November 17 2008 by Matthew Clyde
Ready for takeoff? Not quite...usually there is a layover, delay or extra security line to make some airport visits longer than your time spent on the actual plane. Recently I spent a distressed 3 hours in the Fort Lauderdale airport with a dead laptop battery and zero luck finding an available or functioning power outlet. It made me start to log in my head my favorite and most dreaded airports to travel through while on business. Here is what I jotted down on paper during my three hour wait. I'm sure there are lots of airport tips and recommendations to share...so let us know what your favorite airport for business travel is and why. Note I left off most of the mother-ship airports like JFK and LAX because they often frustrate me more than they provide ease of travel. Here are the airports that were on my list:
TAMPA INTERNATIONAL (TPA)
Access to Gates/Planes - Tampa's airport has a clever system of unmanned trains that take you to a pod with a cluster of departing gates, so you never really have to walk that much. But beware if you are in a mad dash to catch a flight, waiting for the next train may end up with you seeing the plane door close without you on the inside.
Rental Cars - Quick, easy access to the rental car garage always make departures and arrivals less stressful. Located on site, travelers through Tampa have an easy walk to the check-in curb or counters.
Wi-Fi Connection - Tampa gets an A+ with its excellent free Wi-Fi system that is easy to connect to anywhere in the airport. Surprisingly, several of the airline "club" lounges require you to pay for their wireless access. Remind me, what are the perks of sitting in their lounge?
Power Charge/Plug Access - I haven't seen an official lap-top charge station like I've seen at airports like Atlanta and Phoenix, but power outlets are easy to find and accessible while waiting for a flight.
DALLAS-FT. WORTH INTERNATIONAL (DFW)
Access to Gates/Planes - Dallas is a huge airport, but technically the distance from the ticketing area to the departure gate is not that far and easy to navigate.
Wi-Fi Connection - The airport doesn't offer free Internet access and Wi-Fi connections and locations vary by terminal; however, the airport's website does offer details about Internet connections by terminal at http://www.dfwairport.com.
Rental Cars - Whenever I arrive to a city for the first time and have to get on a bus to travel out to the rental car area I get nervous because you never know how long you may be on that bus. DFW's rental car is a long bus ride which requires you to build in extra travel time for your arrival/departure. I guess the bonus to the location is that there is an easy-to-access gas station within the airport zone. Tip: if you tell the airport zone toll agent that you are driving a rental they will waive your airport toll fee.
Power Charge/Plug Access - I've had great success with plugs for charging phones and laptops at DFW. There are accessible outlets and dedicated power stations throughout the airport.
PHOENIX SKY HARBOR INTERNATIONAL (PHX)
I have to mention my home-base airport, mostly because it lacks a lot of what I see in other cities. Despite some recent improvements in the last few years some of the services and amenities offered vary by terminal (if you are flying Continental or United, you will definitely feel like the terminal is small, crowded and lacking services; if you are on US Airways, Delta or Southwest you have more options).
Access to Gates/Planes - Get ready for a lot of walking. Long hallways abound at PHX and getting from one terminal to the next requires a lot of extra time.
Rental Cars - The rental car location is about a 5 minute bus ride outside of the airport. If you are in a rush or are an impatient business traveler, you will feel like you are almost in Los Angeles by the time the bus goes from the airport terminal to the car rental terminal. Yes, once you arrive it is an expansive car center, so plan ahead with a lot of extra time for rental car pick up and drop off.
Wi-Fi Connection & Power Charge/Plug Access - Phoenix Sky Harbor offers free Wi-Fi access. Now finding a plug can, at times, be tricky at certain gates. But more charging stations are popping up although on the wrong side of security. I'd prefer to find a charging station once I clear security, not before.
JOHN WAYNE INTERNATIONAL - SANTA ANA / ORANGE COUNTY (SNA)
I love this airport. It just always seems to have a more laid back attitude, but be aware during peak holidays and weekends the airport can be hit with long lines with travelers going to/from the Disneyland resort. Despite this, it is always my first airport of choice when flying into the LA area.
Access to Gates/Planes - Quick. Easy. A short walk to any gate. A great airport layout.
Rental Cars - Literally a short cross walk and an elevator away from the bagging claim. It is so easy.
Wi-Fi Connection - Business travelers tell me it is free. There are websites that list this airport with free Wi-Fi, but I always seem to run into problems. Bring your wireless Internet card if you have one.
PORT OF PORTLAND - PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (PDX)
PDX is a great airport with extra amenities and services to help pass the time if you are on a delay or layover.
Access to Gates/Planes - It's a long walk from the ticketing to the departure gate, but I still find it to be modern and comfortable with relatively easy gate access.
Rental Cars - Conveniently located across the street from the terminal and you are constantly protected from the elements, so you are never rained on. The drawback is finding a gas station near the airport. I haven't had much luck. And remember, in Portland there are no self service pumps, so allow for extra time to fuel up before heading back to the airport.
Wi-Fi Access - Free access with a reliable, fast connection.
So what are your recommendations on airports? Share with us the airport amenities you love, the airports you avoid and any other airport tips for business travel.