This post was most recently updated on July 2nd, 2015
It used to be that airports were pretty utilitarian. Functioning, but not pretty. Certainly not comfortable. And maybe not even efficient. But nowadays, there is a huge movement to renovate and re-design airports to be enjoyable. Many airports are now efficient hubs of transportation with the added bonus of quality shopping, dining, art, services, and yes(!) even entertainment. Here is my list of airports that have added some amazing airport amenities:
1. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
At the Hong Kong International Airport, you can enjoy a 9-hole golf course during extended layovers. There’s also an Imax movie theatre and Aviation Discovery Center. See the Nine Eagles website for more information about the golf course.
2. Narita Int’l Airport in Tokyo (NRT)
The Tokyo airport has installed a track for its passengers. However, this doesn’t mean you have to run to catch your flight. but they have made it much easier to determine where arriving and departing flights are located with color-coded lanes. And if you need a workout before boarding your flight, distances are marked on the track for you.
One of the most impressive airports worldwide is the Singapore Changi International Airport. In fact, it has won several awards for airport design and features. With a rooftop swimming pool, five different gardens, a 20-ft waterfall, a 4-story slide, a theatre, and 24-hour gym, there’s no lack of things to do or see while waiting for your flight.
One of the gardens is a butterfly exhibit with rotating types of butterflies, according to the seasons; another garden hosts over 200 carniverous tropical pitcher plants. There’s a nature trail, spa services, and a transit hotel where you can rest a few hours. Changi airport was also voted best airport for sleeping because of the free rest areas in all terminals with lounging chairs you can actually sleep on!
4. Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
At the Salt Lake City airport, you’l find the average assortment of shops and restaurants. What IS unique to the Salt Lake airport are the free tours you can take. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, provides free 45-minute tours of Temple Square. If you have a layover of two hours or more, church vans will pick you up from the SLC airport and return you in time to catch your flight. Just go to this link for the schedule and more information. Then sit back and enjoy as the tour includes why it took 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple; the wonder of the Tabernacle, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; the Faith and Fortitude of the Mormon Pioneers; and the 11 foot marble Christus statue.
5. Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport (SEA)
The Sea-Tac airport was my homebase as a kid. My father worked for Alaska Airlines, and later I worked as a tour guide for Westours, so I was ALWAYS at the airport. I remember when they first installed some compelling art exhibits and an ice cream shoppe. Then they added the people mover trains. I was impressed! Now the Sea-Tac airport is making news with its “Experience the City of Music” program. It’s been honored as the Best Arrivals Experience at the Future Travel Experience Awards. The program started in 2012, and the airport’s playlist has grown to 600 songs performed by nearly 200 local Northwest artists. There are live performances every day and even videos throughout the airport featuring Seattle’s music scene and history. Web Radio is available on the airport’s free wi-fi, and music-themed art exhibits are curated by the Experience Music project. You can read more about this unique project here.
6. More Mention-Worthy Airports:
Three U.S. Airports now have “Minute Suites” where a weary traveler can rent a cozy suite for two (some locations have family suites as well). Each suite has a sofa bed with trundle pull-out, a TV/Computer, office chair, and desk. There are also 30-minute shower rooms for rent if you just want to revitalize after a trans-atlantic flight. Minute Suites can be found at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), and Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW)
Both Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) have new yoga rooms to help you unwind. San Francisco also has free museums.
The Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has Green Coat Volunteers who help you find your way around, as well as a large collection of Native American art, and a large aquarium.
The San Diego International Airport (SAN) has an overhead light display that portrays swimmers at the beach and other San Diego scenes as you walk down the hall from arrival gates to the baggage claim.
And finally, the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) has a beautiful library.
There are certainly more fun things to do and see at airports all over the world, but you could miss them if you are unaware. Be sure to check out the website for any airports you will have layovers at. You may be surprised what you’ll find. If you’ve seen airports with amazing amenities not listed here, please do share them with me!
(Photos courtesy of airport websites)