Keen to make your airport layover an altogether more pleasant and bearable experience than usual? Brian Johnston delves into what makes a great airport hotel.
Airport hotels have long been contemptuous of travellers, offering little more than bare-bones facilities in ugly, motel-like buildings that look like something from a 1960s East German movie.
But if you dread the thought of yet another ordinary airport hotel, a new generation of establishments is offering more than just a bed.
Some have started to match the amenities and luxury trappings you'd expect from city-centre hotels, with deluxe brands such as Fairmont, Hyatt, Kempinski and Sofitel getting into the airport act.
Swimming pools, spa facilities, gyms and massage therapy now soothe cramped bodies, and fine dining restaurants provide far better than airline food.
Some of the best airport hotels even lure customers with boutique beers, cooking classes, bicycle rentals and games of virtual golf.
In more good news, some airport hotels offer day rates where you can use a guestroom - and all the hotel facilities - for a few hours during an awkwardly-timed layover.
Of course, a few basic requirements also have to be met by airport hotels if they want to be considered among the best.
Convenience is crucial. A location right in the terminal is perfect, especially if it avoids having to go through customs. Failing that, a short walk or shuttle ride is the limit.
A comfortable bed, good shower, dark rooms and absolute quiet are other cravings of the jetlagged. Nobody wants to be desperate for sleep and have to listen to aeroplanes or traffic noise.
Here, then, are eight hotels that cut the mustard when it comes to giving exhausted travellers what they want.
CHEAP AND CHEERFUL
Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport
LAX has little to recommend it, but this cheerful, colourful hotel - a quick ride on the free shuttle - is an exception, and shows airport hotels don't have to be expensive. Check in any time and keep your room for 24 hours. There are also rates for day use. The hotel's Brewsters bar has more than 100 beers (16 on tap), and the outdoor pool bar is dedicated solely to Californian microbreweries. See fourpointslax.com.
GET FIT ON THE FLY
Dubai International Hotel
Dubai, the Qantas hub for flights between Australia and Europe, has an airport hotel right in Terminals 1 and 3. A host fast-tracks you from gate to reception, and you don't have to pass immigration control. The hotel has a fitness centre with steam room, jacuzzi and swimming pool, but no restaurant, though you can eat in the terminals. Some guestrooms have massage chairs, and complimentary fruit is a nice touch. See dubaiintlhotels.com.
SLEEK AND CHIC
Novotel Hong Kong Citygate
While not directly at the airport, this eco-conscious hotel is just a five-minute, free shuttle ride away, and is conveniently on the direct MTR train route into Hong Kong, just 30 minutes away. It's also right at Citygate Outlets, a shopping mall devoted to outlet and discount brand-name stores. Mid-range prices, good dining options, a swimming pool, 24-hour gym and sleek, chic guestrooms make this a great choice for a quick Hong Kong transit. See novotel.com.
Grand Hyatt Dallas Fort Worth
With Qantas flying to Dallas Fort Worth, it's good to know that you'll find one of the world's best airport hotels inside a glass cube in Terminal D - it even offers weekend gourmet cooking classes. This stylish hotel has a spa, gym and rooftop saltwater pool to ward off deep-vein thrombosis. Guestrooms feature pillow-top "Grand Beds", soaking tubs as well as showers, and huge flat-screen televisions. And hooray - the curtains actually work, completely darkening the room. See granddfw.hyatt.com.
Citizen M Hotel Amsterdam Schiphol
You could be forgiven for thinking you'd wandered into a stylish European home-design store as you enter this hotel's lobby. It has 230 rooms but feels like a boutique hotel, with nice touches such as free use of Apple computers and Wi-Fi, a library filled with art books, a suitcase drawer under the bed, and mood lighting and music. Guestrooms are all the same, and have king-size beds and rain showers in rooms. See citizenm.com.
COOL OUT AND CHILL
Crowne Plaza Changi Airport
As soon as you see this Singapore hotel, with its stylised metal latticework facade and futuristic lobby with orange sofas, you know you're in for something different: more upmarket urban resort than airport hotel. The aim is to get you to unwind. Chill out to yoga exercises on your TV, listen to relaxing music on a pre-loaded iPod, have a jetlag reflexology treatment in the spa, or float in the lagoon-style tropical pool. See crowneplaza.com.
CYCLE OR SLEEP
Fairmont Vancouver Airport
Poised above the departures terminal (just ride the escalator upward), this is the only airport hotel ever featured in the Condé Nast Top 100 Gold List. Eye masks and good soundproofing are provided for the perfect shut-eye but, if you're wide awake, you can hire a BMX bike and take a spin on nearby trails. The Jetside Bar has fabulous views of the airport action, and telescopes in some guestrooms provide thrilling looks at landing aircraft. See fairmont.com.
Sofitel London Heathrow
The cool, contemporary design of this Terminal 5 hotel leads the way in airport luxury, down to details such as power showers to get your circulation going after a long-haul flight. Enjoy views of planes taking off from behind sound-proof windows. The restaurant offers fine French dining, champagne flows at Perrier Jouet Bar and white-jacked waiters serve lounge cocktails. Top-notch spa, business and conference facilities are a bonus - but there's also a Zen garden. See sofitel.com/Heathrow
Photo gallery: Eight of the best airport hotels.
Layover not long enough to merit a hotel stay? Have a shower and spend a few hours relaxing in a pay-for-use lounge.
HARD TO BEAT
London Heathrow No. 1 Traveller Lounge ($44) is hard to beat, with 12 bedrooms hired by the hour, pod-style resting cabins and even a 10-seater cinema screening classic British movies, no1traveller.com.
REST AND RELAX
Singapore The Rainforest by SATS lounge, pictured below, ($20 for four hours) is newly refurbished, with showers, spa, massage services and "slumberettes" ($24 for three hours) with full-size beds, affinity.sats.com.sg.
SWEAT IT OUT
G-Force Health Club Dubai: De-stress in the gym, swimming pool, steam rooms and sauna ($13 an hour), which also offers Swedish and shiatsu massages. A 3½-hour package, $36, dubaiairport.com.
Kuala Lumpur: Book a room at Airside Transit Hotel for six hours ($60) and rest without passing through customs. Passengers can also just use the hotel's gym and showers for $10, klairporthotel.com.
Plaza Premium Lounge, Hong Kong International Airport, is located at the East Hall of Departures Level 6 in Terminal 1. Dimly lit and hushed, the mood is corporate luxe, with computer-equipped workstations, a wide choice of armchair seating and an island bar. Massage facilities also include a foot spa. Lounge access for two hours ($55) includes a 15-minute seated massage, plaza-network.com.
Amsterdam Tourism and Convention Board, iamsterdam.com;
Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, visitdallas.com;
Discover Los Angeles, discoverlosangeles.com;
Dubai Department of Tourism, dubaitourism.ae;
Frankfurt Tourism, frankfurt-tourismus.de;
Hong Kong Tourism Board, discoverhongkong.com.au;
Singapore Tourism Baord, yoursingapore.com;
Tourism Vancouver, tourismvancouver.com;
Visit London, visitlondon.com.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Sydney-based Brian Johnston seemed destined to become a travel writer and author: he is an Irishman born in Nigeria and raised in Switzerland, who has lived in Britain and China.