There are some things business travelers just accept about airports during the holiday season: Families with small children and infrequent travelers make the security lines slow to a crawl. Seating areas are packed with waiting passengers and for every one electric outlet in the gate area there are seven people who want to plug in a charger before their next flight.
But don’t despair! We polled our in-the-know staff for their insider airport tips and suggestions of how to make your connection time in some of the major U.S. airport hubs more comfortable and productive, even during the holiday rush.
LaGuardia, New York – Delta has done a major renovation to Terminals C and D where they operate. They have replaced traditional waiting area seating with 8-seater tables and stools, Free airport WiFi, multiple charging stations and IPads for travelers’ complimentary use make staying connected a breeze. For a quieter work space, the revamped Delta Sky Clubs offer more power options and natural lighting from large windows. Terminals C and D also have 13 chef-driven dining options in hip little bistros and delis, as well as a shopping mall. Pick up a last minute gift at Brookstone, fresh reading material at one of the newsstands or soothe the kinks of travel at the XpresSpa.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Throughout the airport, permanent and rotating exhibits of local artists’ visual art enrich the environment. The Philadelphia Marketplace at the confluence of Terminals B and C has the feel of a shopping mall with over 30 retail shops and a large food court. A unique airport feature is their Street Pricing Guarantee in which they commit to matching merchandise, food and beverage pricing of off-airport locations and even offer a money-back guarantee! For relaxation, people watch from a line of rocking chairs or visit one of two XpresSpa locations (Terminals C and D) to loosen up sore shoulders and get the perfect manicure. The airport also offers free WiFi throughout so you can work or play online until flight time.
Atlanta, Georgia – Hartsfield- Jackson Airport consistently earns the “busiest airport in the world” title, so there’s a good chance a business traveler will be visiting there soon. Getting around is easy with the efficient automated tram that connects the seven concourses. Atlanta is one of the few airports that still has a smoking section (if you can tolerate a smoke-filled glass cell!). Volunteers stationed throughout the airport to offer assistance are a friendly touch. Shopping options are abundant and generally concentrated at the center point of each concourse (where the tram stops). You can shop luxury brands from Brooks Brothers to Bulgari, as well as typical news and gift retail, or visit two XpresSpas and two interfaith chapels. Unfortunately, you won’t find a lot of healthy eating options, but there is plenty of fast food. WiFi access costs $4.95 in public areas; however seven airlines, including Delta, United, Continental and American, have private lounges (fee-based) with free internet, business services and bar service.
Chicago, Illinois – The O’Hare Airport has a wealth of interesting ways to spend time in the airport. The city’s world-renowned Public Art Program includes many permanent and rotating art exhibits at the airport and “Music in the Air” brings local musician’s recordings to the airport. History and aviation enthusiasts can enjoy aircraft exhibits and kids love the four-story tall Brachiosaurus Dinosaur skeleton model. A wonderful place to decompress between flights is the O’Hare Urban Garden, a vertical aeroponic vegetable garden in Terminal 3, that produces over 40 types of herbs and vegetables used by airport restaurants. A seating area has been created among a “forest” of floor-to-ceiling columns where the veggies grow without soil. Also in Terminal 3 is the Backrub Hub where massage therapists can knead out any stress. Multiple airline clubs offer a quiet place to work or relax (most offer day rates for non-members). In public spaces, WiFi access is available through Boingo for $6.95 for 24 hours and 4- to 8-seat workstations with counter space and electric outlets are found throughout the terminals. The Field Museum of Natural History Store is the perfect place to pick up a unique gift. This holiday season, volunteers even offer free gift-wrapping beyond security. Then for fresh, hot food delivered directly to your gate, download the B4 YOU BOARD app for iPhone or Android.
More airport tips from Covington advisors:
- Gate Guru is a favorite mobile app available to Apple and Android users that puts high-level travel information that you need to know, such as airport weather, check-in terminal, security wait time, airport amenities and much more. Download it from your app store to put the magic of relevant travel information at your fingertips.
- Admission to airline clubsrequire a membership but many lounges offer short duration passes for a fee. They may start as low as $15 for one hour up to around $50 for the whole day. These clubs give you a space to work or relax away from the masses. They generally have work stations and business services, including WiFi access, charging stations and printing capability, café and bar services. Some even have places to sleep or shower. If you’ve ever spent six hours in a hectic airport during the holidays, you know these havens are worth every penny of the daily fee.
- At the Milwaukee, Wisconsin airport, you can entertain yourself by playing ping pong right in the middle of the terminal, or buy a cheesehead hat and text your friends silly pictures.
- In a worldwide first, the Denver, Colorado airport is offering free global calling from over 200 landline phones throughout the airport. Users can opt to continue an international call after the 10-minute limit at the rate of $.25 per minute plus 15% tax.
- In the Las Vegas, Nevada airport, the Pandora store offers unique charms that are not available at any other Pandora retail outlet. If you need a dice charm for your lucky bracelet, this is the place to get it!
- A new report named Newark Airport as the nation’s healthiest in terms of offering the highest percentage of healthy food in its restaurants. Las Vegas and Detroit were a close second and third, while Atlanta was at the bottom of the list of 18 airports.
- In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Airport, the Food Network Kitchen has opened as the only eatery serving hot food at the Jet Blue concourse. The menu includes organic and sustainable ingredients and offers dishes with connections to local ingredients and regional culture, such as a Florida shrimp po’boy and a salmon burger with Key lime mayo.
- You can’t mail anything from beyond security in an airport. Last year, a Covington team member very efficiently wrote all her holiday cards while at the airport, but then had to mail them from Jamaica!
If you have questions about any airport, just ask any of Covington’s experienced advisors for tips and suggestions. If you have airport tips of your own, please share them in the comments below. Wishing you relaxing airport connections and on-time arrivals!
Many thanks to the Covington team members who contributed tips to this post: Anita N., Beverly M., Christina L., Christi R., Dale F., Dee Dee W., Jean R., Judy F., Karen K., Kim S., Lisa P., Liz G., Paul C. and Susan M.