Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Flight Experience Is Getting to Feel A Lot Like Christmas

Call it a seasonal malaise or a charitable act but somehow, despite ascending prices and descending service, we are actually seeing a bit of airborne Christmas cheer this year.

A few airlines must have been overcome with sympathy for the suffering of their passengers, perhaps because this year's Thanksgiving Week spurred an estimated 3.14 million Americans to fly, according to AAA.

Christmas Cheer at JFK, American Airlines Terminal

Give Me Composure, Style & a Charging Station

It's true; there is a Recomposure Lounge now on trial at Dallas’ enormous airport, where just changing gates is an exhausting pursuit. Thanks to Springhill Suites by Marriott and the enterprising DFW Airport management, passengers traveling through the airport's security checkpoint at Terminal E, E18 will experience a comfort zone approved by the TSA. According to their press release (and I’ll see for myself in December), the design at security features “stylish decor, soothing wall art, vibrant lighting and relaxing ambient music.”

Okay, you may not get the Pre-Check breeze-through-security that you deserve, but they are promising hotel style lounge seating after the checkpoint so travelers can gather their belongings, their dignity, and get redressed in comfort after being frisked.  The three-month pilot program is labeled "The Next Level Experience."  Best yet, wait times for security are automatically calculated and displayed on monitors!

Volante Restaurant in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Give Me Back In-Flight Service

There is hope for sky-high customer service. We’ve watched as Emirates Airlines, the Dubai-based carrier known for its award-winning service and luxurious in-flight experience — including Sky Nannies for passengers with children — has partnered with JetBlue and then Virgin America, two of the top airlines for customer service in the United States.  Already recognized for its innovation, both on board and on the ground, we are hoping that everything that Emirates does right will wear off on the rest of the industry.

Make My Transit & Baggage Claim Less Painful

In more recent news, Delta has announced they're putting out Holiday #CheerCarts in "busy locations throughout New York City, Seattle, Atlanta and Los Angeles" through December 21st.  Really? Did we need this and the elaborately staged video (see below) or would we, their customers, have preferred waived baggage fees or more cheer up in the air?

But, to their credit, Delta has finally finished the walkway between their newly renovated Terminals C and D at La Guardia Airport.  No more sloshing around outside in the rain to take a bus 200 feet between buildings to get your luggage.

And while we’re talking about LaGuardia Airport, following their success at New York’s JFK (Yellow Lot, Ground Level by Terminal 5), five electric vehicle charging stations have been installed at the Terminal B P2 lot, Ground Level. Woohoo!

Use Social Media to find #CheerCarts from Delta

Help Me Maintain my Humanity While I Wait

So happy to hear that MSP, the primary airport for the Minneapolis - St. Paul metroplex, has just won the ACI-NA award for best food and beverage program in the US. Managed by OTG in MSP’s Terminal 1-Lindbergh, who were committed to providing passengers with locally sourced food from the top reginal chefs, are restaurants serving Asian (Shoyu); Italian (Volante); Pizza (Vero); French (Mimosa); American (TwinBurger, Mill City Tavern); and other cuisines, each with an iPad at your seat for ordering, working and playing.

While their BarBQ is legendary, we like that no one will be singing the blues in Memphis this winter.  The Memphis International Airport just announced that in partnership with the Memphis Music Foundation to have live musicians greet passengers as they arrive at the Concourse B Rotunda, Concourse A (Southwest Airlines), and Concourse C (American Airlines, US Airways and United Airlines).  The Thanksgiving concert schedule includes Soul, rockabilly and a middle school choir, so we are really excited to learn more about their December schedule.  And best yet here, they’ve programmed recorded music to play in the parking lots 24/7 through the holidays!

Surprise Me with Random Acts of Kindness

And now Southwest, an airline whose wonderful, family-friendly makeover of Dallas Love Field should be a model for all regional airports, has announced their holiday gift to passengers.

To kick off a fun twist on their partnership with Nintendo, the airline gave out 100 Wii U consoles to passengers aboard a November 26th flight from New Orleans to Dallas. A Mario character was waiting to greet everyone and pose for photo ops with grateful passengers.

Mario greets a young fan at DFW over Thanksgiving Week

To make the holiday flight experience more “fun” (their word not ours), Nintendo is setting up Wii U Gaming Lounges in some of Southwest's most heavily trafficked airports between now and December 22, 2013. Passengers can pass the time before boarding by playing Super Mario 3D World and other newly released games, if their travels take them through the following airports: Dallas Love Field, Chicago (Midway), Denver, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

Families take note:  Up to four players can join the fun at each game kiosk for free.

Now that's a holiday gift in our house.

For more ideas on fun ways to kill time at the major airports, see the Family Travel Forum Guide to Great Layovers.

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