Saturday, July 17, 2004

Terminal boredom be gone



By Pam Harbaugh
Florida Today

[photo]
A traveler gets a pedicure at Passport Travel, a new shop at Indianapolis International Airport.
Gannett News Service/ROB GOEBEL

Sherre Williams knows airports, and she knows how to wait.

"The Boston airport has a nail salon, which is awesome," she says. "If I was (there), I'd be using it today."

But she wasn't. She was in the Melbourne (Fla.) International Airport, waiting for a 4:10 p.m. flight to Atlanta, and then home to Cincinnati.

Instead of sitting back relaxing while having her hands pampered, the 39-year-old auditor plugged in her laptop computer and was writing a report for her company.

Not exactly the multiple-month stay Tom Hanks' character, Viktor Navorski, has at the John F. Kennedy Airport in Steven Spielberg's summer film The Terminal. In the movie, Navorski, a citizen of an Eastern European country, steps into limbo when his homeland erupts in civil war. He ends up stranded in the airport, where he learns about American society from the microcosm of life at the airport terminal.

Airports in large cities are virtual malls, complete with massage tables, emergency clinics, laptop computer hookups with broadband connections, restaurants and shopping galore.

This is all part of the trend toward the airport becoming the gateway to the community and serving the customer efficiently and aesthetically, says Carolyn Fennell, spokeswoman for the Greater Orlando (Fla.) Aviation Authority.

Since deregulation of the 1970s, the airline industry has become competitive, and airports are behooved to offer their passengers more. The next trend, she says, is toward self-service, which would translate into self-ticketing and passengers bringing their own food on board flights, many of which now sell meals.

In the Orlando airport, for example, travelers can watch Krispy Kreme doughnuts being made, get a massage, have photos taken on a Harley-Davidson in front of a beach scene backdrop with Disney characters; and, at the Kennedy Space Center shop, with an astronaut. The airport also hosts a strong public art collection.




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