Tag Archives: terminal

Frommer’s Picks The 10 Worst Airport Terminals – I Pick My Five

17 Jan

I am a sucker for slide shows that show the top 10 worst or best in anything related to travel.  These lists can be very  subjective, so I was ready to pounce when I saw that the Frommer’s travel site had made their picks.  I agree with some, and disagree with others.

Of the ones I’ve been in, they were spot on with Newark Terminal B, US Airways’ LaGuardia Airport terminal, Paris Charles de Gaulle Terminal 3 and Delta’s JFK Airport Terminal 3 — fondly known as the Third World Port.  But I disagreed with their pick of Chicago Midway, finding it to be a nice little airport with a great sense of place.  Below are some of my own picks for the worst airport terminals.

  1. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The city deserves better than this.  The airport has outdated concessions and a very bland, 1060s look.  The city has been arguing for decades over airport upgrades, with no end in sight.
  2. Garuda Indonesia’s terminal at Jakarta’s Soekarno–Hatta International Airport.  I was last there in 1994, but the place was a dump. It was dark and badly laid out.
  3. São Paulo/Guarulhos–Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport. I’m told they are upgrading this airport in time for the 2016 Olympics.  My advice would be to tear it down and start from scratch. This airport is old, dark, dank and not very passenger friendly.
  4. Lima, Peru’s Jorge Chávez International Airport. I actually smelled this airport more than I saw it.  When I was there in the late 1990s, the airport was literally next to a large garbage dump. And it seemed to be coated in cigarette smoke. Not a good look for a country’s main airport.
  5. TIE – The old Terminal Bs at Sacramento International and San Antonio International airports. Kudos to both of these facilities for upgrading these respective terminals, which were both frozen in the 1960s.

So I ask you, dear readers — what are some of your nightmare airport terminals? Why are they so bad?

Random Aviation Photo

22 Dec

Back in November 2008, I got the chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour of British Airways’ flagship Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport.  Say what you want, but I feel that building is an architectural wonder.  One of the unique features is that the floors don’t touch the walls anywhere in the building.  The floors are held up by these massive ceiling joints.  Check out my photos, below.

A Letter To United Continental Schedulers

4 Oct

Dear Schedulers:

Having worked at two airlines, I understand the difficulty of your job.  Every day it’s like someone throwing 30,000+ puzzle pieces on the floor in front of you — with no box as a guide — and asks you to schedule hundreds of flights.  Believe me, I feel you.

But I wasn’t feeling you so much last Tuesday.  I was going home on Continental — MSY-IAH-BWI.  I had a great time in New Orleans, but I was ready to get home.  I looked at my ticket with a sense of foreboding, because my MSY flight landed at 4:26 and my BWI flight — the last one of the day — was scheduled to leave at 5:00.  The gate manager at MSY checked my ticket and assured me that I’d have enough time to make the connection.

Me with United CEO Jeff Smisek

I get on my flight, and I hear the dreaded word “mechanical.” Fortunately, it was an easy fix,  and we landed about 2 minutes late. As we were taxiing, I saw we were arriving at gate E22 — and my flight was at C24.  Track star — the world’s fastest man — Usan Bolt could not have made that connection.  And I was carrying a backpack and a rollerboard.

I asked the gate agent for a cart and said I needed to make that last Baltimore flight. Long story short, I would have NEVER made the flight had I been forced to walk from E22 to C24.  The gate agent for the Baltimore flight was literally waiting out in the alley looking for me.  She told me I had another 30 seconds before the had closed the door.

Once I was on the plane, I was pleased with the service.  The flight attendants were nice, the food choices were great (I went with the cheese plate) and I kept myself amused with the DirecTV.

But really, schedulers — have YOU ever tried to make a connection from E to C in that half hour you gave me?  I urge you to take another look so that you’re not frustrating your passengers with nearly impossible connections.  And tell Mr. Smisek I said hi!!


Aunt Benet

Santa Barbara Airport Unveils New Terminal

25 Aug

Back in the summer of 2001, I quit my job as an aviation journalists to become Director of Corporate Communications and Community Relations for Mesa Air Group, based in Phoenix.  The job had been empty for a while, so I had a lot of work to do.

One of the first things I needed to do was update the company’s photo files, which included the airline’s executives, aircraft and airports.  I wanted to do an aircraft photo shoot at a unique airport in the Mesa system, and the person who found me a great photographer also suggested we shoot at Santa Barbara Airport.  I was game, because I would have gone anywhere to escape Phoenix’s 110+ degree heat.

So we hopped the flight to SBA, and I fell in love.  The terminal, originally built in 1942, back then had this old-school, 1930s Spanish architecture vibe that I thought was stunning.  And the terminal had the beach and the ocean in the front and mountains in the back.  I was completely charmed.

The old Santa Barbara Airport Terminal Photo courtesy of the City of Santa Barbara

So imagine my alarm when I heard that the city was going to build a new terminal.  I understand why — they needed to bring it up to standards with new baggage and passenger screening equipment, and give airlines more room to breathe.

The New Santa Barbara Airport Terminal Photo courtesy of the City of Santa Barbara

The new terminal is 72,000 square feet, with passenger amenities past security and FREE WiFi throughout the building.  And I think the new building pays homage to the old one, with a modern twist.  In the old terminal, you boarded outside with air stairs, making me feel a bit like Eva Peron.  The new building has jet bridges for larger planes and ground boarding for smaller ones.  And the facility was built for a relative bargain, $54 million.

So where are some of the more unique airport terminals you’ve visited? What makes them special to you?

Random Aviation Photo

7 Mar

I have a deathly fear of heights, but I refuse to let it stand in the way of seeing something exciting or getting a good photo shot.  Back in August 2007, I was in Las Vegas working on a story about McCarran International Airport.  One of the airport ops directors took me up to the top of their control tower, where I managed to get this great shot (and many more). Enjoy!

Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Random Aviation Photo

7 Feb

Anyone who reads this blog regularly or follows me on Twitter knows that my favorite aircraft of all time is the Boeing 747.  I have a set with 112 photos of 747s I’ve taken around the world.  Back in November 2008, I flew over to London overnight to take the grant tour of British Airways’ Terminal Five at London Heathrow Airport.  The camera never left my neck the entire trip.  I snapped the photo below when I was taking the shuttle bus for my flight home.  Enjoy!


BA Boeing 747 at Heathrow Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson



Random Aviation Photo-Southwest Airlines “Casper” Jet

31 Jan

Back in April 2007, I was at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport for the opening of a new Vino Volo outlet (that’s another post on another day).  Vino Volo is in Southwest Airlines’ Concourse A near Gate A6.

I was sitting at the bar with founder Doug Tomlinson enjoying a nice flight of wines.  The bar faces a great window that faces one of the airport aprons.  And in rolls this completely white Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, several that were dubbed “Casper” planes.  I snapped the picture with my old Canon PowerShot S500, and here’s the report.  Enjoy!


Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 at BWI Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson



Surviving The Storm In An Airport

12 Jan

Our good friend Ben Mutazabaugh, AKA Today In the Sky, wrote a story in yesterday’s USA Today how the next round of winter storms will bring chaos to the East Coast.  I was comfortably ensconced in sunny California during the last storms.  But I saw the news, which had plenty of b-roll showing people asleep in airports as they waited for airlines to resume their flight schedules.

Passengers dozing in Heathrow Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Fortunately, I haven’t had to sleep in an airport since my college days, when I was stuck in the old Peoplexpress terminal at Newark, affectionately known as the barn.  But many people don’t have a choice, so I thought I’d do a public service and offer some survival suggestions.

First, I think it’s well worth it to invest $50 in a Mini Motel.  I heard about this from a quick mention on NPR a few years ago.  What you get for your 50 bucks is:

  • Air Mattress
  • Pillow
  • Bed Sheet
  • Alarm Clock
  • Reading Light
  • Tooth Brush & Tooth Paste
  • Ear Plugs
  • Eye Shades

When folded, the package is only 17″ x 12″ x 3″, but pops up to a full 80″L x 25″W x 35″H.  It isn’t the Ritz Carleton, but it sure beats sleeping on an uncomfortable airport chair or even a dirty floor or carpet.

But if you don’t have a Mini Motel, don’t despair.  Take yourself over to the Sleeping in Airports website.  This site offers a wealth of information and tips on finding the best places to sleep in airports worldwide.  Among the top 10 best airports to sleep in are Singapore’s Changi, Seoul’s Incheon and Hong Kong. Only Vancouver and San Francisco made the cut for North America.  The worst? No surprise here-Paris Charles de Gaulle, Moscow Sheremetyevo and Los Angeles International.

Shop 24 Vending Machine at DFW Airport Photo by Benet J. WilsonI like my own hometown airport, Baltimore-Washington, which has several concessions open 24/7 and wide open spaces for sleeping.  Another airport I like is Dallas-Fort Worth.  They have turned handling stranded travelers into an art, providing cots and getting concessions to stay open late.  And they even have a huge vending machine, Shop 24, which sells everything from milk to diapers to chicken caesar salad, and everything in between.

So for those of who stuck in the airport, I’m sorry.  I hope these tips will help make the ordeal at least a bit better!!  I ask: have you been stuck in an airport lately? Where was it? How did you survive? Tell me!

A Random Aviation Photo

4 Jan

I do a lot of flying out of Baltimore-Washington Thurgood International Airport, so my Flickr account has hundreds of shots from this facility.  I’d say 90+percent of my flights are on Southwest Airlines, so I’m always looking for interesting vantage points of the fleet.

This photo was taken in June 2009.  I was walking in Concourse A toward the gates A1-11.  I really enjoy looking out of the large stained glass windows they have as you walk off the escalator, and om this day, it was highlighted by a row of Southwest Boeing 737s.  Enjoy!

A Love Letter To Heathrow Airport

20 Dec

One of my favorite movies is “Love Actually,” released in 2003.  You can read the Internet Movie Database post for details about the movie.  I really love how all the romantic stories are put together, but my favorite parts are the beginning and the end.

Both were shot in London Heathrow Airport and show a wonderful collage of people greeting each other in the arrivals area.  I listened to director/writer Richard Curtis’s commentary on that scene.  He just parked a camera there for a few weeks and edited it down to the collage.  I actually spent Christmas 1998 in London and got to see this play out as I waited for my luggage and my friend.

The Arrivals Terminal at London Heathrow (Photo by Benet J. Wilson)

I am a frequent traveler and one of my favorite thins to do is to watch people showing the love to those arriving and departing.  One time on a trip to Miami in 1985, a very enthusiastic Haitian family mistook me for a loved one. I was startled for a moment, but I still tear up to this day when I remember how loved I felt by these complete strangers until the mix-up was fixed.

And I know a lot of people just hate Heathrow Airport, but I’m not one of them.  My family moved in England in 1970 when I was six years old.  We landed at Heathrow, and I thought it was the most magical place on earth.  Fast forward to 1995 when I flew into the airport to cover the Farnborough Air Show, and I was still transfixed.  I love the proper British accents doing the announcements. I love the myriad shops (Harrods and Boots, to name a few) where you can pick up a piece of the UK.  And I especially love all the airline liveries from around the globe, especially flag carriers you don’t always see in the United States.

I practically fall into a swoon when I think about my time in British Airways’ T5 terminal (you can see my pictures on Flicker).  Yes, there were issues building it.  Yes, the airline was embarrassed when a baggage snafu marred the grand opening (attended by Queen Elizabeth, no less).  But the pieces are in place, and it has become one of my favorite terminals — right up there with Singapore’s Changi Airport, San Francisco’s international terminal and Seoul, South Korea’s Incheon Airport.

So wherever you go during the holidays , I hope you feel the love of the season.  And take a second to let the magic of the airport sink in!


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