stuck at the airport

Safe travels to all from Stuck at The Airport

Holiday elf

If, like us, you’ll be traveling on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, be sure to watch out for elves, Santas of all stripes, and lots of other travelers hoping to get where they need to go for the holiday.

If you need a few extra gifts, keep in mind too that lots of airport shops open early and close late – even on Christmas Day – and many have some pretty cool gifts all wrapped and ready to go.

To help you out, Tampa International Airport and several others have even put together holiday gift guides.

And don’t forget NORAD

On Christmas Eve you can follow along as Santa makes his way through the skies and down the chimneys via NORAD’s Santa Tracker.

Airports, airlines, travelers brace for winter weather

Tough traveling this Thanksgiving

Severe winter storms are already wreaking havoc with Thanksgiving travel plans across the country.

Denver International and many other airports are taking out their snowplows and de-icing gear and advising travelers to be sure to check the status of their flights before leaving home.

Many airlines are offering fee-free flight changes, waivers on fare differences for rebooked flights and refunds left and right.

In some cases, they are encouraging passengers to switch to flights leaving a day or two early.

At 9 p.m. on the west coast, these are some of the airlines issuing travel alerts. No doubt there will be updates and more alerts by morning and over the next few days. So, if you’re scheduled to fly anytime over this holiday, be sure to check your airline’s website and sign up for alerts about your flight.

American Airlines has a travel alert for passengers scheduled to fly November 27 to/through or from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Delta Air Lines has travel advisories posted for flights to, from or through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on November 27 as well.

Frontier Airlines has canceled many flights through Denver and Colorado Springs, CO on Tuesday, November 26. Advisories for rebooking and refunds are on their site.

JetBlue has posted travel alerts for flights in and out of Denver International Airport on Tuesday, November 26.

Southwest Airlines is warning customers that flight schedules may be “disrupted,” as in delayed, diverted, and/or canceled on Tuesday, November 26 in Denver and on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 26 and 27 through Minneapolis/St. Paul.

United Airlines’ winter weather alert also applies to flights in and out of Denver on Tuesday 26.

Bottom line: even if the weather looks great where you are – or where you’re headed to, bad weather in other parts of the country can still disrupt your travels. Check flights, check again and, as always, pack lots of patience when you go to the airport this time of year.

Tips for sailing through airports. Any day or busy days.

It is a stay at home holiday for some people today. But a travel day for millions. At that means some people will end up stuck at the airport.

It can happen anytime, of course. But as the busy summer travel season kicks into gear, I’ve been asked to work up some airport travel tips for the Weather Chanel audience.

Here are my notes for my appearance, currently scheduled for early Tuesday. Please feel free to add your notes too

Practice. Seems silly, but often in the rush to get to the airport we forget that we’ll have to partially unpack at the security checkpoint.

Make sure you’re wearing socks without holes, shoes that are easy to take off and put back on. And have your potions and lotions and electronic gear easiy accessible in your carry-on bag. 

Leave your guns at home.

TSA finds about 100 guns – most loaded – at checkpoints each week. I’ve given up wondering why people need so many guns. But if you carry a gun around town, check to see that you’ve taken it out of your purse or briefcase before you head to the airport.

Don’t miss the fun.

Look at the “passenger amenities” or “services” section of the airport website. (And subscribe to StuckatTheAirport.com).

Many airports have art or history exhibits, a unique shop or restuarant, even a special observation deck you may miss if you just get to the airport and stick by your gate.

Bring a wide mouth refillable water bottle. You don’t have to buy an overpriced bottle of water. More and more airports have bottle refill stations. Spend your money on something else.

Charge your phones and gadgets before you leave home.

Yes – there are more outlets in more places in airports. But someone else always seems to be using them when you’ need them.

And often they don’t even work. (Expert tip: check to see if that bank of chairs with outlets is plugged in before you use a chair outlet.)

To be a hero bring along a power cord with extra plugs so others can share.

Check to see if there are mobile apps – such as GRAB – you can use to order food ahead that you can just pick put at airport restaurant instead of waiting in line. 

An increasing number of airports have At Your Gate and Airport Sherpa – which allow you to order food (and even neck pillows) and have the order delivered to you anywhere in the airport. 

Bring snacks. You never know when you’re going to be delayed at the airport. Having something in your bag will keep you from getting cranky and from overspending at the airport and on the airplane, where free snacks can be limited or non-existent.  

Shortcut the customs and immigration line.

If you’re traveling out of the country and don’t have Global Entry (a paid program) download the free Mobile Passport app for when you’re coming back through customs.

Either program allows you to shortcut your way through that often very long customs line. Look for the signs or ask the folks stationed along the lines for where to go as the Mobile Passport sign is often not easy to spot.

The Mobile Passport app lets you answer the customs questions on your phone before you even leave the plane and sometimes you can breeze right by the folks who have to wait on a line to fill out those questions at the Global Entry kiosk. Hah!

Bring mad money.

I carry a $10 bill – sometimes $20 – to use as mad money in case I end up stuck somewhere mad and frustrated. I buy myself a treat; a cocktail, some candy, an overpriced coffee drink, a silly souvenir. I deserve it.  

Have a tip to add to this list? Please include it in the comments sections below.

Pittsburgh Airport getting a swank makeover

Pittsburgh International Airport is getting a $1.1 billion makeover that includes a new terminal with 51-gates, a modern check-in concourse and a new bag-claim system.

The pictures look so appealing that when the new terminal opens in 2023, they may have to seriously consider trading in the PIT airport code for something, well, prettier.

The new airport terminal will be built next to PIT’s current airside facility, between Concourses C and D, and is designed by award-winning architect Luis Vidal, who designed Heathrow Airport’s T2, and by San Francisco-based Gensler.

While some things may change as the project gets underway, airport officials say the new terminal building will have an emphasis on sustainability, with both indoor and outdoor green plazas and gathering spaces.

The new terminal brings together check-in, ticketing, security and baggage operations into one facility, with a separate level for departing and arriving passengers. There will also be an expanded TSA checkpoint, shorter walking distances and additional space for artwork, concessions and other amenities.

“This new terminal, inspired by the beauty, tech renaissance and people of our region will integrate seamlessly into the great design of the existing Airside Terminal,” said Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. “In considering this design, we looked at function first, then form, to construct a building that will be both iconic, practical and affordable and that can be easily adapted as the technology and transportation needs of our community change.”

Let’s just hope PIT keeps the dinosaur, the Calder mobile, the shrine to Mister Rogers and the other amenities that make PIT a bit quirky and endearing.

(All photos courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport)

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.