Making Layovers More Enjoyable

A growing array of airport amenities provides a lift to flyers of all types.

Image of airport terminal with plane taking off in the background

Major airports around the world are upping the ante when it comes to amenities, and the reason is simple: fly-through appeal. Route choices abound if you can’t take a direct flight to your destination, and having more things to see and do during a layover may help determine which airfield you’ll choose. And the more travelers who spend time in airports, the more money there is to be made from selling food and other items.

Here we highlight some top new airport amenities designed to make the flying experience more enjoyable for everyone from families on vacation to busy business travelers.

For fitness-focused fliers
Baltimore-Washington International recently opened ROAM Fitness, a full-service gym with cardio equipment, stretching space, weights, and private bathrooms with showers and towel service. Tight schedule? You can reserve time in 15-minute increments. If you have more time, Zagster rents bikes outside of the terminal that you can use on a 12.5-mile scenic bike/hike trail that circles BWI.

At Toronto’s Pearson International, a one-day pass to the GoodLife Fitness Gym is just $15; rent Reebok clothes and shoes for $10. At Zurich Airport, you can rent in-line skates, bikes, and Nordic walking sticks for use nearby. Hong Kong International has 9- and 18-hole golf simulators at GreenLife AIR. Korea’s Seoul-Inchon International offers free transportation to its driving range and 18-hole golf course, located just five minutes away.

The Virgin Atlantic lounge in New York’s JFK Airport is more than 10,000 square feet of luxury and boasts stylish furnishings and decor.

For those who like to be pampered
Private airport “club” lounges, often airline affiliated, abound and have become more luxurious every year. They offer privacy, elbow room, and work areas with Wi-Fi; many have spa/massage offerings. Admission is often $450 and up per year, though some have per-day rates. One noteworthy oasis is the Star Alliance International Lounge at Los Angeles International, which has large windows with incredible skyline views. American Express’ Centurion lounges get high marks, including one in Dallas/Fort Worth with a luxury spa. The Virgin Atlantic lounge in New York’s JFK Airport is more than 10,000 square feet of luxury where you can even get a complimentary haircut. Not into airline loyalty? Priority Pass offers three tiers of membership (based on visit frequency) for access to more than 1,000 variously branded airport lounges worldwide. The range of amenities at individual lounges varies widely.

For parents
Kids can be antsy. But they’ll love the two play areas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International, which feature free climb-ons, slides, and pay-for kids’ rides. Singapore’s Changi Airport sports a four-story indoor slide; Tokyo’s Narita International has a trio of indoor Kids Parks. The Play Port at St. Louis Lambert International has interactive activities created by that city’s children’s museum, and at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., parents can take a breather while their kids scamper around a new aviation-themed play area and climbing tower.

For animal lovers
Domesticated animals offer a soothing vibe, which is why you’ll find therapy dogs greeting people at airports that include Miami, San Jose, California, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Oklahoma City. Cincinnati brings in miniature horses twice a month. Besides dogs, Bacon Bits — a therapy pig — is on-duty at Albany, New York, just as LiLou oinks greetings in San Francisco, often while decked out in colorful costumes. You can view other creatures at Vancouver’s 30,000-gallon aquarium and jellyfish tank and in Singapore’s butterfly pavilion.

For the lifetime learner
Schiphol in Amsterdam holds an extension of the city’s Rijksmuseum, a famed art museum that opened in 1800; the branch usually includes eight to 10 masterpieces, and the airport also has a public library. Seoul and Narita Airport in Japan include immersive centers about their respective cultures, while at Chicago’s O’Hare, you can see the giant replica of a fossilized brachiosaurus.

Freelance writer John Bordsen is the former travel editor of The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. The award-winning features journalist previously worked at newspapers and magazines in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and his home state of Wisconsin. Images by iStock and Virgin Atlantic

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