, cars, and ships.”

SFO Museum Aviation Exhibition

And to products such as bicycles, typewriters and household appliances which were designed with sweeping lines, rounded corners and tapering teardrops in homage to the airplane.

The exhibition, Streamlines: Air Age Aesthetics for Industrial Design, is located pre-security in SFO’s Aviation Museum and Library (in the International Terminal) between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. through September 22, 2019.

SFO Museum Aviation Exhibition

Here are more objects from the exhibition. All photos courtesy SFO Museum.

SFO Museum Aviation Exhibition

Alaska Airlines will build a new lounge at SFO Airport.

Courtesy Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines plans to build a new 8,500-square-foot top floor lounge in Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) .

The lounge will offer guests great views of the airport runway activities and of San Francisco Bay. It is expected to open in 2020.

To celebrate the announcement, Alaska Airlines is offering flyers traveling through SFO’s Terminal 2 today (February 20, 2019) a chance to win a free Alaska Lounge membership for the entire year.

To enter, stop by Gate 54B.

Alaska will be offering a demo of the upgraded lounge experience and handing out giveaways. There will also be special appearances by San Francisco Giants mascot Lou Seal and San Jose Sharks mascot S.J. Sharkie.

Travelers who take a picture of themselves enjoying the lounge experience (maybe with one of those mascots) and who then post the picture to Twitter and Instagram will be entered in the contest. (Use the tags @AlaskaAir and the hashtag #MostWestCoast.)

“SFO is our second largest hub with an average of 150,000 passengers flying on a daily basis, and we want to ensure airport visitors can rest, relax and enjoy our wide array of lounge offerings.”  said Annabel Chang, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of the Bay Area.

In addition to a great view, the new lounge will offer guests complimentary fresh food options, including salads, soups and tapas.

The lounge will also offer made-to-order meals available for purchase, including Asparagus and Goat Cheese Omelet with roasted potatoes or a Korean Rice Bowl with steamed vegetables and gochujang sauce.

Alaska Airlines is on a mission to upgrade and expand its lounges.

The Seattle-based carrier opened its first East Coast lounge in April 2018 at JFK International Airport. A new flagship 15,000-square-foot lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is expected to open in June.

SFO Airport gets observation deck

We’re always happy here at Stuck at the Airport to hear about cool new amenities in the terminals.

A new addition to celebrate is San Francisco International Airport’s recently-opened post-security observation deck for travlers.

Courtesy SFO

The 2,997 square foot outdoor terrace has wooden chairs, tables, chaise lounges, bronze sculptures and a nice collection of drought-tolerant plants.

SFO Observation Deck. Courtesy of the airport.

Ten-foot bird-safe glass panels provide wind protection for passengers, but don’t get in the way of the view up into the skies to see planes taking off and landing.

Want to go?

SFO’s new outdoor terrace is open from 7:00 am to 11:30 pm every day. It is accessible to passengers in Terminal 3 via a secure connecting walkway.

Looking ahead: SFO plans to open another obervation deck in October 2019.

That one will be located pre-security in Terminal 2 and will be accessible to the general public – no boarding pass required.

Of course, now we need to make a list of all the other airports that have Observation Decks. Can you help out?

Miami Int’l Airport and the Miami Hound Machine

The ‘Miami Hound Machine’ – a team of therapy dogs – is coming to Miami International Airport.

Miami International Airport’s new therapy dog program, charmingly called the Miami Hound Machine, is making its debut today.

The team’s five volunteer K-9 Ambassadors – Abbey, Belle, Dash, Donovan and Pico – and their owners will be on site today with airport officials for a press conference. The pups will then go to work inside Concourse D, visting with passengers and being cute.

Members of the Miami Hound Machine are all certified therapy dogs from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and will be on duty in the MIA terminals during peak travel periods.

Therapy dogs at airports are a growing trend. So are the types of animals on the therapy dog teams – San Francisco International Airport’s Wag Brigade has a pig (Lulu); Denver International Airport’s CATS program (Canine Airport Therapy Sqaud) has a cat named Xeli, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) often has a small herd of miniature horses stop by.

Have you encountered a member of an animal therapy team at an airport? Thumbs up or down?

Amelia Earhart slept at the first airport hotel

Where was the very first airport hotel?

Oakland Airport Inn

Oakland Airport Inn – Courtesy Port of Oakland

My “At the Airport” column on USA TODAY this month explores the history of airport hotels, including the three (so far) hotels I found that claim to be the first airport hotel.

SFO Airport Hilton

The sprawling San Francisco Airport Hilton opened in 1959. Photo courtesy San Francisco International Airport.

In its long “History of Firsts,” Hilton Hotels & Resorts claims to have pioneered the airport hotel concept with the opening of the San Francisco Airport Hilton in 1959.

Their claim is off by at least 30 years.

Aviation historians say that, in fact, the first hotel built at a United States airport opened its doors to the traveling public on July 15, 1929, on the grounds of what is now the North Field of Oakland International Airport.

“The Oakland Airport Inn was adjacent to the dirt runway,” said Ian Wright, Director of Operations at the Oakland Aviation Museum, “And the structure still stands today.”

At opening, Oakland Airport Inn boasted 37 rooms, a restaurant, a barbershop and a ticket office, according to Air & Space Magazine,.  But in 1931, in a article concluding that airport hotels would never catch on with travelers,  Aviation described the hotel as being “almost completely devoid of patrons after a year of operations” because two airlines had shifted flights away from the Oakland airport.

Restaurant that once served the Oakland Airport Inn. Courtesy Port of Oakland

To fill the rooms, the hotel management instead courted pilots and students from the Boeing School of Aeronautics, which operated on the airport’s grounds from 1929 until the early 1940s.

Courtesy Port of Oakland

Courtesy Port of Oakland

Today the building that housed the Oakland Airport Inn is home to the Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188, a local unit of the Civil Air Patrol.

That Earhart homage is fitting: Amelia Earhart was a regular guest at the Oakland Airport Inn. And in May 1937 she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, set out from the airport’s North Field for their ill-fated second attempt to fly around the world.

Dearborn Inn

Ford Trimotor plane flies over Dearborn Inn at Ford Airport in 1931. Courtesy The Henry Ford

While guests can no longer check-into a room at the Oakland Airport Inn, they are able to book rooms at the Dearborn Inn, in Dearborn, Michigan (near Detroit).

The hotel opened its doors on July 1, 1931 and along with claiming this to be the world’s first airport hotel, the Michigan Historical Marker out front says Henry Ford built the inn to serve Detroit-bound guests arriving at the Ford Airport, which opened in 1924.

Stout Air Services, run by Edsel Ford’s friend William Stout, began offering flights between Dearborn and Grand Rapids, MI in 1926 and in 1929 was flying daily (except Sunday) to both Chicago and Cleveland using Ford Trimotor aircraft.

Courtesy The Henry Ford

Courtesy The Henry Ford

“The Dearborn Inn was actually the brainchild of Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, and was intended to be the ‘front door’ to the city of Dearborn and to The Ford Motor Company,” said Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts at The Henry Ford, “Edsel wanted to provide employees, visitors and airline flight crews with nice, comfortable accommodations.”

Noted Detroit architect Alfred Kahn designed the building for a hotel Edsel wanted modeled after the charming New England inns with Colonial-style décor he’d stay in when traveling back and forth between his homes in Detroit and Bar Harbor, Maine.

Dearborn Inn

Cafeteria at the Dearborn Inn – Courtesy The Henry Ford

“The exterior of the hotel is vaguely a Colonial design,” said Sable, “But one feature that’s really cool is that at the tippy top there’s a ‘widow’s walk,’ or observation platform, where guests could go out and watch the planes land at the airport.”

Today the Dearborn Inn operates as a Marriott Hotel featuring modern rooms that are still decorated with Colonial-style furniture and fabrics. The 231-room hotel complex also still offers guests the option to stay on “Pilots Row” – in rooms once used by airline crews – or in one of the five replica Colonial-style homes of Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe and other famous Americans that Henry Ford had built at the inn.

Other ‘early’ airport hotels

Some of today’s travelers may remember a few other early airport hotels that are now also footnotes in history.

Memphis International housed the Skyport Inn from about 1972 until around 2012. The in-terminal hotel had about 30 rooms split between the A and C Mezzanines and was popular with pilots and flight attendants who had early morning flights. Many, if not all, of the rooms may have lacked windows: in an article about the hotel being razed to make way for office space, the Memphis Business Journal noted that each room at the Skyport Inn had its own skylight.

The Airport Mini Hotel that once operated at Honolulu International Airport closed its doors not long at 9/11. But for many years the hotel offered travelers on layovers a space to nap and freshen up for less than $10 an hour. “Apparently the rooms were small, but the bathrooms were decent,” said airport spokeswoman Claudine Kusano.

And while we now know that th sprawling Hilton that operated at San Francisco Airport from 1959 until the late 1990s was not the world’s first airport hotel (by a longshot), we do know that a night club at the hotel called Tiger A-Go-Go was quite popular with passengers, airline crew and employees.

So popular, it seems, that in 1965, the pop duo Buzz & Bucky released a single about the lounge titled (what else but) Tiger-A-Go-Go (click on the link to give it a listen) which spent four weeks on the Billboard charts.

What are your favorite airport hotels?