Last updated: 02:06 PM ET, Wed October 07 2015

Airport Hotels Enter a New Era

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | August 26, 2015

Airport Hotels Enter a New Era

PHOTO: The Orlando Airport Hyatt lets you check out what’s happening on the tarmac while you swim in the pool. (Photo via Flickr/Lee Ruk)

Airport hotels are certainly not a new phenomenon. People need a place to stay during a long layover, or perhaps they are only flying in for a single meeting or event and want to stay as close to the airport as possible. And then there are those outstate fliers who have already had to undertake a long drive or bus trip just to get to the airport. These travelers need to recharge before the airborne leg of their journey. 

Airport hotels have always served a specific set of needs, but this niche industry seems to be entering a new era. Recently-built terminal-side properties are not just places to flop down for a few hours in between flights, they have become resort-like venues with very specific perks that all airport users will appreciate.

A renaissance for airport hotels

The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport is built right into the terminal. This luxury hotel even has its own security checkpoint. Non-flying guests are issued special passes so that they can get through security and enjoy the airside restaurants and shops during their stay.

One of the best perks at the DTW Westin is a fitness center and pool that overlooks the main runway. The Hyatt Hotel at Orlando International has a similar pool that offers swimmers the chance to watch the action on the tarmac while they take a dip. The Orlando inn also has a service that picks up your luggage at baggage claim and delivers it to your room.

Dallas/Fort Worth International has doubled down on the upscale airport hotel idea. It has two huge terminal-side hotels. Atlanta, Minneapolis Saint Paul and New Orleans are three major hubs that are planning similar hotel projects in the coming years.

Lots of comfort, but not lots of space

What if you get stranded at the airport by bad weather? One of these new luxury properties  might provide a nice alternative to sleeping on the floor with your carry-on case as a pillow. However, even the largest of these hotels has a limited amount of space. The planned TWA Flight Center Hotel, in a newly designed terminal at JFK, is slated to have just over 500 rooms. If a major East Coast snowstorm blows into the Big Apple, those will fill up quite quickly, leaving most people with the usual suitcase-pillow setup.

A second airport hotel niche

Airport hotels might be entering a new era of luxury and flier-specific services, but there is another facet to this renaissance that could being comfort to the masses. Some people just want (or need) a place to park for a few hours in-between trans-ocean flights or during a weather-induced layover. Capsule hotels, first made famous in Japan, are tiny rooms that don’t provide much luxury or any special perks, but they do give guests privacy and a place to shower, lay on a bed and watch TV.

This concept is well established in Japan, and a new capsule hotel has just opened at Tokyo Narita. British brand Yotel has adopted the tiny-hotel theme with capsule rooms at Gatwick and Heathrow, as well as in Amsterdam. Munich’s NapCab, meanwhile, actually charges guests by the minute. 

Are these airports or resorts?

Most airports have upgraded their shopping, dining and service options in recent years. You can even get a massage or facial at an airside spa and have a Michelin-star-worthy meal without having to pass back through security afterwards.

Luxury airport hotels put all these new features at guests' fingertips. More modest options, which lack luxury but not privacy and comfort, are also becoming more common. What this means is that layovers and cancelations will be more comfortable in the future (whether or not you have a lot of extra money to spend). 


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