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Airport Amenities: What’s In, and What’s Out?

By / Mar 29, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

According to a report from Airports Council International-North America, older types of airport amenities, such as smoking lounges and pay phone banks, are likely to go away as newer kinds of amenities take hold.

Airports throughout North America are making way for the future—and to do that, they’ll have to get rid of some links to the past.

A recent report from Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) makes the case that airports are ready to refresh their facilities with lots of new offerings.

“Over the next three to five years, passengers can expect new and expanded airport amenities and services, including nursing mothers’ rooms and pods, post-security pet relief facilities, children’s play areas, airfield observation areas, and adult changing and washroom facilities as the top-rated amenities likely to appear in North American airport terminals,” the Guest Experience Management and Passenger Amenities Survey states [PDF].

But to make room for these things, ACI-NA says that vestiges of an earlier era—like smoking rooms, banking services, and pay phones—will soon be given the heave-ho at many airports.

These services are already on the wane, CNBC notes. For example, while smoking lounges still exist at large airports such as Washington Dulles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, airports in Salt Lake City and Denver have either ditched them already or are looking to do so. (Some travelers aren’t so excited about this particular phenomenon. The pseudonymous author of The Economist’s “Gulliver” blog suggested that “smokers have been banished from terminals altogether” in many parts of the world.)

Pay phones, while maintaining a degree of commonality in many large airports, have disappeared from some venues in part because vendors like AT&T have rolled back their commitment to the business. Airports like Nevada’s Reno-Tahoe International Airport have made up for the loss of pay phone access by offering access to a bank of free courtesy phones to customers.

There are some holdouts,however. For example, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport still has a bank, one with a strong customer base due to its roots as an airport-based credit union.

But there are some elements of the airport experience that are unlikely to go away anytime soon: Nearly all 69 respondents to the ACI-NA survey said they had ATMs, electrical charging stations, airport restaurants, access to taxi and limousine services, free WiFi, and newsstand-style shops.

In-airport golf courses, however? Still pretty rare. Maybe one of these days.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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