As a portal from one city to the next, an airport can be a traveler’s first impression of a city and what it has to offer.
Example: I landed at the Hector International Airport in Fargo, N.D., on a family trip last week and noticed a few airplane gates, a sub sandwich counter, a Caribou Coffee, a brewery/restaurant and a gift shop featuring a giant stuffed bison.
Impression: Tiny, tiny town, basic amenities, North Dakota State University pride. And what I saw was what I got. Plus some great family bonding.
Back south, Charlotte boasts the tagline “Charlotte’s got a lot.” And the airport is about to get a lot more, like a larger terminal lobby and a taller control tower, thanks to Destination CLT projects.
Here are a few amenities Charlotte Douglas International Airport could add to that growth to enhance our first impression for travelers:
(1) Local coffees and juices to sip on.
Sure, the staples Starbucks and Jamba Juice can easily be found, but local drink companies like Green Brothers Juice Co., Viva Raw, Not Just Coffee and Pure Intentions Coffee are a flourish on our food scene. Travelers should get a taste.
A Charlotte Airport media representative confirmed that the airport features “an assortment of local products and ingredients,” but has not confirmed whether coffees or juices are included. I vote for a prominent local coffee/juice hut.
(2) A yoga room.
Charlotte has a city-wide yoga scene from Yoga One in University City and Plaza Midwood, to Charlotte Yoga in South End and Park Road area, to Y2 Yoga in Cotswold, to Be Yoga in Dilworth and South Charlotte, to Elighten Yoga in Ballantyne — and then some. So where’s the zen in the airport for borderline psychotic, stressed-out travelers?
The free-to-use Yoga Room at the San Francisco International Airport shows us how it’s done.
(3) Designated walking route.
People get restless in airports, especially when they have a long layover or a flight delay and can’t get their regular Type-A workout in. Walking paths can be found in Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul (which has mile markers between destinations), Baltimore, Atlanta and Cleveland airports.
Areas of Charlotte, like South End, are experiencing a push to be more pedestrian friendly beyond our growing network of greenways via the Cross Charlotte Trail. Adding that concept to the airport would be a matter of adding mileage signage to preexisting destination markers — the space is already walkable.
(4) iPads for use in bars and restaurants.
Delta adopted this iPad-at-every-seat phenomenon in 2012, integrating 250 iPads into the seating areas of MinniBar, Mimosa, and Shoyu in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s Concourse G. They planned to expand to more than 4,500 iPads in use at three airport hubs. The iPads can be used to access anything from Twitter, to Google, to flight information, to meal orders.
Not only does this give the impression that the city is technology-forward (and Charlotte is, what with the arrival of Google Fiber) but let’s be honest, technology is the adult pacifier.
(5) Commuter rail to the city.
I dream of the day I don’t have to bribe my brother with beer to pick me up from the airport. San Francisco International Airport has this public transit system down — and it instantly makes the traveler feel like the whole city is right within reach.
Nonetheless, the Charlotte airport has “got a lot.” It’s got a Runway 5K coming up. It’s got this great offering of books — I snagged Lena Dunham’s memoir at Heritage Booksellers last week.
But there’s always room to grow. Charlotte Douglas received 44.9 million travelers in 2015 — let’s show the next 44 million a good time.
Photos: David T. Foster, Katie Toussaint