USA TODAY - 'Micro' gets bigger at airports

by Harriet Baskas.

    In our roundup of the best new air­port amenities of 2017, we celebrated perks such the 24-hour "microcinema" at Portland International Airport, Pitts­burgh International Airport's introduc­tion of "MyPITpass," which allows the nonflying public to visit the secure side of the airport, and the opening of ROAM Fitness, an in-airport gym at Baltimore ­Washington International Airport.


    The 2018 honor roll is once again full of fresh new amenities and creative bo­nus activities introduced by airports, airlines and in-terminal vendors work­ing hard to make airport dwell time less stressful, more enjoyable and, at times, surprising.

TOOSHLIGHTS -Los Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles International Airport has red and green overhead lights to signal whether a bathroom stall is occupied. TOOSHLIGHTS


Go with a glow

    Airport restroom lines get long when users can't tell which stalls are empty. To solve that problem, in April, Los An­geles International Airport unveiled a pilot program in one set of Terminal 4 restrooms using Tooshlights' smart latches on stall doors. When a door is closed, a light over the stall turns red; when the latch is open, the light turns green. The latches are paired with the Infax smart restroom technology, which tracks usage and real-time feedback to improve restroom cleaning schedules.

     In July, a set of restrooms at ATL got smart technology in a set of loos, too.


See ya later  alligator

    The list of airports welcoming therapy dogs into the terminals keeps expanding and last year we applauded Denver International Airport for upping the ante by adding Xeli the cat to its Ca­nine Airport Therapy Squad known as CATS.

   This year Louis Armstrong New Or­leans International Airport raised the bar by scheduling weekly visits with ba­by alligators. What's next?

Travelers can pet a baby alligator at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Travelers can pet a baby alligator at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT


Start the vacation at the airport

    Airports say they're the front doors to their cities. Louisville International Air­port takes that to heart with HMSHost's new Book & Bourbon Southern Kitchen, which features more than 85 bourbons and qualifies as an official stop on Ken­tucky's Urban Bourbon Trail.

    Travelers can pick up a trail passport and get their first stamp before they leave the airport or top off their stamps on the way home.

    This year, HMSHost also opened the Whiskey River restaurant and bar at Ra­leigh-Durham International Airport, of­fering music six days a week and a sel­fie-friendly stationary bull.


More napping options

    Sleepbox, which bills itself as a mi­cro-hotel, is scheduled to open the Sleepbox Nap Lounge with 16 pods on Concourse A, at Dulles International Airport by the end of December.

    The micro-hotel will join Minute Suites, which currently operates nap­ping/working/recharging pods at air­ports in Dallas, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Atlanta, where the company plans to add four locations in 2019, including two that will be co-located with Be Relax Spa and Chiroport (airport chiropractor) branches.

USA Today Sleepbox Nap Lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport
The Sleepbox Nap Lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport will offer 16 sound-proofed rooms. SLEEP BOX


New ways to work and play at DFW Airport

    In July, two Gameway video game entertainment lounges opened at Dal­las-Fort Worth International Airport, by Gates B42 and El6. Each of the 36 gam­ing stations is equipped with a leather chair, an Xbox One loaded with 19 games, a 43-inch TV, noise-canceling headphones, charging ports and space to store luggage.

    For those who need to get work done, Varidesk just launched a free, staffed co-working space at DFW (by Gate C12) with a conference table for meetings and 24 workstations outfitted with power hubs and adjustable standing desks.


Hungry gate huggers have more options

    This year, OTG expanded the gate areas where passengers use iPads to or­der food and drinks, and At Your Gate joined Airport Sherpa in offering food delivery to passengers anywhere in the airports they serve. Airport Sherpa is still only at BWI Airport, but during 2018 At Your Gate began running food and drink orders to gates at both San Diego International and Newark Liberty Inter­national Airports.


Early bag drop service at Denver International Airport

    Self-service bag check offers conve­nience at the check-in counter, but Den­ver International Airport is the only air­port that allows travelers to drop their bags off at shuttle parking lots and the airport transit center. The drop-off ser­vice is free, but airline bag fees still ap­ply. Free drop-off service is available to passengers arriving at least 90 minutes before their flights and traveling domes­tically on Southwest, United, Delta and American Airlines.


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