Saturday, 7 June 2008

A quiet belief in Angels

Airport Angel is a new service that gives you access to airport lounges around the world and will send you text messages when your plane is ready to board. The basic package starts at around $130 per year, with a $30 fee for per lounge visit. The UK-based service will tell you where and when to check in, how to get to your registered lounge and where to board when the final call is announced. Texts cost an additional $3 each. There is also an arrival service that ou can nominate someone to receive details like the estimated time of arrival and updates of any delays.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Man dubbed security risk for wearing a robot T-shirt

Taken from today's Telegraph (of London), struck me as one of the dummest security decisions ever made.

Airport guards have stopped a man boarding a plane for wearing a Transformers T-shirt showing a cartoon gun.

Brad Jayakody, 30, was told he had to change his T-shirt if he wanted to catch his flight from Heathrow's Terminal 5.

His top showed the Transformers film character Optimus Prime holding a gun.

Mr Jayakody, an IT consultant, was scheduled to board the British Airways plane to Dusseldorf, Germany, with four work colleagues.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

London Heathrow branded a "dump" by US airline executive

Despite its shiny shiny new terminal, London heathrow had been branded as the worst in Europe by Don Langford, head of customer services Europe for American Airlines.

According to a report
in today's Guardian of London
, the executive with the world's largest airline has has said the overcrowded airport was no longer bursting at the seams because "the seams have burst".

He went on, "I would have to say that Heathrow is in many ways the worst of all the airports that my company flies to in Europe," he said in an interview with the BBC. Langford added that the airline's Terminal 3 base was "a bit of a dump" while the airport was "trying to put 10 pounds of sugar in a five-pound bag".

He then went on (and remember AA is a direct rival of BA) : "It has suffered from lack of investment over a period of time. If you look at the fabric of the building, if you look at where customers check in - missing light bulbs, duct tape on the floor."

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Why the time is nearly up for Templehof


Originally uploaded by Minstermen and Peacocks

Templehof International Airport, site of the Berlin airlift and arguably the most classically beautiful airport in the world is set to close this October. I for one will be a little sad as, although UK flights haven't flown there for some time, it was one of the places i used to fly into when i started travelling to Berlin.

Although tainted by the Nazis, and used to be a Zeppelin station, Templehof always for me spoke of the 50s. It was also small, under-commercialised and fantastically located, just south of Kreuzberg. It also didnt' have the usual style gates that stick out like spokes, just one sweeping curve that opened onto the runway, in the way you imagine airports to be in your dreams

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Terminal failure

The eagerly anticipated launch of Terminal five (T5) at London Heathrow couldn't have been worse. Flights to Manchester, Paris, Brussels, Newcastle and Edinburgh were among those cancelled. As the Leader in the Guardian of London observed, "it would be no bad thing if they never resumed. The world's most overworked airport has become a bloated catastrophe, a transit point for travellers who could be carried more efficiently and environmentally by other routes. The chaos of the last few days has been awful for passengers and fairly humiliating for Britain, but it might in the end do some good if it leads to a rethink of endless airport expansion in a country where transport policy appears to be dictated by the needs of Fortress Heathrow."

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Hydrabad: first look

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport has finally opened for business. Flickr photographer Jason D Almeida has produced an exaustive set of images [via Jaunted] of the new airport some are dubbing "Shamshabad", due to its shambolic opening and poor transport connections.

The airport is so new that, the Telegraph of London reports, that yesterday an airline pilot took his passengers on a 1,200-mile detour after refusing to land at a new airport in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, claiming he had never heard of it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

US airports increasingly do it doggy-style

According to USA Today
a growing number of 24-hour "pet hotels" are being built inside or near several north American airports.

Travelers can find "pet hotels" near the airports at Jacksonville, New Orleans and Portland, Ore. Pet hotel operators have plans to open facilities or are in discussions with Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Chicago O'Hare, Chicago Midway, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Houston Hobby and Minneapolis.

"Given that more people have pets, it's just a natural progression of services that airports should offer," Saq Nadeem, founder of Paradise 4 Paws told the newspaper. Paradise 4 Paws, which will open next month near Chicago O'Hare, will even operate a long-term, 22-spot parking lot on-site, so that its customers can take the shuttle directly to the airport. Daily rates for dog hotels can range widely — from $15 a night for a cage at the local veterinarian office to $70 for a large room with extra perks. The company has two locations within a mile of the airports at Jacksonville and New Orleans and plans to open at Houston Intercontinental and Houston Hobby.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Little more than a glorified shopping mall

The Guardian has had a sneak preview of the retail space of Heathrow's shiny-shiny T5.

According to the newspaper, passengers will be able to dine at Gordon Ramsay's first airport restaurant - for which he is boldly aiming for a Michelin star - while there is a "footballers' wives' dream" of a shopping avenue where the first Prada in a European airport rubs shoulders with Paul Smith, Gucci, Tiffany & Co, Mulberry and Christian Dior.

When the shopping gets tiring, refreshment beckons: on a corner site is Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food, offering a "time-guaranteed" menu to ensure passengers will not be late for their flight. The Wagamama restaurant is also another airport first, but, breaking with tradition, there will be no McDonald's in the "grab and go" section. Upmarket stores are clustered together for the convenience of the big spenders. "There is Paul Smith - with "virtual" garden views through French windows - Prada, Mulberry, Gucci and luxury stationers Smythson. Leather-covered seats in the public areas are designed by Foster + Partners and, airport authorities claim, there are 9,000 of them."

Beijing's new airport is an Olympic construction

The Independent of London has an excellent article on Beijing's new airport.

Its praise is extremely fullsome: "To descend the walkways into Beijing's gleaming terminal 3 is to enter China's vision of 21st-century air travel and, more than that, Chinese authorities' vision of their country. That most ancient of Chinese symbols, the dragon, is overlaid with state-of-the-art technology to produce an airport building that is beautiful, efficient and environmentally sustainable."

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The very long and winding road

What the hell is happening at the brand spanking new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad? The new airport, which will open on March 16, is equipped with a 70m high air traffic control tower, India's longest runway (capable of handling the world's largest aircraft the Airbus A380) a seven-storey passenger terminal, 42 parking bays, 60 check-in counters, a business hotel with 308 rooms and shopping outlets ... but officials seemingly forgot to build a decent road, let alone a modern metro top the airport.

Hyderabad, often dubbed cyberbad, is meant to be one of India's hi-tech cities, super-keen on winning more foreign visitors, business and investment. It seems obvious that 25km of bad roads to the new airport does not a good first impression make, even if a modern elavated highway is in the pipeline.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Time for a new airport for London?

Honestly, Lord Foster's shiny new T5 has yet to opened to the public and already people are sniping that Heathrow is too small. The leader/editorial in today's [London] Times calls for a new aiport to be built out in the Thames Estuary.

"Most countries have built new airports well away from the cities they serve. Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, grew out of an old RAF fighter station, not careful planning." There is, it opines, a simple and affordable solution: "A new airport could be built on artificial islands in the Thames estuary, away from the overcrowded city but close enough to be served by fast transport links." Airport nuts will say we've heard it all before. A Thames Estuary airport was planned from the 1960's onwards, but shelved in the 1970s, by the Tories.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Hats off to new exhibition

The hiring of the first female cabin crews by airlines in the 1930s necessitated the creation of uniforms for a new profession. The San Francisco Airport Museum is currently exhibiting a celebration of one element of that the uniform that has all but dissappeared: the cap. Visitors to the entrance lobby of Terminal 3 will be able to see for themselves the evolution of a garment that has often added the "crowning touch in the fashions of flight."

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Airports we love #2: Portland, Oregon (PDX)

Oh Portland, why do we love thee? Let me count the ways. Free WiFi in every terminal; "business centers" with power ports that are perfect for killing time before a flight; light rail directly to the city center. The "Mexican" food chain store near Terminal C has power ports along the baseboards near the tables. But maybe most of all its the connections. We loved being able to take well-designed public transit to our hotel downtown for just $3.

Major plus: It extra fun shopping because of the lack of sales tax.
Major drawback: The conservative interior design of PDX belies a cosmopoliatan and outlooking cities in the US

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Us airports face ever longer delays

Wired Magazine has rated the US airports that face the longest delays and rendered it in a useful Google Map. It makes grim reading for anyone flying in or through the States. "The year 2007 was the worst for flight delays," it reads, "since the [US] government began keeping stats more than a decade ago. In 2002, 17 percent of flights arrived late (defined by the Federal Air Authority as delayed 15 minutes or more). Last summer it was nearly a third, and travel in 2008 won't be much better."

Newark Liberty is bottom of the list, racking up an astonishing average of 72.8 minutes for arrival delays and 67.3 minutes for departures

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Airports we love #1: Helsinki Vantaa

Bright, gleaming, super-efficient Helsinki-Vantaa is one of the reasons we chose to build this blog in the first place. It takes just minutes to get through security (who rank among the most pleasant staff we have encountered). Branches of Marimekko, Iitala and Stockman make shopping an uplifting experience (hunt out bars of delicious Fazer chocolate in the latter). Good coffee, a well-stocked newstand full of international media and German Weissbeir on tap in the bar. Need we say more?

Major plus: Beyond Gate 33 is one of the most stylish smoking rooms remaining in any aiport.(unfortunately you have to pass through passport control to reach it)
Major drawback: No metro connection from the city centre (although an excellent local bus service more than compensates).

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Brandenburg International is taking shape

Although not due for take-off until 2011, a steady flow of images and architectural drawings are flowing out of the offices of Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI). The overdue replacement for Berlin-Schönefeld BBI will replace the three airports currently serving the German capital. As you can see from the image to the left, the development promises some fantastically futuristic architecture, such as the
Infotower, which is already under construction.

Berlin clearly needs a world-class airport, but in gaining BBI, it will perhaps lose one of the world's most historic and interesting. It's worth recalling the architectural grandeur of Tempelhof, scene of the Berlin airlift, a beautiful little airport that remains operational to this day (but only just).

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Found in airports #1: the curious signage of Milan Malpensa

Milan's third airport is a rather dull, rundown affair, although one that's reasonably functional. It is certainly not one of our favourites. One of the hardest things to find in terminal 2 is the right sign for departures. There are, however, lots of ideosyncratic signs for plenty of other things. On the right is a sign for news, the middle is one for the church and, our favourite, second on the left, is one for the cafeteria (we made the mistake of thinking it looked like a DJ turntable).

Monday, 14 January 2008

Ease equals MP2

Going back to the Jonathan Glancey review of the new terminal at London Heathrow, I notice that he makes an excellent point towards to foot of the article about the possible future of all airports. Glancey, The Guardian's architecture critic summons praise for Marseilles-Provence terminal two [in French], commonly known as MP2.

Glancey writes: "The new MP2 serving the French Riviera ... suggests an alternative to the notionally glamorous example of [Heathrow] T5. Designed and built to serve no-frills airlines, MP2 is essentially a revamped cargo shed. Passengers carry their own bags and walk to the aircraft. Services are kept to a minimum. Who really needs more than a straightforward cafe-bar, a newsagent and clean lavatories?"

Maybe. But the most surprising thing is the cost. The funky little boutique airport(see the flickr image above) cost just $25m.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Dial M for Mobile

Taking shape just outside Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, Citizen M is a new hotel concept making a virtue out of self-service and good wireless connectivity.

In an increasingly mobile world (M stands for mobile), I reckon that many guests would happily swap the luxury of expensive room service in favour of a hotel that offered free international calls to landlines, touch-screen self-check-in and wifi throughout. The hotel's bold, modernist design, moreover, is also likely to attract the design-loving masses.

The new hotel, which starts taking bookings in October, which will compete with the more podlike Qbic, easyHotel and Yotel!, is similarly hi-tech. The site thinks that we "will love the Philips designed touch screen mood pad. It allows you to control everything in your entire room– television, window blinds, temperature, coloured lighting, and wake-up alarm themes." Downstairs looks especially good. A self-service 24-hour food outlet, canteenM, sells fresh wraps, sashimi, Dutch beer and Italian coffee.

It is just a shame that the company has not announced a city-centre hotel (although the Happy Hotelier reports that the second Citizen M is causing controversy in Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam) as a Citizen M in the centre of any major city would surely clean up.

Paris airpors rate as the worst in the world to sleep

The excellent Sleeping in Airports has recently published its top 10 best and worst airports to sleep in across the world. Regular visitors to the site will have no surprise that Singapore once more tops to favourites list, followed by Hong Kong, Seoul Incheon and Helsinki.

Surprisingly, Paris Charles de Gaulle now tops the "airports we most hate to sleep in poll". Paris's premier airport once hosted Merhan Karimi Nasseri (the inspiration for Stephen Spielberg's Terminal) for 16 years. But, according to the user-generated comments on the site, people wouldn't want to sleep there right now. According to one anonymous sleeper: "the terminals were full of homeless people who smelled bad, touched themselves in inappropriate places" ... another wrote .... "We moved several times because of homeless people bothering us and other travelers mocking us". Paris actually featured twice on the list, its third airport, Beauvais which is used mostly by Ryanair was described by one user as " a kind of portababin with a gazebo attached". The airport came sixth in the worst of all poll after JFK, Moscow Sheremetyevo, Los Angeles and Manila.

Friday, 11 January 2008

New aiport for Lisbon

Reuters is reporting that the Portugese government has finally decided to build a new international airport on the south bank of the Targus River. According to the report, "the announcement comes after a decade of deliberation, and ahead of the ruling socialists stand for re-election in 2009. It is dependent on an environmental impact study which must be approved both by Brussels and Portugal."

Although this will mean a huge boost to the Portugese economy, I for one will be a little sad about the passing of Lisbon Portela Airport, although it remains incredibally old-fashioned it is perfectly functional. Best of all you could catch the little yellow number bus 44, right outside the airport arrivals hall. The local single-decker takes about 10 minutes to travel about four miles to the city centre and costs around a euro. How many capital cities can count on such an easy ride into the centre of town?

Heathrow Terminal 5 ready for take off

The Guardian's Jonathan Glancey takes a first look at Heathrow Terminal 5.

"Without doubt, what you see at Heathrow, after so many years, is very impressive indeed, an architectural and engineering tour de force that raises the standards of British airport design by 100%. T5 exists in a design airstream thousands of feet above that of the rest of the sprawling and much derided Heathrow estate, and puts its cluttered and neglected precursor, the once revelatory Foster-designed terminal at London Stansted airport, in the shade."

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The British are coming

Gridskipper is reporting that British Airways, that is taking advantage of "open skies" agreements between the European Union and United States.

" BA will launch the creatively named OpenSkies sub-airline next year. The new line's mission is to link up American flyers with the lucrative European market by providing transatlantic flights a la the just-tanked MAXJet. Flights are meant to begin in June 2008 and will run from New York to either Brussels or Paris.