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U.S. Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood (and so many others) have already spoken of the disruptions that automatic budget cuts known as sequestration would bring to air travel. So have others, including President Obama. The $600 million trim to the budget of the Federal Aviation Administration would mean furloughed air traffic controllers, which would effectively slow air travel.
Barry Liben, the CEO of Plymouth-based Travel Leaders Group, the largest traditional travel agency company in the U.S., weighs in, too. A press release issued by the group contained the following statement from Liben:
"On behalf of our more than 40,000 Travel Leaders Group travel professionals and the millions of corporate and leisure clients we proudly serve, we are calling on the United States Congress and President Barack Obama to take immediate action to resolve the deadlock over the sequestration issues before the March 1 deadline.
"Travel remains an integral and vital economic engine. Businesses can’t function without it, and millions of travelers depend on it daily for their livelihoods. If our nation’s air traffic controllers, TSA airport screeners and CBP customs agents are furloughed – which in turn may require airlines to cancel or delay flights and potentially create long delays at security and customs – our travel industry will suffer.
"To avert serious and potentially long-lasting damage, not only to the traveling public, but to the American economy, we ask our leaders in Washington to act now."
The released noted that LaHood has indicated that the furloughs and facility shut-downs referenced in the statement will not occur until April. Ah, at least spring break is safe!
Plymouth-based Travel Leaders Group asked more than 1,000 travel agents nationwide what they and their clients think of airports across the country. The results are in and look good for Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International, Minneapolis-St. Paul International and others. But flyers, watch out for Chicago O'Hare, which ranks as the top airport to avoid when making a connection. (I needed no survey to tell me that; I've heard several horror stories about missed connections at that sprawling airport.)
Some of the busiest airports around the United States have expanded services to include mini spas and salons, retooled retail toward higher-end goods and electronics and upped the dining options, according to the Travel Leaders press release.
Atlanta ranked at the top hub for connections. Ironically, it ranked only 3rd in the list of airport clients avoid for connecting flights, behind Chicago O'Hare and New York's JFK. Apparently, airport likes and dislikes are highly subjective. Atlanta also ranked first in airports that offer the best services for business travelers, the best airport amenities and the best dining. In those last two categories, MSP ranked second.
Here's the complete survey results:
Best U.S. Airports for Connecting Flights:
Travel Leaders Group owners, managers and agents were asked, “If your clients are flying and need to connect through a hub airport, which hub do they prefer?” Respondents were allowed to choose up to three airports. The following list displays the Top 10 domestic airports.
1 Atlanta 40.5%
2 Charlotte 25.2%
3 Dallas/Ft. Worth 24.3%
4 Houston Intercontinental 18.2%
5 Detroit 17.5%
6 Minneapolis/St. Paul 16.7%
7 Chicago O’Hare 14.1%
8 Phoenix 10.1%
9 Denver 8.0%
10 (tie) New York (JFK) 7.9%
10 (tie) Salt Lake City 7.9%
Worst U.S. Airports for Connecting Flights:
When asked, “If your clients are flying and need to connect through a hub airport, which hub do they try to avoid?” the top responses were as follows. (Again, those polled were able to choose up to three different airports.)
1 Chicago O’Hare 56.3%
2 New York (JFK) 39.4%
3 Atlanta 33.0%
4 New York (LGA) 13.7%
5 Newark 12.2%
6 Miami 11.5%
7 Denver 10.3%
8 Philadelphia 10.0%
9 Dallas/Ft. Worth 9.4%
10 Los Angeles 9.1%
Top U.S. Airports for Business Travel Services:
When asked, “Which airport(s) would you and your clients say offers the best services for business travelers?” nearly 700 agents responded with the following list of Top 10 airports:
1 Atlanta 42.2%
2 Chicago O’Hare 29.8%
3 Dallas/Ft. Worth 20.5%
4 Minneapolis/St. Paul 18.3%
5 New York (JFK) 15.2%
6 Detroit 12.7%
7 Houston Intercontinental 10.3%
8 Los Angeles 9.0%
9 New York (LGA) 7.5%
10 (tie) Newark 6.3%
10 (tie) San Francisco 6.3%
10 (tie) Washington D.C. (Dulles) 6.3%
Top U.S. Airports for Amenities
Today, airport amenities can range from spas and yoga rooms to art exhibits and putting greens. When asked, “What do you and your clients consider the top airport for amenities?” Travel Leaders Group agents named (1) Atlanta, (2) Minneapolis/St. Paul, (3) Chicago O’Hare, (4) Dallas/Ft. Worth, and (5) Las Vegas as their Top 5 U.S. airports for amenities. This particular question is based on responses from 489 agents.
Top U.S. Airports for Dining
Some of the most significant upgrades at airport have been to the dining options available to air travelers. When asked, “What do you and your clients consider the top airports for dining?” Travel Leaders Group agents identified (1) Atlanta, (2) Minneapolis/St. Paul, (3) Chicago O’Hare, (4) Dallas/Ft. Worth, and (5) San Francisco as their Top 5. This particular question is based on responses from 526 agents.
Top U.S. Airports for Families with Kids
Traveling with kids poses additional challenges, particularly when trying to keep kids entertained while spending time in airports. When asked, “Which airport(s) would you and your clients say are the best for helping to keep kids entertained and occupied?” Travel Leaders Group agents listed their Top 5 U.S. airports as: (1) Orlando, (2) Minneapolis/St. Paul, (3) Atlanta, (4) Chicago O’Hare and (5) Dallas/Ft. Worth. This particular question is based on responses from 314 agents.
Over the weekend, I visited a swell spot for pets of all kinds and their vacationing owners: Now Boarding. This animal boarding biz, affiliated with the Humane Society, offers a clean, bright space for animals with ample room for roaming. It's in the shadow of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Customers can park their car on the lot for $11/day (less than what you'd pay at the airport) and get a free shuttle to their terminal included. When I arrived, dogs ranging from a dozing dalmation to an excited shih tzu were in the communal area, romping around and playing with three human supervisors.
I was cheered immediately, which is good because I went with some trepidation, seeking a possible spot for my aging cat. Just down the hall, what I saw in the kitty condo room put me more at ease. Cats were hang out in their own two-room flats; each of them get one or two turns outside their condo in the larger room, where they can climb towers or warming themselves in the sun at the floor-to-ceiling windows. I peeked into the small critter room, too, and saw two bunnies with carrots in their cages.
What prompted the visit? I've been fretting about what to do with my cat while my family takes an extended vacation. My feline is the nervous sort. The kind that vomits when I'm away. And doesn't quite make it to her litter box. I have dealt with that by paying people to stay with her, and by keeping a big box of carpet cleaner at the ready. Now, maybe, instead of sitting on my lap, she'll be living in the lap of luxury -- at least for a few days.
The experience of flying may raise your blood pressure, but the food you eat at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport doesn’t have to. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 2012 Airport Food Review, MSP is tied with Charlotte Douglas International Airport as the eighth-healthiest airport in the country. To determine the ranking, the nonprofit surveyed restaurant meals at 18 major airports, giving points for restaurants whose menus included at least one low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free vegetarian entrée. Of 65 restaurants at the airport, 51 offer at least one healthful option. Newark Liberty International Airport came in on top, with 56 of 61 restaurants serving up healthful fare. My top picks at MSP include French Meadow Bakery, with organic fare (at the Mall and Concourse F), Axel’s Bonfire, where the blackened walleye salad is a hit (the Mall) and Maui Tacos, where the Chopped Tuna Salad has 275 calories and 3 grams of fat (Concourse C).
Free wi-fi finally landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport today. Advanced Wireless Group, which offers wireless internet at Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and other airports around the country, began providing the service at the airport today. Users may encounter a video advertisement before they can go online for a free 45-minute session; advertising revenue will offset the cost of the service. A commercial-free service, with four times the speed, is available for $2.95 per 24 hours. Before the shift to AWG, all wi-fi use at MSP was fee-based. AWG is upgrading the existing equipment to accommodate the anticipated growth in the number of users at the airport, where the public terminal space covers 2 million square feet. For details about how to access the wi-fi, go here.
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