Category Archives: Airports

LAX Begins International Terminal Renovations


Denver International Airport is international in a fairly limited way. Yes, passengers can fly non-stop from Colorado to Canada, Mexico, Great Britain and Germany, but otherwise, we have have to change planes somewhere whenever we want to fly to other countries. I’ve gone to Europe with changes of plane (and often airlines) via Chicago, New York, Newark, Boston and Dallas. I’ve traveled to Latin America via Houston, Miami and mostly Los Angeles. And I’ve flown to Asia and the South Pacific mostly via Los Angeles and occasionally San Francisco.

Flying via Los Angeles International Airport usually, but not always, involves switching from one of the eight domestic terminals to Tom Bradley International Terminal. This is not surprising, since LAX is the world’s fifth-busiest airport, tallying nearly 61.5 million passengers in 2005 (the most recent year for which I could find statistics) and is the major US gateway for transpacific flights. Exhaust fumes and noise notwithstanding, I always walk between terminals — outside. When it’s wintry in Colorado, I enjoy the brief balmy air, and in summer, I am always struck by how humid southern California is compared with the arid Rockies. Whether I’m coming or going, the contrast is somehow transitional.

Ground was recently broken for a major renovation that is Hollywood-style grand in scale. The $723.5 million project calls for major interior renovations, an in-line checked-baggage security system and a second boarding gate for new large aircraft, such as the 550-passenger Airbus 380 and the 504-passenger Boeing 747X (or whatever these super-jumbos are being called). You might say that LAX is adding these gates just in time. The first A380 test flight is slated to land at LAX on Monday, Mar. 19, even though commercial service is not expected for several years.

Considered the largest individual project in Los Angeles City’s history and one of the most complex projects because the terminal is supposed to remain fully operational, the project is also considered one of the most complex among U.S. airports. It is expected to take 38 months and be completed March 2010. LAX is the fifth busiest airport in the world with 53 percent of LAX passengers being served by TBIT.

Seeking (and Finding) Healthy Airport Food

A couple of weeks ago, I had a several-hour wait at Boise Airport (BOI). I left Tamarack Resort at 7:00 a.m. with a light box breakfast for the almost three-hour ride. I was booked on a late flight but hoped to get on an 11-something flight on standby. That flight was full, so I was booked on one leaving after 1:00 p.m. Even with the welcome diversion of free WiFi at the airport, I got hungry — but I wanted to find a not-too-unhealthy light meal. The smoothie place on Concourse B had a salad and sandwich cooler, but I didn’t care for the sandwiches and they were out of salads. I to ask at the pub next door whether there were any salads left in the kithen. I did and was told no. Not much looked appealing until I stumbled upon a Hyde Park Market & Deli, tucked into a corner adjacent to the food court, and ordered a veggie panini. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was better than than airport pizza, the fried stuff at the sports bar, the scary-sounding Maui Tacos or anything passed across the counter at Mickey D’s.
People get into that pickle at airports all the time — in fact, we have houseguests right now who endured more than a three-hour delay at Denver International Airport (DEN), I share with you the Denver Post’s recent list of (relatively) healthy food in an article called “Eat Right on the Fly”:

POUR LA FRANCE (Concourse B): Smoked Salmon and Bagel Plate, $9.50 consists of shaved smoked salmon is served with a toasted bagel, chive cream-cheese spread, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and capers. It’s high in protein, low in fat and a good source of veggies if you eat them all.

WOLFGANG PUCK’S EXPRESS (Concourse B): Tortilla Soup, $5.35, offers tomato and broth-based soups like this one are low-fat and filling.

LEFTY’S MILE HIGH GRILLE (Concourses B and C): Veggie Burger, $7, unlike most veggie burgers that are made from frozen patties that resemble hockey pucks, this one’s made from brown rice, onions and mushrooms. It tastes great and is easy to eat on the run. High in fiber and protein, it’s a good choice for sustained energy.

McDONALD’S (all concourses): Fruit and Walnut Snack Size Salad, $2, makes a snack or mini-meal that is has 210 calories, is a good source of calcium and vitamin C, and adds just the right amount of healthy fat and flavor from the candied walnuts.

CHEF JIMMY’S BISTRO (Concourse A): Shrimp and Pasta Arrabiata, $10, is a low-fat dish tossed in a spicy marinara sauce and topped with fresh basil that does not taste like “airport food.”

CANTINA GRILL (all concourses): Burrito Bowls or “Naked” Taco Salads, $7.50, can be ordered “naked” (without the tortilla shells) to big on calories. A deep-fried taco shell adds a whopping 400 calories and 25 grams of fat to a salad, while oversized tortillas are low in fat but contain 350 calories. Black beans, veggies and salsa make the bowls and salads healthy ways to satisfy a craving for Mexican.

The Post also printed a list of the U.S. airports with the largest selection of healthy and/or vegetarian fare, according to a recent study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:

1. Orlando
2. Detroit and San Francisco (tie)
3. Newark
4. Dallas/Fort Worth
5. Chicago/O’Hare
6. Denver
7. Philadelphia
8. Minneapols/St. Paul and Los Angeles International (tie)
9. Atlanta
10. Houston Intercontinental
11. Las Vegas

It means that Denver offers a relatively good selection of healthy food, but it certainly could do better.

Sun Valley Angling for Denver Nonstop Air Service

Eight representatives of Sun Valley, ID’s business business, civic and political communities are coming to in Denver on February 27 to lobby Frontier Airlines, making a case for the carrier to inaugurate daily roundtrip service between Denver International Airport and nearby Hailey’s Friedman Airport, according to Mountain Express, a twice-weekly newspaper serving the Wood River Valley.

Currently, SkyWest provides nonstop service from Los Angeles and Oakland, but anyone else flying to Sun Valley must connect in Salt Lake City via Horizon Air, an Alaska Airlines commuter partner. Another option is to fly to Boise and drive or take a bus or van for the 155-mile ride to Sun Valley. Denver, which is Frontier’s home port and also a major United hub, would be the easternmost city with non-stop air service to Sun Valley.

This lobbying effort is a case of starting with marketing and web presence to grease the skids, or perhaps clear the runway, for such service. A new not-for-profit business group called the Sun Valley Alliance is prepared promote such service to the tune of $400,000. It also plans to launch a website, www.FlyToSunValley.com, to create a web presence for service from fast-growing Frontier. It is DIA’s second-largest carrier, currently flying to 49 destinations (Memphis is the latest) and has ordered a new fleet of 70-passenger Bombardier Q400 turboprops (above), the type that Horizon is using.

High Tech Replaces High Touch in Air Travel

Millions of words have been written — including some on this blog — about the increasing annoyances and unpleasantries involved in air travel. But one thing has gotten easier: the ability to preprint boarding passes from your home or office computer. While I miss the high-touch aspects of flying as it once was, where passengers were catered to rather than hassled, the ability to get some of the mechanics out of the way does make things a lot easier at the airport. You might say that I’m conflicted.

First came self-service check-in kiosks at airports: dip your credit card or frequent flyer card into a terminal, up pops your itinerary, confirm or change your seat selection(s), enter the number of bags you are checking in, press again, and out comes your boarding pass. Take any checked bags to the counter to be tagged and hopefully loaded onto your airplane, and you are ready ready to deal with the security line. I don’t know about other airlines, but using United‘s on-line check-in adds another 500 miles to my MileagePlus account.

Not only do I miss the high-touch elements to air travel in the past, but I really am sorry for the downsized airline employees who used to do for us what are now self-service tasks. Still, I have to admit that high-tech has made it all a lot easier. I am flying out of Denver (DIA) for Boise (BOI) this morning, and along with my photo ID, I’ll leave the house, ready to park my car and check in.

New Munich Flight to Land in Denver

Denver International Airport will soon become more international. Lufthansa, the national airline of Germany, will start Denver-Munich nonstop service on March 31, 2007, joining its existing Frankfurt-Denver nonstop. This is great news for travelers from Colorado and other states. To fly overseas, many of us in the middle of the country have to change planes — and airports we are forced to use are incredibly delay-prone: Atlanta, #1 in delays; Chicago, #2; Dallas Fort/Worth #3; LAX, #4; Phoenix, #5; etc. These cities are are not only hubs for U.S. airlines with international service but also host foreign carriers. Denver actually ranks #7 on the FAA’s list of airports with the most flight delays, but often the problem isn’t home-grown but is caused largely by delays on the other end: either Denver-bound aircraft that can’t take off or outbound aircraft asked to hold here.

Denver and Munich are a natural pairing. Both cities are not in the mountains but very close to the mountains. Both are vibrant cities with a young active population. Both, in the context of their respective countries, are beer capitals. And both have modern new airports out in the country, replacing older ones that were closer to the city but smaller and more congested. The one thing that Munich has that Denver does not have yet is a railroad station right at the airport.

A bit over two years ago, my husband and I flew to Munich to attend the wedding of a former exchange student at the University of Colorado. We planned to spend a few days in the city before the wedding, but arrived without reservations. We did the usual Europe: went to the information and reservations desk in the terminal to book a room. We requested a three-star hotel near the main railroad station (Hauptbahnhof). No problem. We had our Eurailpasses validated at the airport and boarded a train right there. Trains to the city depart every 20 minutes and reach the railroad station in 45 minutes and wheeled our bags around the corner to our hotel. That easy airport-city connection by rail remains something that we still look forward to here.

Of flights, flying and the TSA, Part Deux

On Nov. 5, I posted my thoughts about the Transportation Stupidity Agency on this blog. More recently, the far better-known and wa-a-a-ay more articulate Anna Quindlen wrote about the same thing in Newsweek. “Osama bin Laden could get through the line if the name on his license was the same as that on his ticket and he wasn’t packing Oil of Olay,” was the call-out subhead for her column.

She told of scooping half-an-ounce of face cream from a 3.5-ounce jar so that it wouldn’t be confiscated. “Is this any way to run an airline?,” she asked, articulating my complaints of just a few days ago. “Between constant delays and nonexistent services, flying has become the modern version of seafaring steerage accommodations. But nothing has made it seem worse than the long lines of bedraggled and beaten-down travelers at security checkpoints, pouring their change into plastic tubs, standing in stocking feet as their shoes are scanned, proffering zip-lock bags full of face creams and foundation.”

And in a great leap to big-picture analysis that I never thought to post, she wrote: “This is not merely an inconvenience. The whole cockeyed system has become a symbol of the shortcomings of government programs and responses. It’s expensive, arbitrary and infuriating; it turns low-wage line workers into petty despots. And instead of making Americans feel safer, its sheer silliness illuminates how impotent we are in the face of terrorism. The hustle and bustle at U.S. checkpoints is window dressing, another one of those rote, unthinking exercises that are the hallmark of bureaucracies, like ‘Bleak House’ with luggage.”

Read her entire column at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15562940/site/newsweek/ — and don’t forget your one-quart zip-lock bag when you head for the airport.