You’ve been in this situation before: After arriving at Chicago O’Hare, or Dallas/Fort Worth, or Boston Logan, your connecting flight is delayed by several hours. Or maybe you have a long layover, and want to make better use of your down time. Sure, you could window shop at Hudson News, or nurse a venti soy latte at the concourse Starbucks. But depending on where you find yourself, you can now also get a quick workout, take in some world-renowned art, or even grab a shower and 40 winks.
Airports in the United States — eager to lure travelers as airlines consolidate — are increasing amenities to include culture, fitness and even the opportunity to commune with a little nature. And since most travelers passing through will shell out for at least a cup of coffee, many of these added amenities are designed to influence travelers to choose to fly, say, via Kennedy Airport instead of Newark, or into San Francisco International rather than Oakland.
“A lot of this is being driven by revenue,” said Scott Mayerowitz, the executive editorial editor of travel news site The Points Guy. “If airports can increase sales even marginally, there’s millions of dollars at stake.”
It’s a welcome shift for domestic fliers, since when it comes to a delay or a long break between flights in the United States, you’re generally stuck inside the airport’s walls.
“Most of the major connecting airports in the U.S. are not near the city center, so it’s rarely going to be worth your time to try to leave the airport and go somewhere,” Mr. Mayerowitz said. “So passengers have a lot of time at the terminal.”
The Points Guy recently crowned San Diego International Airport the best in the United States in its annual ranking of American airports, noting both the ample amenities like multiple on-site craft breweries as well as the airport’s proximity — a mere seven minutes by car — to that city’s downtown.
And while America’s Finest City may have America’s Finest Airport, at least according to this survey, there are perks on offer around the country to make time fly — even as a grounded traveler.
San Francisco International made headlines in 2012 when it opened the world’s first airport yoga room. Since then, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami International, Chicago Midway, Chicago O’Hare, and Burlington International have also unveiled serene spaces where you can relax in a downward dog while delayed.
For a cardio fix, a day pass to Roam Fitness at Baltimore-Washington International costs $25 and includes clothing and shoe rental. At Chicago O’Hare, travelers can purchase a day pass to the health club at the on-site Hilton; the same strategy works in Detroit for the fitness studio at the on-site Westin.
Art lovers might want to linger at Seattle-Tacoma, where there’s a rich permanent collection of more than 65 contemporary pieces of art. At Las Vegas’ McCarren airport, head past the slot machines and into the on-site aviation museum. Denver’s airport boasts an extensive public art collection, while San Francisco has both an aviation museum as well as the excellent SFO Museum, with rotating exhibitions of culture and art.
In 2011, Chicago O’Hare created the first airport aeroponic garden in the world, which passengers can view from the lounge area. Chard, basil and beans are among the good things grown here, which are then supplied to many of the airport restaurants. At JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at Kennedy, there’s a rooftop lounge with green space and a dog walk. And at Honolulu International, there are multiple outdoor gardens featuring bamboo trees, bridges and koi.
Take a nap
When all else fails, sleep it off. In Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Charlotte and Philadelphia, tired travelers can check into the Minute Suites, which can be rented for $42 an hour. These private rooms are soundproofed and offer sofas that convert into beds. Many also have private showers.
At Washington Dulles, a capsule room at the micro-hotel Sleepbox starts at $25 an hour. And at Kennedy’s Terminal 5, thriftier travelers can try and catch some shut-eye in one of the four free JetNap Energy Pods.