smoking at airports

Smoking at the airport? Good luck with that.

Want to light up a cigarette before or after your next flight? Good luck with that.

 

According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, indoor smoking is completely banned at 27 of the 35 busiest U.S. airports.

Soon it will be 28. Well, make that 27 and 3/4.

Denver International Airport, currently the only public building in Colorado where indoor smoking lounges are still legal, is on its way to becoming smoke-free.

At a May 18th airport press conference, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced that lease-holders for three of the four smoking lounges at Denver airport have agreed to shutter those lounges by the end of this year and remodel or replace them with non-smoking concessions.

The Aviators’ Lounge in the Jeppesen Terminal will become a branch of Jamba Juice; the lounge on the B Concourse will become a barbecue restaurant called the Aviator’s Sports Bar; and the Mesa Verde Restaurant and Bar on the A Concourse will be remodeled, removing its smoking area.

The fourth lounge, inside Timberline Steaks & Grill on Concourse C, will not shut down until after its lease expires in 2018, but Hancock said his goal “is to get it to shut down sooner than later,” so that Denver Airport can “join the ranks of Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and many other major U.S. airports who have eliminated smoking in the past few years.”

While Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) issued a statement applauding Denver’s mayor, the airport and “the owners of the smoke-filled businesses who are supporting this transition to a smoke-free future,” the response on the airport’s Facebook page has been mixed, with several critical comments among those voices applauding the decision.

Via e-mail, M. James of Denver speaks out for smoking travelers: “I just think this anti-smoking has gotten too far. There are tons of restaurants where people can eat without smoke. At least one smoking area at DIA should be open for the smokers who have a layover or a delayed plane.”

James mourned the demise of Denver Airport’s smoking lounges, but expressed appreciation for those at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, which are located throughout the airport and include a new one (on the Concourse F mezzanine level) in the recently opened international terminal complex.

In addition to Atlanta, smokers can still find an indoor place to light up at Dulles International Airport and at airports in Tampa, Memphis, Salt Lake City and several other cities. Some of these smoking areas are simply small, ventilated spaces; others are inside a restaurant or bar that may require a minimum purchase.

At Memphis International Airport, for example, the smoking area is inside the post-security Blue Note Café; at Tampa International Airport, there’s an outdoor smoking patio at the Landside Terminal and caged, outdoor smoking patios at Airsides A, C, E and F.

In Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport currently has two indoor spots where passengers may smoke: the pre-security Budweiser Racing Track Lounge and an enclosed casino gaming lounge at the D Concourse, near Gate D-46.

When McCarran’s new Terminal 3 opens, on June 27, there will be two more enclosed gaming lounges, near gates E-1 and E-15. Another gaming lounge that will welcome smokers is planned for the C Concourse, just past the C Annex Security Checkpoint, and will be available to passengers who walk over from the A and B concourses as well. No date has been set yet for the opening of that Concourse C lounge.

Why add more airport smoking lounges at McCarran when Denver International Airport is getting kudos for its plan to close theirs?

“There is a significant segment of our customer base that wishes to smoke, and past experience has demonstrated that these customers will often light up, even in areas where smoking is not authorized,” says McCarran spokesperson Chris Jones. He adds that ‘unauthorized’ smokers cause problems, such as “smoke in public restrooms or, in some cases, alarms being set off as individuals attempt to open doors that lead to secured outdoor areas.” said Jones.

“The gaming lounges help to alleviate these concerns by providing separate, enclosed and ventilated spaces for these adults to smoke prior to their outbound flights,” he said.

Not all smokers are in favor of smoking rooms at airports. Patricia Murphy, a smoker from Seattle, says “Shut them down!” She said the last time she smoked in one of those rooms – at Tokyo’s Narita Airport – she felt sick for hours. “No ventilation system can handle the amount of smoke in those rooms. They smell so awful!”

Murphy says she tries to have a cigarette before heading into an airport and often finds herself smoking just outside airport doorways, getting “lots of dirty looks.”

She has found one airport smoking lounge she can recommend: The one at Singapore’s Changi Airport, which is outside, in a sunflower garden. “You’re literally standing in towering sunflowers,” said Murphy.

(My story:  No butts about it: Fewer airports allow smoking, first appeared on USATODAY.com.)

 

 

Coming soon – if you’re lucky – to an airport near you

My At the Airport column for USAToday.com this month, Coming soon – if you’re lucky – to an airport near you, features some of the new amenities I saw on exhibit in Philadelphia at the recent conference of Airports Council International – North America, or ACI-NA.

Airport chairs

During the conference, workshops were offered on everything from saving energy to dealing with security threats and how to get more passengers to “follow” airports on Twitter.  But the real fun was on the exhibition hall floor. There, vendors displayed everything from the latest in airport seating (cup holders and USB plugs, thankfully, seem to be the next big thing) to new, high-tech machinery for shooing wildlife off runways.  But here are the amenities I found most intriguing.

Napping nooks

Last year, Minute Suites debuted “sleep rooms” at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Concourse B, next to Gate B15).  Each room has a day bed, work desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, a 32” HDTV, and sound masking system tools. The company is opening another branch at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) in March 2011, and is in talks with at least three other airports for more.

Minute Suites

Minute Suites airport sleep room

Unique Retreat, another company making napping nooks, should be opening its first branch at San Francisco International Airport before the end of the year in the International Terminal, Boarding Area A.

Cigar lounges

Bahamas-based Graycliff cigars opened boutiques with specially-ventilated cigar lounges attached at Nassau International Airport last November and at Nashville International Airport in March.

Graycliff cigar lounge at Nashville Airport

Each lounge has an admission fee ($10 in Nassau; $4 in Nashville) and Graycliff reps say they’re exploring setting up this type of smoking lounge at other airports as well.

Eat, buy, play

The Food Network is bidding on several airport locations for themed restaurants that will be called Food Network Kitchens.  And ZoomSystems, which makes those oversized airport vending machines (officially: “automated shops”) to sell products from Best Buy, The Body Shop, Sephora and other retailers will soon be installing airport ZoomShops to dispense apparel associated with a major sport.

Skip the cellphone lot; park at the plaza

“Cell phone lots on steroids” is how the folks at Airport Plazas are marketing the service centers they’re planning to build  on airport properties but separate from the terminals. Patterned after highway plazas offering fuel and food, these 24-hour service centers might have amenities ranging from a gas station, a food court, a car wash and a convenience store to free Wi-Fi, a pet hotel, a pharmacy and a bank.

The company opened its first airport plaza recently at Newark Liberty International Airport. There, amenities include an environmentally-friendly gas station, a dual-bay car wash, a service station bay and a 7-Eleven convenience store.

Future airport plazas are planned for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers) and Utah’s, St. George Municipal Airport.

Sound promising?  What should they work on next?