Airports have finally recognised that they need some new tricks to keep their passengers satisfied, writes Jane Reddy.
If you think that flying has gone to the dogs, what with all that increased security, immigration queues and interminable waits, you may be more right than you think. The world's sixth-busiest airport, the much-criticised Los Angeles International Airport, has placed dogs and their handlers near departure gates in a bid to reduce passenger airport angst. The Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) scheme allows passengers to pat the canines while their human charges also give information about the airport's much-needed multibillion-dollar improvements.
Such gimmicks are all part of an overdue recognition by airports around the world, led by the likes of Singapore's canny Changi with its butterfly farm and slippery slide, that flying has stopped being fun. In fact, for most of us, it's become a necessary chore in order to get from A to B. But from first class to cattle class, there's a growing array of airport amenities for every occasion.
Take Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, where the Summun Lounge, an exclusive-use space right next to the runway apron, means the true high-flyers can arrive by private jet and enter the lounge area without being spotted. Inside the lounge with board room, bar and lounge and cigar room, meals are from the two-Michelin-star restaurant De Bokkedoorns, with hosts to attend to guests.
Elsewhere, still on the right side of an airline lounge door, passengers at Cathay Pacific's new first-class space, The Wing at Hong Kong International Airport, are treated to private cabanas, a champagne bar and a reading room. Opened in February, the lounge's five cabanas, each with shower, bath and a day bed, are in addition to the 12 shower suites.
The Haven dining area, with black marble floors and black glass walls, has a buffet and a la carte menu.
At home, Virgin Australia opens its new lounge at Sydney Airport in August. Set over two levels, the lounge will have views of Botany Bay and feature Walter Knoll leather chairs and digital art. Expansion plans at Melbourne Airport will also see Virgin's lounge double in size.
But the less-well-heeled passengers haven't been forgotten. At Munich Airport, more sleeping cabins have been introduced at its international departures gate. The airconditioned "Napcabs" have adjustable lighting and wi-fi, bed, work desk, iPhone dock and charge station. A touch-screen plays music and shows flight information. Cabins fit hand luggage, are lockable and can be booked for up to 12 hours.
At Abu Dhabi International Airport, more than a dozen sleeping pods have been installed in terminals 1 and 3 and another 35 are on order. Pods feature a sliding shade to shut out noise and light and will eventually include internet access, luggage locker and power outlet to charge mobile devices.
Back at LAX, after you've patted a pooch and heard the airport improvement hype, you can plug in at connections at 18 departure gates that have electrical outlets and USB ports at each bank of seats for charging electronic equipment such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops.