“Star of Texas (La Estrella de Texas),” by the renowned Mexican artist Sebastián, now sits on the south side of the SAT airport entrance, on Airport Boulevard.
The work is 17-feet tall and is painted in the artist’s signature fiery red.
“Public Art is a significant part of who we are, representing where we’ve been, where we are, and where we hope to go as a community,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg in a statement. “The ‘Star of Texas’ speaks to the long-lasting impression San Antonio leaves on visitors and residents alike. Whether visiting San Antonio for the first time or the 100th, or a resident leaving the airport for a vacation, we all know the feeling that keeps us longing for a fast return to this great city.”
Sensory Room + Interfaith Prayer and Meditation Room at SEA Airport
Airports in Pittsburgh, Miami, Atlanta, and elsewhere now have sensory rooms designed to reduce the stress for travelers with neurological or developmental disabilities. The latest airport to offer this feature to travelers is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). The new sensory room at SEA room offers a seated bench area, an orange squeeze chair, a rocking chair, dimmable lighting, a starry night ceiling, wool rock pillows, and other features.
Along with the sensory room, SEA also recently unveiled the Interfaith Prayer and Meditation Room. Features here include dimmable lighting, three alcoves of seating, a kneeling prayer bench, Qibla pointer, and luggage/shoe storage.
Both the Sensory Room and the Interfaith Prayer and Meditation Room at SEA airport are located h the train level of the A Gates Satellite Transit Station (STS) in the long hallway near the elevators.
That means you may not feel comfortable ordering a cocktail at an airport bar and hanging around nursing that drink a while at a table or on a barstool before your next flight.
Seattle’s celebrity chef Kathy Casey thought about that travel challenge and came up with a creative solution. She’s opened a pop-up concept at SEA airport called the Shot Bar in her existing Rel’Lish Burger Lounge on Concourse B.
The bar is a quick-serve counter with ‘grab ‘n go’ shots of alcohol served in the tiny two-ounce version of the familiar red Solo cup. That makes it easy to “Just order, shoot your shot and go,” according to an announcement declaring the Shot Bar the first concept like this to open in a U.S. airport.
Shots are $7 for a single. $10 for a double.
Here’s the menu. Let us know if you think this will – or should – catch on.
This new international route for Seattle was originally set to begin on March 15, 2021. But in an unusual move, Qatar moved up the launch date by almost two months.
“Qatar Airways’ decision to begin service to the Pacific Northwest is a testament to the airline’s confidence in the strength of the region and the expectation to bounce back after the past year’s struggles with the pandemic,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Fred Felleman. “We look forward to this being one of the first steps back to recovery as we will soon welcome global travelers into the new International Arrivals Facility later this year.”
In advance of the launch, Stuck at the Airport chatted with Qatar’s Mark Drusch, SVP of Revenue Management, Alliance, and Strategy. [Answers edited for space, clarity, etc.]
Why is Seattle an important market for Qatar now?
Drusch says traffic on the airline’s Los Angeles and San Francisco flights is very strong and the airline is seeing a lot of traffic through Seattle via partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, which is joining the oneworld alliance. “Seattle was the largest gateway on the west coast we weren’t operating out of. So this [new route] is just a natural,” says Drusch.
Why move up the launch?
“Our San Francisco service [launched December 15] has taken off so quickly, and the advance bookings for Seattle in March were so incredibly strong,” says Drusch. “With that and the fact that we were making great progress in establishing a partnership with Alaska, we said, ‘Why should we wait?”
Isn’t moving up a launch complicated?
“It is only complicated in that you need to work through the details with your crews – pilots and flight attendants. But we had enough advance notice that we could do that,” says Drush. “And, honestly, pre-COVID it would have been a lot more difficult. During COVID we have extra pilots and extra flight attendants, and we have more flexibility than we’ve had in the past.”
What about the partnership with Alaska Airlines?
“Alaska is joining oneworld at the end of March, and we are a member of oneworld, so we will obviously have a partnership with them via oneworld. But we’ve been talking to them about having an enhanced relationship versus the oneworld relationship. We haven’t announced anything yet, but stay tuned you might hear something shortly.”
How is the inflight service altered in response to COVID-19 concerns?
Qatar is using a Boeing 777 aircraft for this route with Qsuites in business class. The suites have sliding doors, “so when you are in your Qsuite you don’t have to use your mask,” says Drusch. Full meal service is being offered in both business class and coach, with some modifications. Flight attendants are in full PPE, including face shields. All planes are being cleaned every 24 hours with an automated UV machine.
What special events are planned for the inaugural landing and take-off of this new Qatar flight at SEA?
A social-distanced gate celebration will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Passengers will receive gift bags with local treats from Seattle, Qatar Airways, Alaska Airlines, and Boeing.
The airport is building a new $968 million International Arrivals Facility, which will greatly improve the arrival experience for passengers.
The number of international-capable gates will increase from 12 to 20. There will be more bag claim carousels. New technology will speed up passport check clearance. And the minimum connection time for passengers will drop from 90 to 75 minutes. Though we think people will want to spend more time in the airport once they see all the cool amenities here.
The new International Arrival Facility will also bring fresh new art to an airport already filled with great art. And the airport recently shared this video showing the artwork being installed in the Grand Hall of the new International Arrivals Facility.
First, a disclaimer. We went to the airport with a long list of photos to take, features and amenities to check up on, and favorite views and pieces of art to visit.
We’ve been isolating at home and in our neighborhood, so the crowds (yes, crowds) at the airport last Friday afternoon were a surprise. So were all people who were mask-less and oblivious to social-distancing despite clear signage and perfectly understandable overhead announcements. And, well, the state of the world.
So while we are pleased to see all the protocols and precautions the airport has tried to put in place, we cut the visit short.
But here are some notes on what we found in our hometown airport.
As expected, we saw lots of signs reminding people not to flock together and to put on their masks.
We noted too that there are new overhead announcements. Instead of local music celebrities and airport officials welcoming us to the airport, there are reminders of health-related protocols. Including a request to stand in the middle of the step when on an escalator.
There are now vending machines filled with personal protection items you may need on your trip.
We had meant to do some shopping at the airport in some of our favorite stores. Because – stores! But while we were glad to see Ex Officio is open in its new spot and Fireworks Gallery has friendly minders posted at both the entrance and the exit of the gift shop, we moved along to our scheduled appointments.
Cool new bathroom feature
We admit it. It was this new bathroom feature that really lured us out of the comfort zone of our home and past airport security.
Although we almost turned back once we saw how bunched up and pre-COVID disorganized things were around the screening machines.
Some other airports around the country already have Tooshlights installed in some restrooms.
But Seattle-Tacoma International Airport just got their first set.
As you can see from the photo, this invention lets you know if a restroom stall is open or not. Before COVID, it was appealing because it eliminates that awkward touching of all the doors or peeking under them to find an empty stall.
Now, the fact that you don’t have to touch doors and can easily see what’s open means less time spent in an enclosed space. There’s a bonus service here too: the locks collect information on how often each door opens and closes, so cleaning cycles can be lined up with use.
A new African-themed menu at the Africa Lounge
We made two other stops in the airport.
One was at the Africa Lounge on Concourse A. The taproom has been here since about 2005 and is a visual oasis in the busy concourse as well as a nice place to get cocktails and American fare.
Now there’s a new reason to stop by.
The Africa Lounge now has African food and drinks on the menu, including sambusas, which are Central African fried pastries filled with spicy beef or vegetables. The sides include fried plantains with tangy sauces and jollof rice, which is a West African staple made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices.
The Africa Lounge is also featuring a nice selection of South African wines, a handful of African-inspired cocktails, Ethiopian coffee, and an African music playlist.
The CLUB at SEA
We hope to go back and re-visit all the club lounges at SEA airport. But on this trip, we stopped into the South Satellite branch of The CLUB at SEA to see what’s new and different.
In addition to plastic partitions at the entry and touchless document reviews, the lounge is operating at half-capacity, with many seats blocked off. Even the coveted window bar has seating restrictions.
Cocktails are still being served at the cocktail window, but “nothing that needs to be shaken or stirred, such as margaritas,” said general manager Karen Law, “and no olives in martinis for now.”
Newspapers and magazines are gone too. Now guests can scan and upload a wide variety of papers and magazines to phone or laptops in many more languages than before.
Serve-yourself food is also out, for now, so staff members stand ready to hand guests pre-plated food and soft drinks from the fridge.