Santa

NORAD is tracking Santa. Are you?

Throughout the year NORAD , the North American Aerospace Defense Command, busies itself with monitoring the skies for airplanes, missiles, space launches and other things that fly in the skies.

But on Christmas, NORAD focuses on scanning the skies for Santa as he travels in his sleigh around the world. There’s even a Santa Tracker so we can follow along.

From years of tracking Santa, NORAD has learned a few things:

While it can’t predict when Santa will arrive at a certain house, NORAD does know that “he arrives only when children are asleep.”

NORAD also knows Santa’s preferred flying route:

“Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!”

Holidays at the airport

Helsinki Airport Santa

Many travelers dread going to the airport this time of year for fear of encountering long lines at the security checkpoints, delayed or canceled flights due to bad weather and cranky fellow passengers taking their one flight of the year.

You may indeed have to put up with a bit of that, but you’ll also find that many airports go all out this time of year to offer entertainment and amusement for holiday travelers.

Here’s a sampling of what’s in store:

Photo-ops with Santa and Choirs in the Concourses

Santa Claus is scheduled to make regular visits this season at airports stretching from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Helsinki, Finland.

DTW KaraokeLots of airports present occasional music performances or concerts series year-round, but during the winter holidays it seems there are carolers and choirs in every concouprse.

Denver International Airport offers its live “Wintertainment” in the Jeppesen Terminal, with carolers and instrumental holiday music from December 14 to 24 and a world music festival from December 26 to 30 that features music of Latin America, Germany, Japan, England, the Middle East, the Caribbean and many others world regions.

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has a Holiday Concert Series underway through December 20 with choruses and jazz bands from area schools performing in the Landside Terminal.

Holiday karaoke is on tap at from 11 am until 7 pm on December 19th and 20th by the water feature in the center of the A Concourse at the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport.

And, as is the holiday tradition at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, December’s Music in the Air schedule includes the Judy Lee Dancers (on December 20), a local tap dance troupe whose performers average age 60 and older.

Stress-free shopping, contests and free gifts

In addition to live entertainment every Thursday and Friday afternoon in December, the Food & Shops at LaGuardia Terminal B offer free 10-minute chair massages Fridays through Sunday this month, from noon to five. Shoppers can also take advantage of printed or mobile versions of a 20% off coupon.

Kate Spade SaturdayOver at John F. Kennedy International Airport, there’s Kate Spade Saturday holiday pop-up shop open through December 20 in JetBlue’s Terminal 5. Passengers can get the gifts purchased at the pop-up shop shipped for free; pick-up a complimentary “Make Time Fly” booklet filled with word games and puzzles; and enter a daily contest to win a Kate Spade Weekender Bag and a roundtrip adventure for two on any JetBlue route.

Travelers who spend as little as $50 on some last minute shopping right through December 24 at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport this holiday season will also be able to get their gifts wrapped and shipped for free.

Airlines getting into the holiday spirit as well

Beginning December 17, children flying on Lufthansa will be given teddy bears as presents and Cathay Pacific is gathering “Santa Selfies” – Instagram photos of people dressed up as Santa or posing with him – for a contest with a grand prize of two round-trip tickets from the U.S. to Hong Kong.

This story first appeared on the Runway Girl Network

 

Surprised by Santa at Munich Airport

While I’ve had my share of long waits,  I’ve thankfully never been one of those passengers held hostage for hours on end on a plane waiting to take off or deliver passengers at an airport

So, last night, when the captain of my Lufthansa flight on a small plane heading from Munich Airport to Geneva – a one hour trip – announced we’d be sitting on the ground for at least an hour because snow removal had closed two runways, I thought “OK, now it’s my turn to be stuck on an airport for ten hours.”

I wasn’t prepared.  Neither my cell phone nor my laptop was fully charged. For food, I had a bag of licorice I’d bought as a gift.  And my book was in the carry-on suitcase I’d stuffed into the overhead bin.

I stole a look at my seatmate and at the people around me.  Were there kids or babies bound to start crying; who was likely to be traveling with good food or snacks; and were these going to be interesting people to be held hostage with on an airplane?

Luckily, I didn’t have to find out.

Within minutes of the pilot announcing our delay, flight attendants appeared with water and juice and trays of white cloth bags, each with a jolly embroidered Santa Claus on the front.

 

Inside each bag was a mandarin orange, a cheese sandwich on dark bread, a package of good cookies and a tiny chocolate Santa.

“Classy,” I thought. “Definitely not the bag of pretzels passengers would be getting if they were stuck on an airplane in the U.S.”

I immediately ate the chocolate Santa and half the sandwich. Then, already thinking like an airplane hostage, I  carefully re-packaged my snacks for later.

I didn’t end up having to swap that orange for a sweater, something to read  or the use of a charged cell phone to call my family or the hotel. After about an hour and a half of sitting out there in the snow, we were indeed on our way.

Good job, Lufthansa and Munich Airport. And thank-you, Santa!