Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gated Community

One of the more soul crushing parts of air travel is waiting at the gate for your flight to depart. You sit (if you’re lucky enough to find a place) on seats seemingly designed to be as uncomfortable as possible. After fifteen minutes with your posterior on one these ergonomic monstrosities, you’re making a mental note to schedule a chiropractic visit. As much as you try, you can’t tune out the banalities of Wolf Blitzer blaring at you from of the “courtesy” CNN screens that are ubiquitous at many airports. If you’re traveling by yourself, you risk losing your place if you want to get up and grab a drink or some food and you’re got to lug your bags with you if you do make such a trip. If you’re traveling with kids, you have to figure out how to keep them entertained and avoid have them annoying fellow travelers with their antics (at least you should be doing that). All too often, such areas of airports can seem like the gates of hell.

The good news is that there are plans in the works to change all this. Thursday’s WSJ reported on a new trend in Boarding Gate Makeovers:

Now, real improvement is afoot. At New York La Guardia's Terminal D, built in 1983 and home to Delta Air Lines, boarding-gate areas have recently been renovated with rows of bar-style tables equipped with plentiful power outlets and iPads for free use. Travelers tap their flight number into the device, which will alert them to changes. Games, Internet and entertainment bring amusement to long airport waits, helping quiet restless children. Refreshments can be ordered from the tablet for delivery at the seat.

Tall tables with room to store bags underneath, power outlets, iPads to use, and the ability to order food and refreshments-including beer, wine, and cocktails-without getting up are dramatic changes in the gate experience. Even better news? It’s coming to an airport near here:

After testing the iPad concept with Delta at two gates at New York's Kennedy International Airport (and seeing a dramatic spike in customer satisfaction scores), OTG began rolling out renovations at La Guardia earlier this year. With its planned expansion to Delta Terminal C, the company will have a total of 2,000 tablets available at La Guardia. On deck: It's planning a 2,500 iPad rollout in Delta's Concourse G in Minneapolis and another 2,500 at Terminals 1 and 3 in Toronto in areas used by multiple airlines.

Concourse G, eh? Sounds like that’s going to be a popular place at MSP to wait.