MSP airport will offer a missing amenity: snoozing

  • Article by: WENDY LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2012 - 12:39 PM

Sleeping suites, for rent by the hour, will open this year.

You could say the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is going way beyond the plane and simple.

Travelers can get pampered at the spa. Take the fast lane through security. And by the end of the year, they'll be able to grab a bed and snooze for a bit.

Atlanta-based Minute Suites LLC will land at MSP by December, setting up 14 relaxation rooms in Terminal 1 that fliers can rent by the hour. The suites, which will be about the size of a small office, will have a daybed, high-definition TV, desk and free wireless Internet.

The suites are part of a growing assortment of products and services the airport is offering travelers as way to raise revenue. Already, MSP has a spa, hair salon, and high-end restaurants that serve up delicacies like bison tartare and pumpkin soup.

"We have to offer travelers amenities that they can find at a shopping mall, that they can find downtown. We're just like a little city and we have to have all the amenities that a city does," said Dan Boivin, chairman of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

The suites, which will start at $30 for the first hour, will be built on Concourse D. The commission originally planned to set up a health clinic on the concourse but said the vendor didn't finish paying for the project. So in February, the commission selected Minute Suites to install the relaxation rooms.

"It was something we already knew was an amenity that people were asking for," said Melissa Scovronski, a spokeswoman for the commission.

MSP will be among a handful of airports with rooms from Minute Suites. The Atlanta and Philadelphia airports already have the rooms, and Dallas-Fort Worth also will get them this year.

So far, the company has served more than 25,000 clients, said Daniel Solomon, the company's CEO. More than half of Minute Suites' customers are business travelers and nearly 30 percent are return clients.

MSP has been on the company's target list because it's a busy Delta Air Lines hub, Solomon said.

The rooms are for short-term use and don't have bathrooms. That means fliers will have to use airport restrooms and will be charged for their suite during that time. Fliers can rent the suite overnight for $120.

There are "no instructions required," Solomon said. "They walk in. They plop themselves down."

Although the concept of sleeping rooms at airports is relatively new in the United States, they're not uncommon in Europe and Asia. For instance, London's Heathrow Airport has long offered relaxation suites. Experts say customers are more willing to pay for rooms at airports overseas because nearby hotels are often more expensive.

"America's had more choice than Europeans and Asians have had," said Joe Brancatelli, editor of Joe Sent Me, a business travel website. "This has not been an easy concept to sell to America. Americans are simply not used to it."

The average cost of a hotel near a U.S. airport is $91 a night, according to Tennessee-based Smith Travel Research.

Brancatelli also questioned whether Minute Suites will be able to make a profit, considering the high cost of retail space at the airport. Minute Suites, which launched in 2009, declined to comment on whether it's profitable.

The local hotel industry said it doesn't see Minute Suites as a threat because of the rooms' small size.

"We think it's a different market," said Dan McElroy, president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota. "The ones I have seen in the past are so tiny, that they are more like a human-sized locker and only a place to recline and rest and not much else."

Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712

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