In May 2010, I took a day trip to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. American Eagle was unveiling first class seating and food on their fleet of Bombardier CRJ700s. After the event was over, I had time to kill, so I sat in the Admiral’s Club and took pictures of aircraft passing by. I liked the contrast of the photo, below. Enjoy!
Editor’s note: no “Strange” this week, so I thought I’d end the week with this fun post on lavs that I originally wrote back on Oct. 25, 2011. Enjoy, and I’ll be back live on Monday.
So, kids, let’s talk toilets — airport toilets. To be real, I’m one of those folks that hates using public restrooms. But sometimes, you just have to go, and I know what I like in a good bathroom.
- Larger stalls. When I’m traveling, I usually have my backpack and a rollerboard, and I don’t want them out of my sight. Or I’m traveling with my daughter, and I REALLY don’t want her out of my sight. So I appreciate the larger stalls that accommodate my stuff, at airports including Terminal A at Boston-Logan International Airport or Terminal D at DFW Airport.
- Purse shelf above the toilet. We’ve all heard the stories about people reaching over and taking purses when you’re at your most vulnerable, so you want that shelf that is way out of reach, like those at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport.
- A sani-seat. I’m one of those people who carry their own paper toilet seat covers and a purse-sized can of Lysol just in case they’re not available. But I love the toilet seats at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, because they have the automatic plastic sleeve that covers the seat — the ultimate in cleanliness and sanitation.
- The Dyson Airblade hand dryer. Paper towels are messy and wasteful. The old-school hot air hand dryers take too long and leave your hands dry. I tested this hand dryer on the exhibit floor of an airports conference and was sold. It dries quickly and leaves your hands soft, so I’m glad to see airports like Los Angeles International installing them in restrooms.
I can’t end this post without mentioning the bathroom attendants at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. I had come off a US Airways red-eye and was desperate for a bathroom. I go in and I’m startled by a bathroom attendant in NASCAR clothing. But she turned out to be a lifesaver, since she had some mouthwash, among other necessities, on her tray. And yes, I did leave a tip.
So what do you like to see in your airport restroom?
Well kids, this week begins the busy 2012 holiday travel season. Is it just me, or did Thanksgiving just sneak up on us? So just in time for Thanksgiving travel, the folks at the online travel and expense management company Concur have come out with a new survey on the most — and least — stressful airports in America. Concur hired KRC Research, which interviewed 1000 adults in the U.S. and another 500 in Canada between Aug. 13 and 21.
I was not surprised to see that the top three are Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles International and JFK airports. But regular readers here know I’m not happy when JFK is lumped into one, especially since the experience changes from terminal to terminal. Of the ones I’ve been to, I find JetBlue’s T5 and JFKIAT’s T4 to be perfectly fine, while we all know the hell that is Delta’s Terminal 3.
Almost 60% of the survey respondents disliked the vastness between gates and terminals at Chicago O’Hare, while nearly half (49 percent) agreed that JFK had some of the longest lines. Other leading factors of stress at airports across the country included:
- Confusing airport signage (28 percent)
- Poor service from airport staff (28 percent)
- Not enough or crowded bathrooms (19 percent)
The survey touched on two of my pet peeves — poor WiFi coverage (19%) and a lack of electrical outlets (18%).
On the good news side, the Concur survey, business travelers named Dallas-Fort Worth as the most hassle-free airport, thanks to clear signage (42%), good Wi-Fi coverage (41%) and a variety of quality food options (41%). Others seen as stress-free include Orlando International Airport and Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, among my top 10 favorite airports.
Concur’s mission is to improve the business travel experience by making it as efficient and hassle-free as possible, said Barry Padgett, executive vice president of ConcurPlatform Services. “We do so by not only providing integrated travel and expense management solutions for companies of all sizes, but by also ensuring business travelers are as informed as possible when they venture out on their trips,” he said. “Travel can be stressful and by issuing this study, we hope to help business travelers be more prepared for the challenges these airports can present.”
Padgett found it interesting that twice as many respondents said O’Hare was more stressful than LAX or any other airport in the U.S. “Additionally, stress factors that made the list, such as ‘poor Wi-Fi’ and ‘insufficient amounts of electrical outlets’ support the business travel industry’s trend of being more reliant on technology than ever before,” he observed.
I could hear the collective voices of passengers required to travel through Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5 as the city announced it was about to embark on a major upgrade of the facility, the first since the facility was built in 1993.
Currently, 95% of the facility’s dining and retail options are located pre-security. If you’re like me, you don’t want to linger pre-security, especially when you’re taking an international flight. Westfield Concession Management and its tenant partners are investing more than $26 million into the terminal over the course of the redevelopment. Westfields operates in airports, including: Boston Logan Terminals A and C, Washington Dulles, Newark, Orlando and JFK Airport Terminal 8.
The renovated terminal interior will include a redesigned, more efficient TSA checkpoint, a new food court, and new lighting, signage, fixtures and other first-class amenities, all while using sustainable and recycled materials. O’Hare is partnering with duty-free vendors Dufry to bring shops including Bvlgari, Michael Kors, Salvatore Ferragamo and Emporio Armani, to the new terminal.
I was thrilled to hear that Top Chef Master winner Rick Bayless will have an outlet of his Tortas Frontera restaurant in the revamped Terminal 5. I won’t lie — I have routed myself through O’Hare at times just to eat there. The terminal will also feature a grab-and-go outlet, along with Italian and gastropub restuarants, along with local favorite Intelligentsia Coffee.
And iconic Chicago restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises — known for restaurants including Maggiano’s Little Italy, R.J. Grunts and Wow Bao — is making its first appearance at the airport with four concepts. Terminal 5 will feature Hub 51, Big Bowl, Wow Bao and Urban Olive, a new concept that will serve Mediterranean fare. On the retail side, travelers will have access to shops including Swatch, Vosges Haut Chocolat and XpressSpa.
After Tuesday’s post, I still have a bad case of regional jets on my brain. So today’s photo? Surprise! It’s a regional jet! Back in May 2010, I was on my way home from a speaking engagement at the Regional Airline Association’s annual convention in Milwaukee. I stopped off at Chicago O’Hare, where American Eagle was introducing its new first class seat in its 70-seat CRJs. The carrier also unveiled a tasting of the new meal service in said seats. As I was going home, I took this shot of the Bombardier CRJ700 that was taking me home. Enjoy!