So many comments on the Asian way of parenting… We as mothers all want a certain part of her, and at the same time we are appalled by her tenacity. Is it too late to begin to re parent our children as they are already molded by us and the outside world? Maybe a little moderation could work. When you can’t do it for them , and you can’t tell them 20x’s and expect them to just do. So maybe a little focus, a little consistency and expectation should follow.
Almost every night, stranded travelers can be found sleeping inside the terminals of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
“This is the new reality,” said James Crites, DFW’s executive vice president for operations. “You’re becoming a hotel.”
These days, airlines are canceling flights more readily due to bad weather and other disruptions. Rebooking is tricker than ever—as many discovered during the recent snowstorms in the South and Northeast—because airlines have reduced their schedules and are running at capacity. As a result, passengers should prepare for the dreaded airport sleepover.
Now, however, airports are doing more when they become the hotel of last resort.
Many provide meal vouchers and set up discounted hotel rates for travelers, for example. Some write requirements in leases that restaurants will remain open 24 hours a day when passengers are stranded. Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees Boston’s Logan Airport, has an arrangement with flight kitchens to cook up lots of meals for stranded passengers if the terminal restaurants run out of food or can’t stay open. Newsstand vendors at Boston Logan are also required to stock baby formula and diapers for stranded families.
At many airports, paramedics are on call for medical care; parking-lot buses are deployed to move people between terminals or to hotels. Among the amenities big airports now routinely stock: cots, blankets, diapers, baby formula, eye masks, prepaid phone cards, ear plugs, deodorant and shampoo. For the second big snowstorm in New York this winter, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey started handing out free WiFi cards to stranded customers at New York City’s three major airports so travelers could check their flight status online at airline websites.
But perchance to sleep? At New York’s LaGuardia Airport, people stranded in the US Airways and Delta terminals are invited to ride buses to the central terminal, where a sleeping area is set up with cots and security guards. DFW establishes quiet zones for cots where music and paging announcements are muted and lights are dimmed.
And when ash clouds shut down European skies last spring, the Port Authority bused Newark stranded passengers to showers in “snow dorms” built for plow drivers and trucked in portable showers for passengers marooned at Kennedy International Airport.
“It’s not the same as staying at the Waldorf. But people were so grateful after three or four days of washing in a bathroom sink,” said Susan Baer, Port Authority aviation director.
The overnight-guest trend is raising larger questions of airport design and overnight security staffing.
“Airports were not designed to hold people. They were designed to move people through,” said Deborah McElroy, executive vice president of Airports Council International-North America, a trade group for airports.
The Dallas airport has signs posted by courtesy phones and in bathrooms telling travelers to call the airport operations center if stranded. The phone number goes up on flight-status monitors when storms cancel lots of flights.
Passengers can request anything from cots to ear plugs to eye masks. The airport has three to five workers in each terminal ready to dispatch to wherever stranded travelers are.
The airport even built a common-use shower facility in its newest terminal for stranded travelers. And it’s the airport—not the airline—that now arranges for vouchers for discounted hotel rooms if travelers want to leave terminals. With the voucher, rooms cost $31 to $60 a night.
DFW is also studying the stranded-traveler luggage problem—what do stranded passengers do about their checked baggage? Airlines often try to return checked bags to stranded travelers, but that means leaving secured areas screened by the Transportation Security Administration. By leaving to retrieve a large bag, they risk not being allowed back into the terminal, where most chairs, cots and food outlets are located. In addition, travelers worry about bags being stolen while they sleep.
Mr. Crites said DFW is looking into providing a bellhop-type luggage service inside the terminal where passengers could leave checked bags and retrieve them when needed.
Some airport managers are exploring using sleeping “pods.” Pod hotels have been popular in Asia and Europe as an inexpensive rest area, often rented for just a couple of hours. A pilot program will start in the next few months in DFW’s international terminal.
“There is a need for higher-end accommodations for people spending the night,” said Kevin Smith, DFW’s assistant vice president for terminal management.
European airlines are required by EU policy to accommodate their stranded passengers even if flights were canceled by bad weather. (U.S. airlines are required to pay to house and feed customers only if the cancellation is the airline’s fault, such as a mechanical breakdown or crew shortage.)
But European airports can have meltdowns, too. One day of snow in London caused eight days of chaos at London’s Heathrow Airport. To protest poor airport service, Virgin Atlantic Airways has stopped landing-fee payments to the company that operates the airport. An investigation into the fiasco by a panel of airport-appointed aviation experts is under way.
In Paris, more than 3,000 passengers were stranded over several nights a week before Christmas. An airport spokeswoman says 3,000 mats, 4,000 blankets, 10,000 cereal bars, 4,600 diapers and 13,700 bottles of water were distributed.
Airport operator Aeroports de Paris has already pledged to invest up to €60 million to better equip the airport, including doubling de-icing capacity. The government launched an investigation into the airport’s handling of the storm.
In the U.S., major airlines pinched by years of financial pressure will continue to shift the customer-service role to the airports. Massport even sends workers out at Logan to airline lobbies to help travelers with airline ticketing kiosks.
“Airlines used to have ‘Red Coats’ out there, but those people are gone,” said Thomas Kinton, chief executive of Massport.