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No longer aviation truck stops

With the attraction of increased security and spacious, modern facilities, airport hotels have a new image as a more desirable place to stay.
/ Source: Reuters

Airport hotels have battled an image problem for years. Seen as chaotic and devoid of stylish decor or decent service, they have been regarded as the aviation equivalent of a truck stop — suitable only for basic rest and refueling.

Now, with spacious suites, high-tech conference facilities, revolving restaurants and modern fitness clubs, the hospitality industry’s ugly duckling is emerging as a swan.

Air travel is projected to increase. Add a steady volume of international and transit passengers, supplemented by the usual flight delays or cancellations, and aided in no small part by the strict security measures brought about by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, airport hotels are reaping the benefits.

“9/11 had a big impact on airport hotels. They are very popular today,” Carlton Werner, the general manager of the recently renovated deluxe Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, told Reuters. “With tremendous changes in security, even international travelers, since 9/11, are feeling a lot better about staying close to the airport.”


Hotel executives concur that the sense of security extends from within the airport to the hotel itself and being able to walk to the terminals saves time and energy.

"Many business people are opting to come into the airport area the night before to save a couple of hours of sleep,” Werner said. And even though the hotel at LAX is between four runways — two on each side — they have no trouble sleeping.

“The windows are double pane and have a 5-inch separation. We never, never hear a complaint about noise,” he said.

Local business travelers also are taking advantage of Radisson’s Park, Stay and Fly program, Werner said. “Before an early flight, they come in, spend the night and leave their car at the hotel. Parking for a week earns them additional gold points and when they return, the auto is right there.”

Out-of-towners have the cost-saving option of not having to rent a car. With the hotel only 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, they can take a cab or limo, which costs the same as rental, and avoid the headaches of driving in freeway traffic.

The only airport hotel in Greece, the 345-room Sofitel Athens Airport, opened in November 2001. Across the street from the main terminal building, it has two executive floors with separate reception and meeting rooms.

“It’s like business class in an airplane,” said George Stavrou, sales and marketing director for Sofitel’s parent group Accor hotels, adding that 82 percent of guests are from the corporate segment.

“With the newest technology and construction materials, there is absolutely no noise in the hotel,” Stavrou explained. ”Our clients say they cannot believe they are in the airport.”


As services evolve to meet today’s needs, executives find that airport hotels may even have an advantage. Most are on a main road to the city center, have easy access to ticketing and baggage areas, shuttle service to terminals, rental car agencies and comfortable lounges for plane or people watching.

For global business, London’s Heathrow has more international flights than any other airport in the world, said Steve Knight, business travel development executive for VisitBritain in New York.

“With people coming from all over the world ... they are used to dealing with quicker turnaround,” he said.

It is also more cost effective.

“Budgets still aren’t what they once were and that is paramount at the moment,” Knight said, adding that most major chains are represented on nearby Bath Road, including Radisson Edwardian, Renaissance and Hilton, which is connected to Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

MORE improvements

With high turnover come more improvements, says Trisha Molina, general manager of Holiday Inn Express Miami Airport.

“Most airport hotels are busy with short-term guests, so you can expect to find renovations. Guests will encounter new carpets and furniture, updated televisions with more satellite channels and more food and beverage selections,” she said.

The Starwood-managed Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport connects to Edward H. McNamara/Northwest WorldGateway terminal, said Scott Stinebaugh, the hotel’s sales and marketing director. Business travelers can land, attend a meeting and depart the same day, or spend the night in a deluxe room.

In the greater New York area, Marriott has more than 1,400 guest rooms near Newark Liberty International Airport.

The Tampa Airport Marriott, with CK’s Revolving Rooftop Restaurant, is inside Tampa International Airport, recognized by OAG as one of the Top Five in the world.

“You can literally step off the plane, make your way to the main terminal and walk directly into the hotel’s lobby,” said Matthew Carroll, manager, North American communications for Marriott International.

Opening in November is the Renaissance Toronto Airport, with an 18-hole golf course, just 1-1/2 blocks from Toronto Airport, which handles 80 percent of all arrivals into Canada.