Airport Hotels Step Up Their “Landing Gear” for Young Travelers

Changes in the way people travel prompted hotels of every description to improve their offerings. This is particularly true of the airport hotel, which, until recently, mainly served as a utilitarian, convenience-driven necessity for business travelers on quick jaunts and passengers faced with flight delays, cancellations and next-day connections. Comfort, aesthetics and edible food, needless to say, were often an afterthought.

The Hyatt Regency LAX epitomizes this trend, as well as provides visitors a taste of the Los Angeles lifestyle. The Mid Century-influenced decor in both private and public areas provides a nod to the “golden age” of air travel, complemented with an eclectic array of neighborhood-inspired food, cabanas and fire pit-lined pool. While the hotel balances the sensory amenities with the practical (3GB shared internet access; 24/7 unity la market with Italian Illy coffee drinks; state-of-the-art penthouse-level fitness center with panoramic runway views; complimentary 24-hour transportation to and from all terminals), it factors in family with a stand-out feature — Sir Hyatt, the hotel’s distinguished canine greeter. And there will be more where that came from.

“We get a lot of passengers who are stranded for one reason or another, from Europeans to Americans from the Midwest and East Coast, and it is our responsibility to turn the frowns upside down with the amenities and services we can provide them,” says Charles Fusco, director of operations, Hyatt Regency LAX. “Their feedback in light of these circumstances has helped us grow since we opened around four years ago. Additionally, we observed there was a spike in the number of kids traveling with their parents starting in the 2017 holiday season. Immediately, we knew this was a need we had to address ahead of the 2018 spring break season.”

Fusco adds feedback from guests traveling with kids is taken seriously, whether a stay is the result of an unexpected layover, pilots and flight attendants meeting up with family members for extended layovers, or executives using Los Angeles as a post-conference vacation jump-off point. Input from guests not only helps them better address what needs fixing but also provides inspirations for new amenities and fun activities.

“We spend time discussing feedback during our customer service meetings, including feedback from Facebook, Trip Advisor, and the Hyatt customer service web site,” he continues. “As a result, we’re going to test out some new things such as showing movies at the pool this summer depending on the noise level of the planes. Based on the success of the poolside ice cream cart we rolled out last summer, we are (discussing doing) a BBQ or a hot dog cookout for guests on the weekends. We are trying hard to NOT be the standard airport property people think about when ‘airport hotel’ is mentioned.”

Hilton Chicago O'Hare Family Suite.

Hilton Chicago O’Hare Family Suite. Photo: Hilton Chicago O’Hare

Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel, the only hotel directly connected to O’Hare’s domestic terminals via underground walkways, touts sound-resistant family suites offering a large sitting area, king bed and sofa bed, 42-inch HDTV, minibar, WiFi and on-demand movies and video games. The hotel also provides young travelers with an O’Hare Kids Kit, tailored to different age groups filled with goodies like a personalized luggage tag, Highlights magazine, a Mad Libs book, Disney books, customized coloring books and educational toys tied in to aviation.

“The (kits) are designed to provide an extra treat for kids to enjoy while the parents can address the travel disruptions and keep the travel plans on track,” explains Diane Friess, marketing manager, Hilton Chicago O’Hare Hotel. “These touches ensure that, even though the disruption wasn’t a part of the original travel plan, the memories of staying at the airport are positive.”

Friess, like Fusco, also observed family is evolving beyond the traditional warm weather, “sun and sand” destination getaways into a more international scope.

“Travelers have come to expect personalization in every aspect of their travel, so it is imperative that airport hotels cater to these changing trends and offer products and services that not only business travelers have come to expect, but families and kids have, too,” she says. “With increased use of social media, a journey begins as soon as travelers leave their house. Every experience they have is documented and shared. They want new and different experiences to share, and airport hotels want to provide opportunities and amenities that will be included in a travel itinerary.”

Hilton Chicago O'Hare Andiamo Breakfast.

Hilton Chicago O’Hare Andiamo Breakfast. Photo: Hilton Chicago O’Hare

Friess adds a big goal at her property is to make the restaurants and offerings “pins on the map of the original travel plans,” whether it’s to ease anxiety about getting to the airport on time or provide the “runway view room” for guests to see the workings of the busy airport.

“Airport hotels are providing those opportunities to travelers since we are usually the first or last stop before people embark on their journey,” she says. “Travelers want to ensure that every moment of their journey is Instagram-worthy. Furthermore, traveling with children provides enough anxiety as it is, so why not eliminate some of that stress by saving time? Stay at an airport hotel and the journey to the airport instantly becomes easier and faster. That extra sleep will come in handy for the children when their schedule is already off from the travel disruptions.”