10 Unexpected Airport Amenities You Won’t Believe

Nov 22, 2014

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Whether you’re stuck in an endless delay, find yourself with a layover, or have merely arrived early for your flight, TPG Assistant Editor Melanie Wynne wants you to know that several U.S. airports offer a little something extra in terms of relaxation, recreation and diversion. 

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
The Club at ATL

Cushy chairs and lots of outlets at $35/day The Club at ATL

You don’t necessarily have to be an airline elite to enjoy the airport lounge experience: shell out a mere $35 and you can score a day pass to The Club at ATLlocated in Concourse F at Gate B16 on the Mezzanine level. This independent lounge features blue, cream and gray Mid-Century Modern decor with a curved bar, walls and ceilings, as well as a two-story glass wall that offers a dramatic skyline view of downtown Atlanta. In addition to shower facilities, TVs and periodicals, you’ll find work stations, PCs, outlets and data ports, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

There are additional Clubs at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Las Vegas (LAS), Phoenix Skyharbor (PHX) and Mineta San Jose (SJC). Complimentary access to all of The Clubs is included with an annual Priority Pass membership.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
Live in-airport concerts

Austin's AUS has six venues that feature live music
Austin’s AUS has six venues that feature live music

Austin, Texas considers itself the live music capital of the world, so it makes sense that AUS hosts a year-round concert program called Music In The Air. Accessible only to ticketed passengers, live music is performed Monday through Friday at six different venues spread throughout the main terminal, at gates 5, 10, 13 and 18. For a detailed listing of the live music performances in these venues, click here.

Traveling through Nashville International Airport (BNA), instead? See this schedule to catch local, emerging artists and bands performing a wide array of musical genres at four stages around the main terminal at this airport in Music City, U.S.A.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Rocking chairs, indoor trees and a public piano

Rocking chairs in Charlotte's airport (PJ Mixer/Flickr)
Kick back in rocking chairs in Charlotte’s airport (PJ Mixer/Flickr)

In 1997, several dozen white wooden rocking chairs handcrafted by North Carolina’s Troutman Chair Co. were placed in CLT’s ficus-filled Atrium to accompany a photography exhibit entitled Porchsitting: A Charlotte Regional Family Album. Creating the feel of a traditional Southern front porch on a tree-lined avenue, these chairs proved so popular with passengers that they remain a permanent fixture. The added perks of free Wi-Fi, plentiful outlets, and a grand piano available to the public make the Atrium a delightful place to sit a spell – especially if there’s a talented player available to tickle the old ivories. 

CLT’s rocking chairs have spawned a seating trend, and other rockers can now be found in several busy airports across the country, including Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW), San Diego (SAN) and Seattle-Tacoma (SEA).

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
In-airport health club

The Hilton Athletic Club at the O'Hare Hilton has an indoor lap pool
The Hilton Athletic Club at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel has an indoor lap pool

Purchase a $22.40 day pass to the 8,000-square-foot Hilton Athletic Club at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel and you’ll be able to enjoy a workout and access to a steam room, sauna, indoor lap pool and hot tub, as well as full-service locker rooms. For an additional fee, massage services are also available. The Hilton and its fitness complex are accessible by underground walkways connecting to each of ORD’s domestic terminals (1, 2 and 3) as well as International Terminal 5 via the Airport Transit System.

To maximize your Honors earning at O’Hare’s Hilton Athletic Club, use one of the following credit cards while there: the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card (6 points/$), the Hilton Honors Card from American Express (7 points/$), the Citi Hilton Reserve Card (10 points/$) or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express (12 points/$).

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Minute Suites

One of the private, for-rent Minute Suites at DFW
One of the private, for-rent Minute Suites at DFW

Located in DFW’s Terminal D at Gate 23, Minute Suites features ten private suites and two shower rooms for weary travelers who need a rest – even if just for a few minutes. Offered for rent by the hour ($38), three hours or more ($28/hour), in 15 minute-increments ($9.50 apiece for the first two hours) and even overnight (11 p.m.-7 a.m., $130), each of these suites includes a daybed sofa with a sliding trundle bed, pillows and blankets, a sound-masking system, and a computer with a 32″ screen equipped with Wi-Fi , flight tracking information and DirecTV. Premier suites are also available that offer larger space than the standard suites, including a connecting suite for groups and families. Suites can be rented with or without a shower, which costs an additional $15 and includes the use of towels, bath products, toiletries and a hairdryer.

Minutes Suites are participants in Thanks Again!, a rewards program that allows you to register a credit card and earn bonus points and miles for your everyday spending. In addition to the outpost at DFW, additional Minute Suites can be found at Hatfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) on Concourse B at Gate B16, and at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) at the Terminal A-B Link.

Denver Internati0nal Airport (DEN)
Cell phone lot of dreams

The Final Approach cell phone waiting lot complex at Denver's DEN
The Final Approach cell phone waiting lot complex at Denver’s DEN

The mecca of airport waiting areas, the Final Approach cell phone waiting lot near DEN’s Jeppesen Terminal has 253 spaces, a gas station, a children’s play area featuring tables with built-in iPads, and a lounge area with free Wi-Fi, plenty of outlets, indoor restrooms, flight display boards and four fast-food restaurants, including Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. While the Lot is designed for those anticipating travelers rather than the travelers themselves, there’s nothing that says an arriving passenger can’t be brought a treat from the Lot’s 24-hour, drive-thru Dunkin Donuts.

General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee (MKE)
Public ping-pong table

The purple, public ping-pong table at Milwaukee's MKE
The purple, public ping-pong table at Milwaukee’s MKE

The only public ping-pong table in an American airport was initially intended as a temporary attraction. First installed at MKE in July 2011 as a tie-in to Milwaukee’s “Summer of China” and that year’s U.S. Table Tennis Open, the purple ping-pong table made by Chicago-based manufacturer Killerspin soon proved so popular with travelers that MKE decided to keep it. Set near the entrance to Concourse C, the table (now sponsored by ping-pong club Spin Milwaukee) is available for free to the public, and play is first-come, first-served.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
Kiosks for downloading digital entertainment

There are 11 Digiboo movie-download kiosks throughout Minneapolis' MSP
There are 11 Digiboo movie-download kiosks throughout Minneapolis’ MSP

At 11 Digiboo kiosks throughout MSP, you can use a flash drive to download digital versions of more than 500 movies that you can then watch on your laptop or tablet while in the terminal or aboard a flight. Films within this digital service range from classics to a revolving selection of new releases, all of which can be either rented or purchased. Note that seating with power outlets are available at MSP’s Terminal 1-Lindbergh along the entire G Concourse, and stools, work spaces and outlets can be found at at Southwest Airlines gate areas in Terminal 2-Humphrey.

In addition to MSP, there are Digiboo kiosks at Boise Air Terminal (BOI), Indianapolis International Airport (IND), Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), Knoxville’s McGee Tyson Airport (TYS), Portland International Airport (PDX), Seattle-Tacoma (SEA).

Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
Art + Technology 

Space Observer is one of many art installations at San Jose Mineta (SJC)
“Space Observer” is one of many art installations at San Jose’s SJC

As a gateway to the Silicon Valley, it’s only fitting that San Jose’s airport should have tech-themed artwork and decor. The San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program has been the driving force behind  Art + Technology at SJC, a large collection of San Jose-focused multimedia exhibits spread across the Concourse, along the east facade of the rental car garage, and in Terminal B, where they’re found found both pre- and post-security. Some of these fascinating art installations (like the huge, white and trippy Space Observer) are permanent, while others will change throughout the year, and many are surrounded by lounge seating that allows travelers to take a load off and enjoy them.

Other U.S. airports that feature major permanent and rotating art exhibits are Atlanta’s ATL, Los Angeles’ LAX, Philadelphia’s PHL, Miami’s MIA, and Washington’s Reagan (DCA) and Dulles (IAD).

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Yoga and meditation rooms 

SFO has two yoga rooms, in terminals 2 and 3
San Francisco’s SFO has two yoga rooms, in terminals 2 and 3

Since the 1960s, Northern California’s focus on Eastern spirituality has helped to make yoga and meditation household practices in the U.S. – and at its largest airport, as well. At SFO, you’ll find dedicated, 24-hour yoga rooms at the Terminal 2 connector between Terminal 1’s Boarding Area C and Terminal 2’s Boarding Area D, as well as Terminal 3’s Boarding Area E near Gate 69; both are open 24 hours, forbid shoes and cell phones, and offer the use of yoga mats. If you’re looking for a quiet place to meditate, head to the Berman Reflection Room in the International Terminal Main Hall, located pre-security and open daily between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Yoga rooms can also be found at Dallas/Fort Worth’s DFW, Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD) and Vermont’s Burlington International Airport (BTV), while meditation rooms are also located at Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) and Raleigh-Durham’s RDU.

And at airports throughout the country…

XPresSpas are found at6 airports all across the U.S.
XPresSpa outlets are found at airports all across the U.S.

XPresSpa. Each outlet of this national chain offers efficiently-timed spa and salon services like massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, waxing, and hair styling, and features a wide variety of spa products, garb and tools for sale. Walk-ins for all services are both expected and welcome, and for massage services (priced between $50-65 for 30 minutes, but generally available for more or less time), you can opt for a hands-on masseuse or a seat in a massaging lounge chair.

You’ll find XPresSpas at airports in Atlanta, Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Houston (IAH), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York (JFK and LGA), Orlando, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Santa Ana (SNA) in California’s Orange County. Uniquely within the entire chain, the two XpresSpas at Minneapolis-St. Paul’s MSP both offer 30 minutes of shower access for $40.

Have you come across any surprising features at airports during your travels?

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