What makes a good airport hotel?: Ten of the best

They used to be bland and functional with the only added extra the promise of jet fuel fumes. How things have changed for the once humble airport hotel.

What makes a good airport hotel?

Perhaps it's service, such as the attention I received when I showed up solo at the cheery Maldron Hotel Dublin Airport with severe food poisoning. Their above-and-beyond care had me right to fly back to Australia the next day.

Or convenience, such as that of the neat and trim Ibis Budget Sydney Airport, where I chose to stay, having flown into Sydney from Melbourne for a funeral, because I had an early flight back the following morning. After an emotional day, the plush bed, express breakfast and easy and free terminal shuttle were much appreciated.

Or it might just be sheer spectacle, such as the amazing pool overlooked by the control tower at the Crowne Plaza Changi in Singapore, where I lolled away a layover with pleasure.

I've stayed in plenty of airport-adjacent accommodation and the memorable ones are all memorable for their own reasons.

But the fact of them being memorable at all is the bigger story. The airport hotel used to be just a sad convenience with drab decor and dour service. (I know, I stayed at one near Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport but can't recall anything about it other than the urge it gave me to check out early).

No longer.

With incredible restaurants and other entertainments and creature comforts making up for non-centrality, as well high-tech specs to cater for business travellers – and let's face it – pretty cool views, especially for plane spotters, the airport hotel has entered its very own golden age.

For beauty of architecture, the new five-star Andaz Delhi, according to Architectural Digest, is among the best hotels in the world. And to think: the five-star is right next door to India's Indira Gandhi International Airport.

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Fancy a resort-like ambience while you wait for your next flight? Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside is more of a retreat than a convenience, with resort-like amenities: rent a bicycle, relax in a hammock or lounge in an adirondack chair by the lake.

The AC Hotel San Francisco Airport/Oyster Point Waterfront sits on the edge of San Francisco Bay, offering water views, significant art installations and other design sensibilities that elevate the hotel above the ordinary.

How about urban lifestyle and convenience? When Zurich Airport's The Circle opens in 2019, the Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto-designed "urban hub" will offer lifestyle, culture entertainment, education and healthcare with a swank Hyatt Regency and a Hyatt Place in situ.

Say goodbye to that sad, uninspiring menu, too. The Hilton Palm Beach Airport in Miami, for instance, has just opened a Tony Roma ribs restaurant, amid the sector trend towards more interesting dining.

For the sheer pleasure of a gorgeous abode, Naumi Auckland Airport recently set the bar anew. Luxurious bathrooms and high-end design details belie the property's locale.

"Naumi Auckland Airport has been designed and built specifically to cater for holiday makers, corporates and travellers in general who want more than just a boring non-emotive Auckland Airport Hotel," says general manager Christopher Dickinson, sounding like the GM of a funky inner city pad. "We have built the hotel to be a destination in itself, it has a real resort feel and 100 per cent takes you away from feeling you are located next to an airport.

"Our approach is to never slip into the ordinary, from the glittery purple pool through to the playful signage and messages throughout the property, we are not trying to be different; we are different. It's in our DNA."

"A shared sense of humour" is also important, says Dickinson, a view shared by the Felix Hotel, that's come hot on the heels of the new Mantra at Sydney Airport. The 150-bedroom boutique property from 8Hotels, designed in collaboration with Cressida Kennedy from Space Control, has "a modern urban aesthetic, with a 1960s twist."

That includes having conference rooms called Boeing and Airbus and room types; Economy, Premium Economy, Business Class and First Class.

It's got an outdoor rooftop cinema and cocktail bar with runway views.

Other airline hotels around the world now have art galleries, running tracks, private parks and lots of other special somethings.

But if there's one airport hotel destined to be a destination in itself – for air travel geeks, anyway – it's the soon-to-open TWA Hotel which will inhabit a fully restored Eero Saarinen's landmark 1962 TWA Flight Centre at New York's JFK Airport.

It promises 505 ultra-quiet hotel rooms with exhilarating views of JFK's runways, eight restaurants and six bars as well as a 930-square metre rooftop observation deck with pool, fitness facilities of the same size including yoga, spinning, and other amenities, a museum devoted to the Jet Age, TWA, and the mid-century modern design movement and lots of TWA and air travel memorabilia, including a classic Solari split-flap message board with authentic original mechanical operation, manufactured in Udine, Italy. Up, up and away indeed.

THE HOTELS

MALDRON HOTEL DUBLIN AIRPORT

Dublin Airport, County Dublin, Ireland

Maldronhoteldublinairport.com

IBIS BUDGET SYDNEY AIRPORT

5 Ross Smith Avenue, Mascot NSW

See ibis.com/Sydney/Airport

CROWNE PLAZA CHANGI AIRPORT

75 Airport Boulevard, Singapore

ihg.com

ANDAZ DELHI

Asset No. 1, Aerocity, New Delhi, India

See delhi.andaz.hyatt.com

ORLANDO AIRPORT MARRIOTT LAKESIDE

7499 Augusta National Drive, Orlando, Florida, US

See Marriott.com.au

AC HOTEL BY MARRIOTT SAN FRANCISCO AIRPORT/OYSTER POINT WATERFRONT

1333 Veterans Boulevard, South San Francisco, California, US

See achotels.marriott.com/hotels/ac-hotel-san-francisco-airport

THE HILTON PALM BEACH AIRPORT

50 Australian Avenue, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

See Hilton.com

NAUMI AUCKLAND AIRPORT

153 Kirkbride Road, Mangere, Auckland, New Zealand

See naumihotels.com

FELIX HOTEL

121 Baxter Road, Mascot, NSW.

See felixhotel.com.au

TWA HOTEL

John F Kennedy International Airport, New York

Temporary lounge at One World Trade Centre

See twahotel.com

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