San Francisco International Airport

Grand Hyatt at SFO – a keeper!

San Francisco Int’l Airport has a swank on-site hotel

Grand Hyatt at SFO

Fresh fly-in convenience at SFO Airport

With the recent opening of the 12-story, $237 million Grand Hyatt at SFO, San Francisco International Airport joins the ranks of major airports with a luxury hotel on property.

It’s at least a half-hour journey from the airport to downtown San Francisco, so the new at-the-airport hotel is ideal for fly-in meetings and conferences and those times when you’ve got an early flight.

Sarah Cain, We Will Walk Right Up To The Sun, courtesy City and County of San Francisco; photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger.

The 351-room hotel has its own stained glass-adorned stop on the SFO AirTrain and tech-loaded meeting rooms with aviation-inspired names such as Supersonic, Stratocruiser, and Astrojet.

For on-site dining, Twin Crafts Market & Bar offers casual dining and a 24-hour market, while the Quail & Crane restaurant has a menu blending Northern California and Asian cuisine.  

 Art at Grand Hyatt SFO

All rooms at the Grand Hyatt at SFO have soundproof, floor-to-ceiling windows.

Rooms on one side of the hotel face the airfield of the International Terminal and each of those rooms is equipped with a handy airplane spotting guide and a loaner pair of binoculars.

Many rooms also have large bathrooms with soaking tubs that offer views of the airfield as well.

Rates at the Grand Hyatt SFO start at $329/night. Day-use rooms: start at $125 for 6 hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.  

Dude, where’s my ride? Airports move Uber/Lyft away from curbside

At many airports, curbside pick-up is moving away from the curb.

On October 29, Los Angeles International joins the growing list of airports where curbside traffic has gotten so bad that taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber to Lyft are no longer permitted to pick up at passengers at the curb.

“We have heard from our guests that the current system with ride pickups can be frustrating.” “said Keith Wilschetz, Deputy Executive Director for Operations and Emergency Management at Los Angeles World Airports, said in a statement

“Frustrating” is a polite way of describing how excruciating and time-consuming using a ride-app at LAX can be.

During peak times, app users now often spend upwards of 45 minutes to an hour between waiting for their ride to arrive curbside and sitting in traffic to get out of the Central Terminal Area.

“That’s if the drive doesn’t cancel on you,” said LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery.

At LAX, bad curbside traffic is about to get worse as the airport construction associated with terminal redevelopment and the new automated people mover begins.

“We will be losing more than 30% of our curb front, so doing nothing is not an option,” said Montgomery.

The solution at LAX is to move the pick-up area for both taxi and ride app users away from the terminal curbsides entirely to a new area, dubbed “LAX-it,” just east of Terminal 1.

Passengers will be able to walk to the new pick-up area from some of the terminals and a shuttle will pick-up passengers at all terminals in a dedicated lane on the lower/arrivals level lane.

LAX officials say getting from the airport to the pick-up lot should be no more than 15 minutes (from most terminals) and exiting the terminal should be faster because drivers no longer must battle backups in the Central Terminal Area.

Once it rolls out on October 29, the LAX-it system will no doubt need some tweaks.

For now, some passengers are worried the new system will be confusing and pick-up time will be no shorter than it is now. In a statement, Lyft said it looks forward to working with LAX on providing “the best possible pick-up and drop-off experience for all users,” but Uber outlined its long list of concerns with the plan in a letter to airport officials.

How do other airports tackle curbside congestion?  

Back in 2016, Seattle Tacoma International Airport worked with ride-app providers to move pick-ups inside the airport parking garage, adjacent to space set already aside for other commercial ground transportation operators.

“We have since made traffic flow process improvements,” said SEA spokeswoman Kate Hudson, “We’re lucky in Washington state that cars must have front and near license plates as it allows passengers to locate their vehicle from both angles.”

The Port of Seattle staffs the ride-app pick-up area and contracts for additional ambassadors during peak times. 

With a goal of diverting at least 45% of ride-hailing pick-up activity away from the terminal roadways, in summer 2018 San Francisco International Airport relocated pickups for Uber Pool, Express Pool and Lyft’s shared categories to the Domestic Parking Garage. And in March 2019, Uber X and Lyft offered their customers the option to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage at $3 less than the curbside rate.

“To date, these measures have only shifted about 21% of [ride-hailed] pickup activity off the terminal roadways, falling short of the 45% diversion rate,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel, so as of June 5, 2019 SFO relocated all domestic terminal pickups for ride-apps, including Uber, Lyft, and Wingz, from the curbside to the 5th floor of the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

In mid-November 2018, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) moved the pick-up area for all taxis and ride-app companies to the ground level of the airport’s Rental Car Facility.

“In the new space, dedicated taxi lanes are to the immediate left, while three ride share pick-up lanes are on the right,” said AUS spokesman Bryce Dubee, “The three ride share lanes are color-coded in blue, red and yellow with corresponding numbers 1-4 so that both passengers and drivers have a specific spot to meet up.”

The overall walking distance is about 750 feet, so before the switch was made the airport purchase four ADA-compliant 12-passenger electric shuttles to provide transport between lower-level locations and also leased an electric autonomous vehicle to transport passengers on the upper level of the garage.

Looking ahead, at the end of this month, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) will move both pick-ups and drop-offs for app ride passengers to new dedicated curb areas.

The new areas – conveniently located in the Central Parking – will be protected from the weather, brightly lit, and connected to all terminals via moving walkways,” said BOS spokeswoman Samantha Decker. “The new areas will also provide all the services passengers expect, including luggage carts, wheelchair services, and bag check service.”

(My story about airports relocating pick-up spots for Uber, Lyft, Wingz and taxis first appeared on USA TODAY)

Scenic wallpaper exhibit at San Francisco Int’l Airport

Courtesy Zuber et Cie and SFO Museum

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport is hosting a charming exhibition featuring a rare set of scenic wallpaper.

Scenic wallpaper? Yes.

It was and, in some forms, continues to be a thing.

Here’s the museum’s introduction to “Zuber: The Art of French Scenic Wallpaper”:

The French have manufactured several types of wallpaper over the centuries, though their nineteenth-century handcrafted scenic landscape papers are arguably the most spectacular. This unique wallpaper created a breathtaking panoramic experience with all the walls in a room covered with non-repeating scenes.

These mural-like papers transformed rooms, providing the opportunity for viewers to be swept away to an exotic place or immersed in an exciting period in history.

Scenic papers enjoyed a golden era in both Europe and North America from the first decade of the 1800s until the 1860s, though they remained in print well after this period.

Zuber et Cie is the only firm that fabricates these papers today. And they still use the original antique printing blocks, which have designated Historical Monuments by the French Ministry of Culture.

The SFO Museum exhibit includes a complete set of Views of North America wallpare as well as individual lengths from other series.

Here are few more images. You can see the full set on view at San Francisco International Airport in pre-security/departures level of the International Terminal through April 2020.

All photos courtesy SFO Museum.

At the airport: snakes, Prince and plastic bottles

A new store called “Prince” is selling merchandise related to the late musician known as Prince in the south end of the mall at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

The concessionaire (Airport Retail Group) says it worked closely with Prince’s estate to make sure all products are the proper shade of purple.

What’s for sale in the Prince store? Apparel, souvenirs, CDs, LPs, and photography books. Also: tickets to Paisley Park, Prince’s private estate in production complex in Chanhassen, southwest of Minneapolis.

MSP’s Prince store also displays Prince memorabilia, plays Prince music and has a large bank of screens showcasing Prince’s music videos.

Snakes at the Airport

Courtesy TSA

TSA reports that this harmless 15-inch ring-necked snake was left behind at the security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday, August 19.

“It’s common for travelers to accidentally leave items at the checkpoint,” said TSA’s New Jersey Federal Security Director Tom Carter. “Typically people leave items such as their keys, sunglasses, ID, hats and gloves, but this is the first time someone has left a snake behind. We have a fairly robust lost and found program that reunites passengers with their lost items, but this passenger doesn’t need to call us about his snake.”

Watch the water at SFO

And the ban on single use plastic water bottles has gone into effect at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). A good solution? Bring your own refillable bottle and use the airport’s free water bottle refill stations.

SFO’s plastic water bottle ban.

The ban on the sale of single-use plastic water bottles at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) goes into effect on September 20th.

The move requires all airport retailers, restaurants, airline lounges, and vending machines to sell or provide water in recyclable aluminum, glass or BPI-certified compostable bottles.

The policy applies to purified water, mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water, and electrolyte-enhanced water, but does not include flavored beverages such as sodas, teas, or juices.

In a statement, SFO says it has provided retailers with a list of approved alternatives to plastic water bottles and will continue to update this list as the market for plastic-free bottled water evolves.

Of course, you don’t need to buy a bottle of water at SFO. A great option is to bring along a reusable container and fill it up at any of SFO’s approximately 100 free Hydration Stations and drinking fountains, located in all terminals both pre- and post-security.

If you don’t have your own bottle, Brita will help you out. On September 20, when the single-use plastic water bottle ban goes into effect at SFO, Brita will hand out more than 1000 complimentary Stainless Steel Premium Filtering Water Bottles. These have a double wall insulation to keep water cold for up to 24 hours and come with a replaceable filter that reduces chlorine taste and odor.