From a small northwestern observatory…

Finance and economics generally focused on real estate

Airports, part 1

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First, there are plenty of airport guides — what to do while you wait for your flight, etc. etc. Most of them seem to be geared to the occasional traveler, which I’m decidedly NOT. Also, this is anything BUT all-encompassing. This is just me making a few observations about airlines, airports, and stuff I see on a nearly weekly basis. Take this with more than a few grains of salt.

Second, the airports you see will often depend on the airlines you fly. I’m pretty well wedded to Delta and Alaska for domestic travel, and (depending on where I’m headed) Air Canada or SAS for any random overseas stuff (although this is really very destination-dependent). Those of you who are familiar with what I do know that I end up all over the country, seemingly at random, so my experience with airports served by Delta and Alaska is pretty broad.

Before I get started though, let me vent just a bit about airlines. I’m not in LOVE with Delta, but they get me where I want to go. United, on the other hand, is pretty abysmal. There are occasions when you simply HAVE to fly them (Denver comes to mind), but other than that, I avoid them like the plague. Why? Customer service (or, shall we say, lack thereof.). They are almost aggressively rude, particularly in my home city of Seattle. So anyway, I’ll take my frequent flying dollars somewhere else. (Kuddo’s to Alaska for THEIR customer service — probably the best in the business.)

Now, in no particular order, airports I have come to love and hate:

Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) — Billions of dollars went into the terminal upgrades, and it mostly shows. Getting around is pretty quick, and they managed to shoehorn TSA into the structure much better than most. Sadly, Delta has outgrown its South Concourse clubhouse, so they’ve had to put some of their flights out of the “B” concourse (painful, because I don’t get to use their really excellent SkyClub when I fly out of “B”). A few quick tips — if you’re connecting thru SEA, you’re probably flying Alaska/Horizon, and if you need to eat, you won’t find the best restaurants in their C and D concourses. Instead, head for the new atrium area in between B and C — plenty of good stuff in there. Downside — if you’re flying coach, particularly early in the morning, get their early because TSA has some fairly long waits. If you’re part of the PRE-check program, though, then TSA is a breeze.

Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) — Wow, talk about an airport that’s past its prime. Part of the problem is that this airport was NEVER set up to accommodate TSA. Getting into DFW is simply a mess, and internally, it’s not much better. It is NOT a nice airport for a relaxing wait. Additionally, DFW is mostly a “destination” airport, which means you’re headed there because you have business in Dallas or the surrounds. Guess what? The airport is w-w-w-w-w-ay away from everything (it makes Denver look “downtown”) and the rental car facility feels like it’s in another state. Also — big tip — there are scant places to get gas when you’re returning a rental car. Beware of the rental car gas charges.

NYC-Kennedy (JFK) — The new Delta terminal was supposed to be a huge improvement. It’s very nice, I’ll admit, but it’s HUGE. Wear track shoes. AFTER you get thru TSA, you will have a 10-15 minute jog to your gate. Apparently, there are no architects or land planners in New York City. (That having been said, it’s a massive improvement over what they used to have.)

NYC-Newark (EWR) — My preference for NYC airports, but getting there can be complicated. If you’re taking a towncar (actually, one of the cheaper/faster ways) then be sure to leave Manhattan early enough to avoid traffic. Leave Manhattan at 3pm, and you’ll get to Newark airport by 3:30. Leave at 4, and you’ll get there by 5. Leave at 5, and you won’t get their until 7. Take a taxi, and these times will be the same, but for the entire ride, the cab driver will chew you out because he will have to dead-head back to NYC (New York cabbies can’t pick-up at Newark). Here’s a tip (and this only really works if you have light luggage) — if it’s rush hour, head for Penn Station and take Amtrak to Newark Airport. You’ll walk a little bit, but it’s quicker than rush-hour traffic.

Miami (MIA) and Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) — choosing the airport depends on why you’re flying there. If you want to grab a rental car and head south to the Keys, like I often do, then FLL is by far your best choice. Also, if you’re flying in late, FLL has convenient nearby hotels, and you can simply grab the rental car the next morning. On the other hand, if Miami downtown or Miami beach actually IS your destination, or if you’re headed into the Caribbean, then MIA is your only choice. Beware, though, that the little tourist-flight terminal seemingly in the basement of MIA has apparently about 1 seat for every 15 passengers, and that you will almost certainly find yourself standing next to someone who has: a) had too much to drink; b) a sunburn; c) a sick child; d) a yapping puppy; or e) some combination of the above.

Well, gotta go — conference call time (I live on conference calls when I’m not on airplanes). Ciao, y’all.

Written by johnkilpatrick

February 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm

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