Best airport amenities of the year

During 2023, travelers returned to the skies in record numbers, and airports did their part to help smooth out the travel journey — or at least make it a bit more fun and interesting.

As we look forward to great adventures in 2024, here’s a look back at 10 of the best new amenities and events we spotted in airports in 2023. Let us know if we missed your favorite.

New airport terminal in Kansas City has that yummy barbecue smell


In February, Kansas City International Airport (MCI) opened its long-awaited and much-needed new 40-gate terminal. The $1.5 billion facility dazzles with a massive check-in hall, glass jet bridges, great art and a wide array of locally branded shops and restaurants, including a barbecue restaurant with the only wood-burning barbecue pit in an airport.

Accessibility rules in the new MCI. In addition to a relief area for service animals, the new MCI has an inclusive play zone, a quiet room, a sensory room, family restrooms and nursing rooms. There’s also a mock airplane where new and nervous flyers can test out the check-in, security, boarding and flight experience.

Love in the airport

A “Married in Vegas” decal on baggage. HARRY REID INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

On Valentine’s Day, travelers at California’s Long Beach Airport (LGB) were able to get free custom-crafted love poems tapped out on an antique Remington typewriter by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace. A second typewriter was available for those who wanted to type their own poems or messages.

The Clark County Clerk’s Office in Las Vegas once again brought its pop-up marriage license kiosk back to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) for Valentine’s Day, allowing couples to skip a visit to the license bureau downtown and go directly to their wedding ceremony.

The pop-up marriage license bureau is back at LAS for the last week of December to accommodate all the lovebirds heading to Las Vegas to get married Dec. 31.

New Year’s Eve is already a popular day to get married in Sin City, but this year the date — which can be written as 1-2-3-1-2-3 — is considered auspicious.

April Fools’ Day airport pranks


On April Fools’ Day, airports offered travelers a fresh batch of fun pranks and faux press releases. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) announced that it was removing all its much-loved rocking chairs “to create a more open feel” inside the terminals. Denver International Airport (DEN) promised the DEN Red Eye, the world’s first airport Ferris wheel. And Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) introduced an only-in-Minnesota amenity: the Lutefisk Fresh vending machine.

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Airport child care

The child care center at Pittsburgh International Airport. PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Some airports around the country, including San Franciso International Airport (SFO) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), offer subsidized child care for employees at nearby centers. But in July, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) became the first airport to open a child care center on-site, in a surplus part of the terminal once used by US Airways.

The center won’t take care of your kids while you pop into an airport bar for a preflight cocktail, but PIT’s on-site child care center is a welcome amenity for airport employees. Several other airports, including Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), are actively working on studies and facilities that expand child care options for employees.

More visitor pass programs

The new terminal at Orlando International Airport. ORLANDO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

In September, Orlando International Airport (MCO) joined the list of airports that offer an airside visitor pass. The pass offers access to the MCO’s swanky Terminal C, which opened in September 2022 to rave reviews, thanks to towering “Forever Trees” and a series of immersive art installations.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) joined the visitor pass party in October with the introduction of its Wingmate Guest Pass program, which comes with a bonus of dining and shopping deals from PHL merchants.

Flush with pride: BWI has America’s Best Restroom

A restroom at BWI. BWI AIRPORT

Airports continue to roll out new and improved restrooms. And those efforts and investments are getting noticed.

In September, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) claimed the throne in the 2023 America’s Best Restroom contest. New loos at BWI are bright and spacious, with windows that provide both natural light and privacy, touchless fixtures, full-height stalls and doors, red and green light occupancy indicators for the stalls, and other amenities.

In 2022, Tampa International Airport (TPA) took the top spot in this contest.

All LAX terminals now connected post-security. Finally

The path from Terminal 1 to Terminal 8 at LAX. LOS ANGELES WORLD AIRPORTS

Traveling through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has plenty of issues and frustrations.

But this year, one of the more irritating roadblocks fell away when LAX opened the post-security walkway between Terminal 3 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal, completing the post-security connection between all the terminals at LAX.

A post-security walk at LAX is about 2 miles from Terminal 1 to Terminal 8. But once you are post-security in any terminal, you’re now able to make connections more easily and access the shops, restaurants, lounges, artwork, entertainment and other amenities in all the terminals.

Fort Wayne International Airport loves its customers. And feeds them

Coffee at Fort Wayne International Airport. FORT WAYNE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Year-round, Hospitality Hosts at Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) welcome passengers with a (wrapped) cookie from a nearby bakery. But this year, during Customer Appreciation Week in October, the airport took things up a notch by treating passengers to free, fun food each day. In addition to a popcorn bar, a caramel apple bar, a hot dog bar and a walking taco bar with all manner of toppings, the airport presented passengers with a coffee and hot chocolate bar.

Baggage gargoyles return to Denver International Airport


In 1995, an art piece by Terry Allen titled Notre Denver, made up of two bronze gargoyles sitting inside suitcases, was installed in the east and west bag claim areas at Denver International Airport (DEN). They were tasked with making sure DEN baggage arrived safely, but the decorative duo spent about five years in storage due to airport construction.

In October, the gargoyles returned to their perches, just in time to protect passengers’ holiday luggage. Unfortunately, there appears to be no plan to bring back DEN’s chatty gargoyle, which made an appearance in 2019.

Free books at Miami International Airport


A handful of airports around the country, including Oregon’s Eugene Airport (EUG), have free short story dispensers on-site. Others, such as Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), have kiosks or book nooks where passengers may swap a paperback for another or download free digital books.

Miami International Airport (MIA) is the newest airport to hop on the book exchange program.

In mid-December, MIA debuted its colorful Books with an Altitude Library in the airport’s South Terminal, between gates H5 and H7. The Miami-Dade Public Library System seeded the library with a donation of 1,000 books, and passengers are now refreshing the selection with their exchanged books.

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