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Frankfurt Germany's airport allows you to stash your coat while heading to southern climes.

Frankfurt Germany’s airport allows you to stash your coat while heading to southern climes.

If you’re like me, you’ve had some really bad experiences in airports.

I’m not talking about just long, slow security lines — though those can cause serious problems catching some flights — but huge distances to cover between flights without sufficient airport transportation; bad signage; lousy dining choices; airline lounges that are almost impossible to find; lack of storage facilities; escalators that don’t work or don’t exist at all, forcing passengers to lug heavy suitcases up stairways; luggage carts that require coins in currencies visitors haven’t acquired yet; lack of sufficient seating near gates (or anywhere, for that matter); baggage carousels that don’t work, stranding some bags in limbo; inadequate restroom facilities…I could go on, but you get the picture.

Sometimes when I’m having to dash between flights — such as I did a few months ago in the Madrid airport — along a route that seemed to take me halfway to Barcelona, I wonder how my baby boomer contemporaries who have recently had hip or knee replacements can possibly make it. Yes, there’s always the chance of flagging down one of those trams that come careening down the hallways with horns blaring, but they often seem to be filled with folks who appear, at least, to be perfectly capable of hoofing it themselves. (Though to be fair, you can’t always tell.)

So I’d like to give a nod today to the Frankfurt, Germany, airport (FRA), which has instituted a small — but very much appreciated — service to its passengers who are flying to warmer climes in the winter.

The airport now has a winter coat storage service that allows passengers to store their heavy coats there before getting on the plane, to say, southern Spain or the Canary Islands to catch some rays in the dark days of November through April.

The service costs 50 euro cents per item per day and means you don’t have to lug around that albatross of a coat when you’re checking into a hotel someplace where it’s 70 or 80 degrees.

And think of all the space it saves in those overcrowded overhead compartments on the planes. You might actually have room for your carry-on bags.

This is part of the Frankfurt airport’s “Great to Have You Here!” campaign, which is refreshing for a facility that processes more passengers per year (57 million) than any other in Germany.

(Imagine a campaign at JFK in New York called “Great to Have You Here”? I can picture something more like a “Great to See You Go!” campaign, intended to prepare new arrivals for their even more chaotic experiences at the ground transportation areas just outside. It’s always nice to come home to a Third World country from Europe or Asia.)

Speaking of JFK, USA Today just came out with a piece on road warriors naming their favorite and least-favorite airports in the U.S. and around the world, and as a New Yorker I’m proud to say that Chicago’s O’Hare was actually named the least favorite in the U.S., while Paris’ Charles de Gaulle was named least favorite internationally.

Certainly of major international cities, I think de Gaulle is a good choice, since as I recall it took my family hours just to figure out where to check in, though London’s Heathrow ranks right up there, especially if you’re trying to transfer to another flight within two hours or sometimes within two days.

And O’Hare — which is half the size of several mid-sized cities and is plagued by air traffic congestion, endless taxiing and long waits on the tarmac — isn’t a bad choice, though for me, it’s hard to top JFK for sheer obnoxiousness.  (It has improved since the introduction of Air Train some years ago, but you still have to switch to the Long Island Railroad or the subway to make it into Manhattan. Though taxis and shuttles are even worse.)

The best airports, as chosen by USA Today’s road warriors? Dallas-Fort Worth in the U.S., and Amsterdam’s Schiphol internationally.

The Dallas airport does have good barbecue and an efficient tram system for making connections in different terminals, and Amsterdam’s airport has room for 10,000 bicycles parked outside, so I can’t complain about those selections.

But Frankfurt’s coat-check service is one of those little touches that can mean a lot. Even if a city can’t upgrade its airport to the top tiers in the world, it can get creative in ways that keep its passengers just a little bit happier. And they’ll come back, too — after all, they have to fetch their coats.

What do you think, readers? Do you have any nominations for the world’s best and worst airports? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Be sure to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers,” available here. It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen. It’s also the easiest way to subscribe to my blog, so you won’t miss a posting. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

6 Responses to What Makes For a Good — or Bad — Airport?

  • Based on a recent six-hour layover at JFK, the new Delta lounge in Terminal 4 is Heavan. The Delta gates at Terminal 2 are Hell.

  • LIving where I do, I have to travel through Philadelphia airport all the time. It’s not great, especially if one is transferring (as I often am) from the commuter terminal to one of the others. BUT, I will say this for it: major renovations to the commuter terminal are currently under way, and I hope they will improve what have been very crowded conditions there, with not enough seats or good food choices; and there are some genuinely good restaurants in the main terminals, especially a Japanese place with delicious dumplings and sushi (Sky Asian Bistro), and a branch of Legal Seafood, which I usually head for in any airport that has one. Just ate twice, coming & going, at the one in Logan Airport, Boston, terminal B. At Logan, coming or going from a small plane, one does have to lug one’s suitcase up & down stairs, whereas in Philly the Terminal F (commuter) gates are all blessedly at ground level.

    • I recently flew through the Philly airport twice, MB, and was lucky to have my departure gates very near my arrival gates. In the same area was a cutting-edge restaurant where you ordered by iPad, which was great except a real live server had to come by to explain the system to just about everyone and show them how it worked (me included), so that may have taken more time than writing the order down on the traditional notepad. I suppose as time goes by that will become less necessary. In any event, it’s entertaining.

  • Burbank (Bob Hope airport) tops LAX by a very very long way. It is like an old fashioned airport in Hawaii 30 years ago-all on one level so you can walk anywhere, rental cars are the same location and you even get to feel the warm California sun right off the plane. Of course, not much flies there but that’s another issue…

  • I love airports like that. You’re right, though, Veronica, it’s hard to find an airline that actually flies there…but I guess we shouldn’t be greedy.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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