I went down to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport last April to do a series of stories about the facility, along with my former employer, Delta Air Lines. I usually don’t sit in a window seat because I’m a bit claustrophobic, but the flight was pretty open. So I scooted over to the window seat and got this shot of a very long wing, with some of the Delta fleet in the background. Enjoy!
That’s some heavy baggage. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport found a checked bag filled with 35 lbs of methamphetamine arriving from Mexico, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. No arrests were made because the owners never picked up the suitcases.
Ooops! My bad on that strip search. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has admitted that screeners at JFK Airport did not follow procedure when they asked two elderly women to show them medical devices under their clothing, reports USA Today. TSA Administrator John Pistole, in a letter to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D), wrote that officers would receive refresher training on how to handle travelers with special medical conditions.
Here, kitty kitty! An Air Canada flight from rom Halifax to Toronto was delayed for several hours after a cat escaped from its kennel and hid in the cockpit, reports The Star. The cat was eventually caught, but the cockpit wiring had to be checked to make sure there was no damage.
Somehow, this seems to be a bad idea. Airline pilots want to have the authority to carry a weapon at all times, not just when they’re in the cockpit, reports the Sun-Sentinel. “That would put us in line with standard law enforcement,” said Marcus Flagg, president of the Federal Flight Deck Officer Association, which represents thousands of armed pilots.
Regular readers know that I worked for Delta Air Lines in their corporate communications department from September 2004 to February 2006. I just happened to work there during the worst 2 years of the airline’s history.
During my tenure, we closed the Dallas/Fort Worth hub; made cuts in the Cincinnati hub; sold off Atlantic Southeast Airlines to SkyWest; instituted two rounds of pay cuts and 3 rounds of layoffs; filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; and cut flights across the system, among other things.
Also during my tenure, Delta announced a major ramping up of its international route network. Cities added included: Moscow; Budapest; Dublin/Shannon; Manchester, England; Kiev; Sao Paulo; Prague; Vienna; Dubai; Seoul; Pisa; Tel Aviv; Athens; Johannesburg; and Nairobi, to name a few.
But now we get the news from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Delta is now cutting its international route network just as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport prepares to open the new Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal. You can read my Aviation Week story about Delta’s investment in the new terminal here. And the carrier is moving forward with plans to open a new facility at an expanded Terminal 4 at JFK Airport in 2013.
I was part of the team that went after service to China, a battle that was fought tooth and nail. But now after winning Atlanta-Shanghai service, it will also be cut as of Jan. 18 due to poor performance. I remember when the international expansion was announced, it was greeted with great excitement by the employees and the city, so it seems sad that Delta is making these moves, part of a previously announced capacity cut.
On Sunday, I was checking my Facebook account when I saw a post from my friend Michelle, who was upset about having to pay for WiFi at Los Angeles International Airport. She had left her hotel early (which DID have free WiFi), so she could do work at the airport.
I explained that just like at home, or if you own a WiFi card, it costs airports to provide that service. And in the past 10 years, airports have been squeezed on the revenue side thanks to airline mergers and service cuts, paying for unfunded mandates and underfunded Federal Aviation Administration programs that cover a facilities.
So with that, airports have to find a way to cover those costs. Some, like Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, offer free WiFi in exchange for looking at on-screen advertising. Some have a company or companies sponsor their WiFi. Others, like Boston Logan, ask you to fill out a survey or watch a video to get free WiFi for an hour, then switch you over to a provider where you pay from there.
Others — including LAX, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and my hometown Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport — partner with companies like Boingo for paid WiFi.
So before your next trip, check out the websites below to see if you’re getting free WiFi or if you’re going to be shelling out for the privilege!
- Free WiFi Airports – WiFi Guide
- Free Wi-Fi in Airports
- Jaunted’s Airport WiFi Map
- Air Power Wiki (covers WiFi AND power outlets)
TNT has been running the movie “The Terminal,” starring Tom Hanks. You can see a summary of the movie here at the Internet Movie Database. But it reminded me that there are so many concessions in major airports, you could actually live in one if you needed to. So below are my five favorites. Enjoy!
- Aero Clinic: there is NOTHING worse that getting sick while on travel. You’re far from home, your doctor and your local pharmacy. So if you’re sick and in a location where Aero Clinic is, you can go in, get a diagnosis, get a prescription and be on your way. They take most major health insurance, and if not, fees are pretty reasonable. Right now, they’re located at Hartsfield-Jackson and Philadelphia International airports, with plans (announced in 2009) to open at Charlotte-Douglas. Check out my June 2007 Aviation Week Towers and Tarmacs blog post on Aero Clinic here.
Harmony Pharmacy: you’re on a trip. You have your prescription medication with you, but realize you’re running low. If you happen to be at Newark, JFK, San Francisco, DFW, Cleveland-Hopkins or Baltimore-Washington airports, you’re in luck, since they all have a Harmony outlet. You can also buy the items you’d normally find in your local drug store. Nice!
- Minute Suites: these little oases at Hartsfield-Jackson and Philadelphia International airports are favorites for offering a sofa/daybed with blankets, along with WiFi access, television and a desk, all for only $30 an hour .I am a BIG believer in the power of naps, and this concession allows you to take one during longer layovers.
- O2 Bar & Spa: what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. You had a great time, but may be feeling a bit “out of sorts” right before you get on that flight at McCarran International Airport. Folks swear by the therapeutic effects of this bar which offers oxygen and aromatherapy to cure what ails you.
So — what did I miss? What are some of your favorite useful airport services?
I am an art lover. I became a fan in the fifth grade, where my art teacher, Miss Sappington, opened my eyes to Paul Klee and Henri Matisse. I bought my first piece of official art when I was 16, and I was lucky to grow up in a house where my father valued art on our walls.
My own home is a showcase of African-American artists and Art Deco posters from the early 20th century, although I do have a Salvador Dali lithograph of my astrological sign that my father won at an art auction and gave to me.
So I really enjoyed this New York Times article on the art museum at San Francisco International Airport. I have spent many a happy day at that airport looking at artifacts from their vast collection. Below is my list (by no means complete) of airports with great art collections.
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Terminal 4. I just love the ceramics collection on display in front of the US Airways ticket counters.
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Concourse E. The airport has great art, but my favorite installations are in the international terminal. I’m a quilter, making me a big fan of the art quilts hanging in the concourse.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Terminal D. I did a walking tour of this terminal and was just mesmerized by all the great art showcased there.
- Pittsburgh International Airport. Not only does this airport have an original Alexander Calder mobile, they have major pieces from the Andy Warhol collection.
We are in the third in a series of my obsession with airport concessions. We’ve already done Wines and Quirky Little Stores. I commend airports for really stepping up their game in the restaurant category. So below are my top five airport restaurants:
Revolucion, JetBlue JFK Airport Terminal 5: Back in August 2009, I did a post on Aviation Week’s Towers and Tarmacs blog on Revolucion. In December 2009 during a long layover at T5, I had the chance to eat there — and it was divine. They serve authentic Mexican food, as opposed to chain restaurants like Chevy’s. I had the homemade guacamole and shrimp tacos. Servers are more than happy to pack up your food for the flight, but I’d suggest doing that for the cold items.
- Enrique’s, Ponca City Regional Airport, Oklahoma: In 2002, I was working on securing Essential Air Service contracts in seven cities, including Ponca City. We went for a town tour, then we got back to the airport, which was packed. But it wasn’t for people flying. It was for the food at Enrique’s, which is the airport’s restaurant. I still dream about the tortilla chips and salsa, and the go-to dish there is Chicken Huarrache (sp).
- Paschals Restaurant, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: I’m not from the South, but my parents are. I grew up eating the food of the South, including fried chicken, grits, fried catfish, mac and cheese and collard greens. Paschals makes me long for my mother’s cooking.
- Obrycki’s, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport: those of us in Baltimore love our Maryland blue crabs and are very loyal to our restaurants. Obrycki’s has been an institution in Baltimore since 1944, and they bring that to the airport. The crabcakes and deviled crab balls are a must-try if you don’t want to wrestle with crabs.
- Café Versailles, Miami International Airport: this airport outlet of a popular Cuban restaurant sells the quintessential hot Cuban pressed sandwich. Wash it down with a cup of café con leche and you’d swear you were in Havana!!
I recently went to Atlanta to work on a series of stories about Delta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. I usually love to stay at the Renaissance for the fantastic views of ATL’s runways, but that wasn’t in the budget for this trip, so I ended up at the Fairfield Inn & Suites North Atlanta Airport. The hotel has a free shuttle that goes to and from the airport. They will also give you a lift to local restaurants and to Delta headquarters, eliminating the need to rent a car.
I love a hotel room that offers good value for the money ($104 a night), and this one hits the mark. I was allowed to check in early, and the clerk alerted me that the water was off due to a water main break about a 1/2 mile away from the hotel; he also apologized for the inconvenience. I got a call letting me know that the water was back on, again , with an apology.
This is a very clean and Spartan-chic stylish hotel that smelled of lemon furniture polish. My room had a nice sized bathroom with an oversized shower, basic soap/shampoo/conditioner and a hair dryer.
I asked for a King bed, but got two doubles. But it was fine, because the bed was really comfortable, with a nice duvet and my beloved foam pillows. I loved the 32-inch LG flat-screen TV, and it had a swivel that allowed me to watch from the desk, the bed and the far side of the room while ironing. But I wish they had one of those iPod docking station alarm clocks rather than the old-school digital one next to the bed.
The desk was large enough to handle my laptop and all my digital equipment. There were plenty of plugs, but you did have to crawl under the desk to get them. The chair was ergonomic and very comfortable. And the lamp desk was a nice touch. And thank you, Fairfield Inn, for the free wifi.
Not only did I get a coffee maker, but I had a microwave and a nice sized fridge in my room, which I used for my free bottled water. The hotel also served a free breakfast, with choices including waffles, egg/sausage, egg/ham and egg/bacon breakfast sandwiches, Quiche, cereal, muffins, toast, english muffins and fresh fruit. There was also three juices, coffee and assorted teas. I had the egg/sausage sandwich, which was quite tasty.
The staff was very friendly, greeting me by name and inquiring about how I was doing (I just love the manners in the South). And the general manager came over, introduced herself and asked me questions about my stay and her staff. I would recommend this hotel, and the reviewers at Trip Advisor agree, giving the facility 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Last week, the “Today” show website’s travel section included an article polling writers for Sherman’s Travel on their favorite airports for shopping. I have been to –and shopped in — more airports than I care to remember, so I thought I’d share my top 10, in no particular order.
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport– I could spend my life in this airport, and I think they designed it like that on purpose. I have bought everything from tulip bulbs to sunglasses. It’s also a great airport to pick up that last-minute souvenir you forgot to get when you were actually in Amsterdam. The prices are fair, so you don’t have to feel like you’re being ripped off.
- London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5 – I know, I know: everyone calls this place a shopping mall with an airport terminal attached. That said, I really enjoyed the shopping. Heathrow is known for its alcohol tastings and they have great duty-free liquor selections. I switched from Tanqueray 10 to Bombay Sapphire gin after a tasting at Heathrow. And the selection at Harrods is pretty good.
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — Back in November 2006, the facility rebid its retail concessions contract (my Towers and Tarmacs blog post on that is here), that brought in a bounty of new stores, including Sean Jean, Kiehl’s, Ermenegildo Zenga and Lather, among others. And Hartsfield was the first airport to get ZoomSystems’ vending machines, which at the time sold Apple iPod products.
- JFK Airport JetBlue Terminal 5 — I just love the feel and design of this terminal. And the shopping is pretty good too. I’m a BIG fan of the Harmony Pharmacies, which sell over-the-counter drugs, beauty/cosmetics and will fill a prescription. I went a bit nuts in Japan’s Muji store, which sells everything from travel accessories to office supplies. I just love the shrink-wrap tshirts that are compressed into a cube that fits nicely into a carry-on bag. I could spend hours in the Techshowcase looking at the latest in geek toys.
- Pittsburgh International Airport — Back in the day when it was still a hub for US Airways, the facility decided to go all out and revamp its retail concessions. I bought shoes for the man at Johnston & Murphy and toys for my godchildren at Creative Kidstuff. They also have a Clinque store and the fabulous Pajama Shop.
- Orlando International Airport — The airport for amusement park central has stores from Disney, Sea World and Universal Studio. It also has beauty/bath store Lush (a favorite from my time spent in London), the Kennedy Space Center store, Harley Davidson and Swatch watches.
- Incheon International Airport — a girl could lose her MIND in this airport. The airport authority went all out to attract all the major luxury brands to the facility, including Channel, Burberry, Christian Dior, Missoni, Guess, Max Mara, Dunhill, Nina Ricci, Givenchy, Calvin Klein and Samsonite, among others.
- Changi Airport — see Incheon. Plus a bonus — if you go to the Singapore Visitors Center in any terminal and you have at least 5 hours to kill, you can get a FREE 2-hour colonial or cultural tour.
- Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – I know this one is a surprise, but I like the shopping choices in this airport. The Authors Bookstore is not to be missed, and there’s a nice balance of national and local brands.
- Vancouver International Airport – I had to include this airport. I just love The Gourmet Shop and La Cava del Cigarro, which sells gourmet foods and has a great selection of cigars. Although not shopping per se, Vancouver also has the Plaza Premium Lounges, which features a place to nap, eat and shower.
My list only includes airports that I’ve actually seen and experienced. I know there are plenty of others out there, so what did I miss?