How to Love Your Layover
Sick of filling the endless hours between flights with phone calls and e-mail? More and more airports are offering creative ways to pass the time.
(Business 2.0) – First the bad news: Long airport layovers are here to stay. With fewer planes flying but just as many people traveling, passengers now spend twice as much time in transit limbo as they did prior to 9/11. Fortunately, some of the world's busiest airports have finally awakened to the fact that no one enjoys staring at a departures screen for hours on end. Here are six hubs that offer the road warrior a better way to wait it out. -- GEORGIA FLIGHT
AMSTERDAM SCHIPHOL AIRPORT
Holland's celebrated Rijksmuseum, home to the nation's greatest art collection, has constructed a permanent outpost between the airport's Piers E and F that feels like a world-class art museum. Admission is free, and the exhibit features 10 works by the Dutch masters, including Pieter de Hoogh, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Jan Steen. When you're done gazing, pick up a postcard or two at the adjacent museum shop. Also in the terminal, in preparation for Rembrandt's 400th birthday in 2006, two Dutch painters are creating an updated version of the artist's giant masterpiece "Night Watch" on a 12- by 14-foot canvas. Travelers can see the project in action and then check on the progress via webcam when they get back home.
DALLAS / FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Everything is bigger in Texas. That goes double for the recently unveiled $1.2 billion Terminal D, the largest airport construction project to open post-9/11. The 2 million-square-foot international wing showcases live music on the mezzanine level above the food court. Mariachis, dancers, and music students perform, the Dallas and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras are slated for regular appearances, and local choirs will take the stage during the holidays. For something more interactive, stroll through the maze designed by conceptual artist Christopher Janney, one of 30 artists whose work is on display throughout the terminal. As you navigate the labyrinth, lights will flash and sensors will sound to guide you along. And when you hit the maze's center, you'll be greeted with a musical reward.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
A layover spot for flights to the Far East, Dubai is the fastest-growing transit hub in the world. The airport is lined with palm trees and offers a host of upscale restaurants and shops, but the highlight here is the five-star, 88-room Dubai International Airport Hotel, located on Level 3 of the Sheikh Rashid departures concourse. The hotel books rooms by the hour (from $41) or the night (from $200) and offers a state-of-the-art business center, as well as round-the-clock laundry and room service. For those who can't sleep, the hotel's G-Force health club is always open for a workout or leisurely swim ($5 per hour).
NEWARK LIBERTY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
If thoughts of Newark Airport don't evoke a sense of calm and well-being, you haven't visited its D_parture Spa. With two locations, in Terminals B and C, this quiet enclave offers haircuts (from $25), eyebrow waxing ($12), and facials ($50). Or you can luxuriate in the pampering of the Long Haul Reviver ($70), which includes a 15-minute foot and calf rub, softening paraffin treatment, and pedicure with heated massage. If manicures and rubdowns aren't your thing, maybe a mouthwatering porterhouse will hit the spot. Newark boasts a small slice of meat-lover heaven in a charming outpost of Gallagher's, one of Manhattan's premier steak houses. Try the tender filet mignon ($38) or the succulent Maine lobster ($42).
SINGAPORE CHANGI AIRPORT
Grauman's Chinese it's not, but the theater adjacent to Terminal 2 does play a free stream of second-run, English-language films 24 hours a day. Later, stretch your legs on a walk through one of the airport's many gardens-you'll find orchids, koi ponds, and sunflower mazes in Terminal 2 and an open-air cactus garden on the roof of Terminal 1. Those with a little more energy can belt out a few tunes at the karaoke lounge in Terminal 1 or catch the live jazz performances by local musicians at Harry's Bar, located on a landscaped terrace overlooking the runways.
VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Forget the ubiquitous rows of predictable chocolates and overpriced perfumes; Vancouver's Connoisseur Shop takes airport retail to new heights. This duty-free store specializes in exceptionally rare liquors--it even offers the world's most expensive cognac, L'Esprit de Courvoisier, for $4,680 U.S. a bottle. If that seems a bit extravagant, Roberto, the "rare liquor specialist" on staff, will let you sample the whiskeys, fine wines, cheeses, and olive oils. Once you've lingered long enough to appreciate the selection, wander over to Gate 82 and lounge in one of the futuristic, bubble-shaped sleeping pods called MetroNaps. These semiprivate recliners are equipped with noise-reduction headphones and vibrating alarm clocks. When you awaken from a 30-minute ($8) or two-hour ($12.50) session, freshen up with a mint and a lemon facial spray.