Airport services beyond shopping and fast food might help save time

by Karen Fawcett on October 31, 2008

There are always last minute details left undone before leaving on a trip. For many, it’s not having the time to get a flu shot. A new service has been introduced at some U.S. airports and it’s spreading like wildfire. There are doctors and nurses on site to give you a jab so you won’t get sick. Travelers like it because they can cross off something from their “to do” list.

Perhaps airports should take the hint and implement other services that many people, especially frequent fliers, don’t have time to do at home. This would be a blessing for road warriors who spend much too much time in airports and vacationers who simply run out of time before having to race to the airport.

Let’s face it, we all have plenty of time at airports after checking in and passing through security. Sometimes we find ourselves at airports for long layovers and have even more extra time.

Eating and drinking have always been options. But the choices are relatively limited to fast food. A sit-down somewhat upscale restaurant would be nice to see on occasion. I know that several airports like Amsterdam Schiphol, Frankfurt Rhein Main, Minneapolis and Washington Reagan have some decent dining options. It would be nice to see that idea spread.

Shopping is the other airport activity of choice — mainly because that is normally the only other choice. But shopping (even duty free) leaves a lot to be desired unless you want to buy cigarettes or liquor. For example, the perfume and cosmetic shops are enticing, but if the person for whom you’re buying has specific preferences, don’t be surprised if these satellite boutiques don’t have the items in stock. For most domestic airports shopping means books and souvenirs.

The airports in Frankfurt and Zurich actually have supermarkets and drug stores available. They have been a lifesaver for many travelers who need emergency items and a timesaver for many businessmen and families who can buy groceries conveniently on the way home after a trip.

The supermarket at the Zurich airport has become one of Switzerland’s busiest since it is open seven days a week and has promoted itself to the community as a shopping center for the local citizens. The added revenue from this non-travel spending has been more than welcome.

Many Asian airports offer massages and there’s no dearth of takers. While in transit, having a back or head rub can keep one going.

Some travelers would love to have their hair done, a manicure, a pedicure or a facial. By the way, it’s perfectly all right to bring your own implements if you’re not 100% certain about the facility’s sterilization procedures. (For some international travelers, that is a consideration.)

Why don’t more airports have gyms? Considering the numerous and lengthy layovers, a gym could calm  passengers’ nerves, making life a lot less frustrating and consequently easier for flight crews.  Many airports are big enough to accommodate a good-sized gym, including locker rooms where people can shower and change.

Again, this idea of a fitness facility at airports has been tested successfully overseas at Frankfurt and Zurich. Closer to home, many travelers head to a nearby airport hotel to use the fitness centers during a long layover. Almost all airport hotels have 24-hour shuttles and day rates for their fitness rooms and pools. Having the facility right in the airport would be more convenient.

As someone who’s traveled extensively, my dental work has been done in more cities than I can remember. Don’t think I’m unique. Many frequent  fliers are in the same boat and would appreciate being able to have their teeth cleaned or a cavity filled when they’re going from one place to another. That means in the airport, not the far end of town, especially considering how bad traffic is getting to and from airports all over the world. If people are going to sit in a dentist’s chair, there had better be a wall  plastered with certificates guaranteeing they are licensed.

I’ll bet the services I’m describing — and others you might think of —would be in great demand. Am I right?  What do you think? Add any other good airport services you would like to see to the comment section. I’ll write a column with the best and most outrageous ideas.

Karen Fawcett is president of www.BonjourParis.com

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  • Elisa

    How about a baby-sitting service for kids? Especially in case of delays, having kids to entertain can be really daunting. I’m sure parents would be happy to fork out to have kids in a protected place, with specialized people, and lots of things to do. Also, it would make it easier for parents to go around and gather information or arrange substitution flights/accomodation/travel arrangements.
    For business travelers; how about a laundry service? You bring your items at the airport laundry when you leave, and when you come back from your travel (3-5 days) you find them ready to wear the next day?

  • http://www.bonjourparis.com Karen Fawcett

    Elisa: What a terrific idea about the having facilities to take care of young (and not so young) children. How many parents head to IKEA because they can leave their children in a safe and well-supervised environment?

    Many people select hotels that offer programs for older children. Not that any traveler wants that long of a lay-over.

    As for laundries and dry-cleaners, there is no reason the process needs to take that long. But people need to sign a release form. If they don’t collect the clothes within 30 days, off it goes to charity. People’s travel plans do change.

  • Liz

    I have often taken the opportunity of an extended layover in Charlotte or Philadelphia to get a manicure I just didn’t have time for before I left. A gym is a great idea–I don’t check my bag, so I have everything right there. And I’ve certainly had enough 3 hour layovers to have made use of a facility.

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