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.