Sophisticated travelers no longer race through airports. Now, they languish along the concourses enjoying amenities once the exclusive domain of five-star hotels and resorts. The world’s airports have abandoned their old-fashioned Spartan ways, going upscale to rival the nation’s best malls and theme parks. Of course, food courts serving-up fast food favorites remain, and dimly lit bars are airport icons, but sophisticated travelers now can sit down at comfortable nationwide chain restaurants or five-star eateries, and they can find strong waters served elegantly in micro-breweries and wine bars.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports many million-mile business travelers purposely build long layovers into their itineraries because their between-flight respites not only save travel expenses but also give them time to savor airports’ luxuries and save their energy for serious business at their destinations. Chris Barnet writes, “Some business travelers even go out of their way to schedule layovers. To save her clients money, San Francisco executive speaking coach Fran Zone will lay over and ‘enjoy good food and a good book. It’s downtime for me.’” This list includes just the favorites and the big attractions of modern airport amenities.
On-airport and Valet Parking
Day-trippers frequently discover luxury costs less than roughing it. Executives, journalists, and government officials who fly between Los Angeles and San Francisco or New York and Washington, D.C. enjoy both the luxury and the convenience of a valet parking their cars for short trips. Airport valet services charge less than car services and airport shuttles, and most manage boarding passes and baggage checks. Most also have gone high-tech so that smartphone aficionados can check in and print boarding passes at valets’ computer terminals.
Upscale Retailers and Fine Dining
“Skymall” provided hours of airborne fun in its printed forms, but it is absolutely thrilling in its real-life on-airport incarnations. Studies show that travelers are more willing to buy luxury merchandise at airport outlets than at malls or posh street locations. High-end retailers, therefore, have set up shop on concourses around the world. Hungry travelers also are willing to go upscale with their food choices. “Encounters” sits high atop the newly renovated theme building at Los Angeles International Airport and its world-class chefs prepare exquisite meals guaranteed to change the conventional definition of “airline food.” Hollywood trenderatti have been known to visit “Encounters” even without airline tickets in their pockets.
Business Centers and Executive Lounges
Using the same tone and verbiage they generally reserve for Clinton-era nostalgia, veterans of the dot-com age and the primitive laptop era tell war stories about waiting-area battles for three-prong plugs and wireless service. Now, however, movers, shakers, wheelers and dealers can test their PowerPoints, triage their emails, send their faxes, and feverishly photocopy business and legal documents while they sip their favorite beverages and check streaming news from all the major wire services.
Fitness Centers, Salons, and Spas
No self-respecting “mom-trepreneur” would meet new clients without a fresh manicure and pedicure. Airport aestheticians are standing by. The best airport salons, of course, offer full massage, and many have saunas, hot tubs, and mud baths to soothe stressed-out airplane shoulders. Many of the nation’s leading fitness chains have opened gyms at big airports, serving loyal members and boosting sales of new memberships at record rates.
The Ultimate Airport Amenity: Your Personal Concierge
Ordinary folks now can breeze through the airport as if they were royals, diplomats, or Kardashians, because all of America’s major airports now offer concierge service. Patrons enjoy personal attention from the moment they leave their hotels to the moment they strap into their airplane seats. Concierges handle their baggage and whisk them through security and customs, picking-up boarding passes and securing pre-boarding privileges along the way. When these discerning travelers reach their destinations, concierges expedite their exits, handling details of ground transportation, hotel check-in, and baggage delivery. San Diego attorney Regina Unegovsky admits, “Concierge service is not exactly a bargain,” but she quickly explains, “Because I value my time and sanity, I am more than willing to make up in billable hours what I spend on speeding through airport obstacle courses.”
Airports are no longer the dreary, dimly lit terminals of yesteryears. They are bright, modern, and abounding in luxury amenities that beg to be taken advantage of.
Antonio Ridge is a frequent traveler who lives in Birmigham when he’s not jetting off to far corners of the globe. For ease of travel, Antonio recommends taking advantage of birmingham airport parking, which offers valet and on-site parking options.