Is it just me, or do we seem to be spending a lot more time in airports these days? Check-in three hours before an international flight; two hours for domestic. And those layovers seem to be getting longer and longer too. Which means one thing; lots of people with nothing to do…but wait.
Accommodating and entertaining this growing number of in-transit passengers is one of the biggest challenges facing airports these days. The industry predicts that more than seven billion people will use the world’s airports by 2020, according to Robert Aaronson of the Airports Council International. That’s 26 times the number of people who visited the world’s 75 largest theme parks last year as they traveled to Palma airport to Palmanova.
“In other words, more passengers checking more bags and waiting longer means a need for more luggage storage, more seating, better food, and better entertainment and retail,” according to Business Week’s Helen Walters.
Indeed, while some airports are banking on flashy new terminals designed by master architects such as Frank Gehry, weary passengers seem to want more simple pleasures: convenience and relaxation. In 2006, USA Today identified some airport amenities that make all the difference for travelers who want to kick back before they fly off, including comfortable seating, day spas, and even art galleries and museums.
Here’s the lowdown on some of the ways airports are trying to help you to relax before you squeeze into that coach seat.
Ever notice that there are plenty of newsstands and bookstores in airports, but nowhere to kick back and read? One of the simplest and least costly amenities airports can offer is comfortable seating. So when I noticed a while back that an increasing number of airports were offering passengers the sublime sanctuary of rocking chairs for a relaxing read or mid-day nap, I knew a trend was underway.
According to USA Today’s Gene Sloan, it all started with a 1997 art exhibit called Porchsitting at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Since then the oak rockers have popped up at airports coast-to-coast, including Philadelphia International Airport in 1999, San Diego International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport.
But the best rocking chair experience may still be reserved for Charlotte Douglas International, where you can spy an unobstructed view of the Charlotte skyline at the end of Concourse D through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Now, if they would only ditch those uncomfortable, geometric banks of seats for comfortable sleeping benches or those nifty space-age sleeping pods growing in airports abroad.
If you’re looking for another type of chair to relax in, many airports now offer chair massage kiosks or massaging recliners. Those quickie concourse massages are fine but are often a bit, let’s say, public.
So a growing number of airports are responding to passenger demand for something a little more private and pampering by opening full-service spas in airport terminals.
With locations in Terminals B and C at Newark Liberty International Airport and also at Orlando International Airport, d-parture Spa offers manicures, pedicures, massages, facials and even a “napping privilege.” The spa also offers travel-sized beauty products to take with you.
New York City’s Oasis Day Spa now offers a full-service outpost at the JFK International Airport Jet Blue Terminal 6. The spa offers express treatments tailored to on-the-go travelers.
At Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Destination Relaxation offers one location at Pier A, adjacent to gate A6. The company, whose massage therapists offer both chair and full body massage at its BWI location, will also visit you on-site at your Baltimore or DC-area hotel room, office, or home.
Billing itself “the first airport-based Oxygen Wellness Spa of its kind in the world,” OraOxygen Spa at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport Edward McNamara Terminal offers, you guessed it, oxygen treatments, along with a range of other services and spa products. OraOxygen has a second location at Canada’s Calgary International Airport.
If you want to know more, Spa Index provides information about other airport spa services.
Art and Museums
For an infusion of eclectic culture, you can’t beat the San Francisco Airport Museums at San Francisco International Airport. Current and future exhibits range from Buddhist art and a display of Warner Brothers animation to Kid’s Spot, an interactive children’s science exhibit designed to encourage children to “let off steam” before boarding their flights.
Displaying a combination of permanent art and changing exhibits, the Phoenix Airport Museum at Terminals 2, 3, and 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, with additional locations at Deer Valley and Goodyear Airports, is dedicated to showcasing “Arizona’s unique artistic and cultural heritage.” And unlike spas and restaurants, you can enjoy these sights around-the-clock.
If you have more than a few hours to cool your heels, you love aviation, and you don’t mind leaving the airport, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport is not to be missed. Opened in 2003, this companion museum was built to house the overflow of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection of spectacular artifacts of aviation history, including the space shuttle Enterprise and an Air France Concorde, not to mention the IMAX® theatre and a flight simulator.
If you believe in making the most out of your layover and you’re lucky enough to be at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, you absolutely must head to the Blue Lagoon.
Approximately 20 minutes from the airport, several shuttle services, including Reykjavik Excursions and Iceland Excursions, offer roundtrip transport to and from this world-famous geothermal spa. Open year-round, you may choose to indulge in the lagoon’s healing waters or simply sit and gaze over the otherworldly blue expanse of steaming mineral water. They’ll even store your luggage. Either way, it will be the most stress-busting layover you’ve ever experienced.