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Getting There Early And Staying Awhile…at The Airport

By Bob Heim – Destinations Editor

You’ve made your vacation plans and you’re itching to go. The last thing you want on the BIG day for travel is any kind of delay in getting to that chosen destination. Yet, sometimes the unforeseeable happens. You’ve been advised to get to the airport in Newark, LaGuardia, or JFK in plenty of time and now, with some of those around you perhaps showing impatience and muttering to themselves, you, too, find yourself cooling it while boarding is delayed. Is the airport your prison, or might there be happy consequences to it all? The answer is the latter whether that airport in question is here, or the one you find yourself in on the way back, anxious to show off that tan to your meet and greeters.

Airports have shouldered responsibilities to add smiles ahead of intended miles with amenities both novel and exciting.

Before we zero in on examples of those, however, let’s first take a moment to acknowledge improvements in the shopping areas as well as the knives and forks sections of our local airports. At John F. Kennedy International Airport with its Terminal 4, home to 31 international and domestic airlines, including Delta Airlines, Emirates, Caribbean Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways, Gert-Jan de Graaff, President and CEO of JFKIAT, management company for its concessionaires, notes: “As the premier international terminal at New York’s JFK Airport that reached a 17-million-passenger milestone in 2014, our remarkable transportation center is a matter of tremendous pride for all of us associated with it. Today’s air passengers appreciate the top-of-the-line retail shops, restaurants, and overall comfort they find here at JFK’s Terminal 4.” Phase II of the $1.4 billion expansion of the terminal that offers new and upgraded restaurants and bars, including world-class eateries plus chic, upscale boutique and convenience stores will be completed this year.

Over at LaGuardia, similar advancements are shown. According to Lillian Tan, Vice President and General Manager of MarketPlace Development LGA, says on behalf of the Food & Shops program at LaGuardia Airport Terminal B: “MarketPlace Development always endeavors to meet the changing needs of our travelers through improvements to the Food & Shops at LaGuardia Airports Terminal B. We recently added new upmarket sophistication with the openings of Tumi, Lacoste, and Eddie Bauer. While we await construction to start new stores Lick, Ruby Blue, and America! we have temporarily created two ChargeBars to provide customers with a beautiful, quiet and calm space to work and charge their electronic devices for free from 10 am to 7 pm daily. Additional improvements to almost every food and retail store will be completed this year to continue the initiatives that will help to bridge the transition to the future terminal. It is our goal to provide our travelers with the best experience possible over the coming years.”

Meanwhile at Newark Liberty, all-new dining environments await travelers at Terminals A and B. Dubbed Liberty Terrace, passengers are invited in to dine, relax and recharge with a unique collection of seating and soft lighting along with 55 new outlets and 80 USB ports for charging electronic devices.The food and beverage concessions within the food court were redesigned over the last two years and are open. In a first of its kind, Jersey Bound, a wall shop in Terminal B, features seasonal regional and art goods such as handcrafted jewelry, apparel, literature and keepsakes from New Jersey artisans and entrepreneurs.

But shopping and dining, all givens, are bolstered by lots of surprises too. Mitch Nadler, director of concessions for JetBlue at JFK’s Terminal 5, known by locals as “T5,” boasts that his terminal “delivers the latest and greatest in airport experiences.” The live music concert series for airport travelers makes it hard to disagree.

“Live from T5” is not just a concert series; “it’s now a launching pad,” observes Jessica Wolff, Brand Manager, JetBlue Airways. “Since 2009, artists on the brink of mainstream success have performed on this unique stage. From Taylor Swift and The Wanted to Icona Pop and Aloe Blacc, JetBlue’s Live Music platform provides something for everyone. The travel experience is much more than simply getting on a plane, it includes everything from the moment a customer leaves their house until they reach their destination. We believe music is a common denominator among most travelers.” The beat goes on.

Live music concerts have proliferated to other airport hubs too. Among them are Austin-Bergstron International, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, Seattle-Tacoma International, and Nashville International (but, of course), to cite just some of the locations.

Whether it is music, art exhibitions (more than 50 airports offer art displays says Airports Council International-North America, a D.C. trade organization). a museum (at Schiphol-Amsterdam Airport) or yoga at San Francisco International, airports are making it easier and more attractive to stay a bit and enjoy.

In Fort Lauderdale with one of the fastest-growing airports in the U.S., Nicki E. Grossman, president & CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau declares “we are proud of our well-deserved reputation for ease, accessibility to our destination’s famed beaches, hotels and major attractions, along with courtesy towards our 25 million annual passengers. Millions of dollars are being invested in a major runway expansion, improved inter-terminal passenger movement and extensive terminal upgrades, including new shops and dining outlets. We want the airport experience to reflect the quality experience that visitors will have throughout their vacation or business visit.”

There’s even a great way to get from the airport to a myriad of beckoning attractions. On Saturdays and Sundays a free “Sun Trolly” takes passengers awaiting connections, to downtown for a few hours of sightseeing and shopping. Last trip back to the terminal is 4:30 pm, enough time to sample some of the “Sunshine Sate’s.” local assets.

So, if extra time comes your way at the airport, don’t fret. Spend enjoyable moments experiencing the wide range of pleasures at hand before heading for your jet, and climbing into sunny skies above.

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