Harriet Baskas, Special to USA TODAY
Published 7:01 a.m. ET Dec. 2, 2020
As cases soar, the CDC issued a warning urging Americans not to travel this Thanksgiving to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
While air travel in the United States has been ticking up a bit since record low days in April, it has been an incredibly tough year for airlines and airports.
Still, throughout the year, airports have pressed forward introducing new features, new art, new technology and new amenities for passengers. The goal: to make being in the terminals less stressful, more enjoyable and, by necessity, safer.
For example, back in January, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), went smoke-free, making it one of last major U.S. airports to do so. And in February, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) introduced a coat-check service.
Here are some other new amenities airports introduced in 2020, although some may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns.
New art, attractions, and a new terminal
These days at LaGuardia, there are more things to catch your eye than whatever’s in the front window at Hudson News. The new Terminal B features a 25-foot water feature. (Photo: LaGuardia Gateway Partners)
As part of the much acclaimed rebuild of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, November saw a 25-foot-tall water feature turned on in Terminal B, In addition to displaying various patterns and shapes, the water falling from the towers’ nozzles serves as a backdrop for projected laser shows celebrating New York, holidays and events
In November, Denver International Airport celebrated the arrival of the 27-foot-tall ‘Luminous Wind’ sculpture at the light rail station stop right before the airport.
Salt Lake City International Airport’s Terminal B is the first new hub airport built in America this century. (Photo: Courtesy Denver International Airport)
Earlier this fall, Salt Lake City International Airport debuted its new Terminal B, which represents the first phase of the first new hub airport built in the U.S. in the 21st century.
New observation decks
Though San Francisco International Airport opened its outdoor SkyTerrace shortly before the pandemic, it arrived just in time to aid in social-distancing efforts. (Photo: Courtesy SFO Airport)
Back in February, San Francisco International Airport opened the SkyTerrace. The pre-security deck in Terminal 2 is open to the public and offers 180-degree views of the busiest section of SFO, where all four runways intersect.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport claimed a spot in the record books in February with the installation of a 780-foot-long pedestrian bridge that is now the world’s longest structure over an active taxiway.
And as part of its Gate Expansion Program, in November, Denver International Airport unveiled an outdoor deck on the west side of Concourse B. In addition to outdoor seating, the deck has a pet relief area and fire pits.
California’s Ontario International Airport got in on the drive-in movie theater trend, turning its parking lots into pop-up theaters. (Photo: Ontario International Airport)
While most airports had to put their in-terminal music and performance programs on hold, airports continued to offer entertainment.
Nearly two dozen airports banded together in May for JetStream music festivals. The free, multi-hour livestream events featured musicians from the entertainment lineup offered by the participating airports.
Over the summer, California’s Ontario International Airport, which has served as movie set for some popular films, set up movie screens and drive-in movie nights. In October, Akron-Canton Airport and Nebraska’s Lincoln Airport offered drive-in movie nights for Halloween-season movies.
And Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) debuted an entertaining Coca-Cola themed lounge in Terminal D complete with charging stations, seating, activities, and memorabilia-filled exhibits.
Health and safety
Numerous airports including San Francisco International and Newark Liberty have introduced on-site COVID-testing stations. (Photo: SFO Airport)
Of course, in response to the COVID-19 health pandemic, airports have been focusing time, energy, creativity and, of course, money on making sure the terminals are clean and safe for travelers.
Since March, airports throughout the country have sprouted hand-sanitizing stations, PPE vending machines and temperature-check programs. They have developed contactless systems for bag check, check-in, security screening and boarding as well as for food orders and delivery. And cleaning and sanitizing robots have joined the permanent staff at many airports.
And as the holiday season kicks off, COVID-19 testing stations, many in partnership with airlines, are quickly proliferating at airports across the nation.
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