know before you go: GSP

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Greenville-Spartanburg International airport in South Carolina is the best kind of airport. Modern, convenient and easy to navigate.  The architecture is clean, there’s not too much hustle/bustle, and best of all, there is a Chick-Fil-A.

It’s the simple things in life, truly.

There is one terminal split into Concourse A (Allegiant, American, Southwest and United) and Concourse B (Delta).  Check in terminal and security is the same for all gates.

Even though they call it an international airport, it’s really only international for cargo.  Who knew (probably everyone in this region), but BMW has manufacturing here, and so there are cargo planes that travel back and forth from here to Germany.  Most of the travel is local in the South (ATL most popular destination), but there are featured flights as far as La Guardia and Las Vegas.

Remember: ✈️ = it ain’t easy being greenville to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = this is SPARTAnburg

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (it wasn’t hard to get here, but it felt far?)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (so easy, good signage, straight terminal)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Chick-Fil-A.  Baskin Robbins.  Dunkin Donuts.  Wolfgang Puck.  All your bases are covered, obviously)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (very clean and not too claustrophobic)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (Just get a book from Hudson and call it a day.  There’s an Escape lounge for AMEX members, and weirdly a place to file grievances based on discrimination on their website?  Is there something you’re not telling us, GSP?)

know before you go: DXB

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Appearing like a glittering jewel oasis in the middle of the desert, arriving into Dubai and being saluted by the sea of skyscrapers and hotels makes you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.  A paradise that is far more fancy and luxurious than anything you could imagine…except no need to pinch yourself, you’ve made it, you’re here.

DXB is one of the world’s preeminent destinations, so it’s no wonder that its airport is one of the top three busiest in the world.  The numbers for passenger traffic are astounding when you take into account that there are only 2 runways.  Being the largest traffic stop for Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 helps.  It is the hub for Emirates (if you live in the USA, that’s probably how you’ve arrived — from a very long flight out of LAX, JFK, SFO, IAH, ORD), flyDubai, and Qantas.

The MASSIVE airport is split into three Terminals.  Terminal 1 is for international flights and is connected to a separate Concourse D, and 2 is for travel around the Middle East region (“domestic flights” as it were), and Terminal 3 is the main one, further divided into Concourses A, B, and C.   Emirates operates out of Concourse A.

Terminal 3 is the second largest building by floor area in the entire world.  Think about that for a second.  Yeah, there’s multiple 5 star hotels, more shopping than most massive luxury malls and several FLOORS of executive lounges.  In fact, there is a secondary mini-terminal near Terminal 2 that is exclusively for people richer than you and me.

As one of the top cargo ports in the world, there’s even a terminal specifically for flowers.  FLOWERS.  This is how you know exactly how extra they are at this airport, and I’m here for it.

Remember: ✈️ = dub down to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = dub step

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there’s metro, ground, taxi — just be sure to check the times if you’re traveling during Ramadan)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it is massive, but there’s a people mover and shuttles –luckily most connections are long bc it takes more than 30 minutes per shuttle ride in some cases)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Your typical International fast food brands — Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, Shake Shack, Krispy Kreme, KFC, Charley’s Steaks?, Pinkberry, Subway, Wolfgang Puck, and a lot of Indian and Asian fare)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (obviously very clean, and +100 for FREE showers at Terminal 3, C gates)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (This is what makes it worth it.  Gucci, Hermes, Ferragamo, Chanel, Cartier are some of the high end.  Many spas, executive lounges — literally the Emirates lounge has been my travel goal for years– 5 star hotels, showers, prayer rooms, gardens, gym, conference rooms).  Shout out to the baggage claim, too.  What usually looks like a bottom of a trashcan in most airports looks like the foyer of a palace here, mad props to DXB.

know before you go: BOS

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Well, I honestly thought I would be writing about Houston and Milwaukee this week, as I thought they would be in the World Series, but that shows you un-Moneyball I am because the Dodgers are playing the Red Sox tonight.

Before we get to see Manny Machado be yelled at by the delightful Boston fans this eve, you gotta get there, and Boston Logan airport is the largest airport in New England.

It’s a hub for Delta and JetBlue (the best way to fly to Boston, IMO).  There are 4 terminals ABCE that make up 102 gates. A is for Delta and some Southwest flights.  B is American, United and Air Canada.  C is Alaska, Aer Lingus, JetBlue (including South American/Central America — flights to Havana start next month).  And E is the one you want to be flying out of, the International terminal.  Boston has flights from Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and gates for the Airbus 380.

Remember: ✈️ = bos baby to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = like a bos

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there’s metro, ground, ferry transport and the Logan Express)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (you can take the airport shuttle between terminals, but in some cases you have to leave security and re-enter which sucks)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (There’s everything you need from Legal Sea Foods to Starbucks, Wahlburgers to Samuel Adams Brewhouse.  But seriously?  You’re in Boston, why aren’t you at one of the many locations of Dunkin in the airport)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fair to clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (not a ton of high end shops, but there’s lots of airline lounges and a few outposts of the Massachusetts State Lottery in case you need to get that Powerball)

know before you go: ATL

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Welcome to Atlanta where the players play…it’s that time of year again, when droves of Otolaryngologists flock upon one lucky city for their annual society meeting.  This year, it’s HOTLANTA, so watch out, many  mild mannered surgeons will be heading your way.

The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson, is like a city on its own.  Luckily there’s a train that connects the terminals because no one would ever make their connections due to the vast nature of the complex.  Speaking from experience x multiple times.

There’s MARTA and SkyTrain transport that can get you to the airport from the city, which is convenient as it is about 10 miles or ~30 minutes in Atlanta traffic.

There are five (count em, 5! runways that serve two terminals, which are where you check in and retrieve your baggage.  The Domestic terminal is further split into a North and South.  South houses Delta, which has its hub at ATL.  North has all other domestic carriers: American, Frontier, JetBlue, Alaska, United, Spirit, Southwest. In between the terminals lay the 209 gates in the seven concourses A-F and T.  T is connected to the Domestic terminal, F is connected to the International side.

You can fly anywhere from this airport.  I’ve gone to Central America, Africa, Europe.  Literally it is a microcosm of the world, as is its dining options (albeit Americanified).  The shopping could be better, but the international terminal does have a bunch of duty free shops.

Remember: ✈️ = stomp the yard to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = ATL

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (MARTA, SkyTrain available to domestic terminals)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s a train, but be prepared to walk)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (every type of fast food you can imagine, all major chains including Burger King, McDonald’s, Chick Fil-A.  There’s Panda Express, PF Chang’s and Peiwei.  Are you thinkin’ Arby’s? Cuz you can because there’s one in there.  There’s a lot of southern fare, too, if you want low country food at high country price)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (depends on the concourse, but clean and plentiful)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, good amount of charging)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (not a ton of high end shops, although there’s a Sean John store? American, Delta and United have lounges, there are Xpress Spas and art)

 

know before you go: IAD (Dulles)

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Originally the black sheep of the three airports serving the Washington DC-Baltimore Metro area, Dulles International Airport has been coming into its own lately with the rise of more Dreamliner and Airbus 380 transatlantic flights.  Hey, if you’re one of the 9 cities that has gates for Airbus 380 then you fancy.

Dulles takes the share of the International business that comes into this area, but still has less passenger volume than BWI and DCA.  It is located a marathon distance away from the District, so it’s not the most convenient.  But…there’s some interesting features that make this airport stand out. For one, this is one of the last airports to use plane mates.

You heard me. Plane mates are large people movers that carry passengers from the plane to the concourses or main terminal.  They look like transformers or those oil rig grasshopper things.  They are being phased out (nothing gold can stay) for the Aerotran underground train system, so fly United into Concourse D if you want to experience one.

There are ~123 gates in one terminal building and two midfield terminals split into Concourses A/B (all non-United and United Express) and Concourses C/D (United).  Because there is a ton of International traffic to this airport, there are tons of lounges: Air France, Etihad, Virgin, British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, United.

Remember: ✈️ = dulles to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = funnest, am i right?

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (once the metro line is connected it will be a little more convenient, but until then you can really only get there via beltway or bus)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Any airport that has a Chipotle or a Pei Wei is A+ in my book, I’m a simple person.  There’s also Five Guys, multiple Dunkin’ Donuts and even a Starbucks Evenings (ooh la la), but I’m taking away a star because multiple Potbelly’s)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, fair amount of charging)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (So many lounges, perfect for the business class traveler.  There’s an interfaith church, lots of pet relief areas, express spas, and a little bit of shopping: Burberry, Tumi, Vera Bradley, Thomas Pink)

 

know before you go: PHL

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if you’re a bird, i’m a bird

Thank goodness another football season is upon us, after what felt like an endless summer of baseball.  At least we had the World Cup to break up the boredom (just kidding, I love you MLB).  NFL kicks off tonight when the Falcons take on the defending champ Eagles. Fly Eagles Fly, to catch the game tonight!

And the only things that get more air than Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are the planes coming and going from Philadelphia International (PHL).  See how I tied that up nicely?  Like a pair of cleats.

PHL is an old airport, but it’s undergoing a major renovation/expansion over the next few decades.  It is becoming more of a favored international destination for bargain European airlines, and serves the large Delaware Valley.  There are 7 terminal buildings, A-F with about 125 gates.  A West (Philadelphia, born and raised…) serves American, Lufthansa, British, Icelandair, and Qatar Airlines.  A East is Aer Lingus and American.  B  and C are American.  By now you can probably tell American has its hub here.   D is Air Canada, Alaska, United and Delta.  E is JetBlue, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit.  F is regional American Eagle flights.

Remember: ✈️ = streets of philadelphia to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = philadelphia freedom

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (SEPTA trains are pretty cheap to and from the city)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (if you want, you can walk all seven terminals)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (There’s Chick-Fil-A and Cantina Laredo.  Need I say more?  Yes? Bar Symon, Chickie & Pete’s (crab fries), Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Pinkberry and Red Mango, Legal Seafood.  Oh yeah, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s for cheesesteaks 😉

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (will get updated with the expansion, I’m sure)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, lots of charging stations — the kind with actual desks and seating)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (typical airport stores, not a ton of luxury brands, but there are minute suites, Admirals, British Airways, Delta and United lounges and rotating art exhibitions.)

know before you go: Las Vegas (LAS)

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Labor Day is the bittersweet holiday that marks the end of the summer, and what better way to commemorate hard workers who have helped this country prosper (?) than to get out of town and party!?!

I’m headed to one of my favorite airports this weekend, McCarran International Airport (LAS) serving Las Vegas, Nevada.  You could not get me to drive on the 15 during a holiday weekend, and so I’ll pick flying to Vegas every time…especially because it is a fun airport.  There’s a lot to do here on a layover, like gamble!  I’m not sure I’ve ever flown internationally from here, but I would say I average 6-8 domestic connections per year.  It’s a huge hub to and from the west coast with 110 gates.

First of all, it’s fairly close to the strip (less than 5 miles), and it’s cool to see Las Vegas boulevard from an aerial view as you start your descent.  This part always gets me pumped.  However, because Las Vegas is hella hot, both takeoffs and landings can be very turbulent.  This part makes me hesitant.  That’s Las Vegas in a nutshell.

The worst thing about flying into Vegas is that inevitably, one of your flight attendants will call it “Lost Wages.”  This is the worst joke, it needs to be retired.  Please.

The confusing thing is that it is split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.   There is no Terminal 2.  Not sure if Lance Burton (a Vegas deep cut reference)  made it disappear or what, but it’s not there.  Terminal 1 (concourses A-D) has a lot of domestic, but not all.  Terminal 3 (also D along with E) has international and some domestic.

I love people watching here.  There’s no other airport where the arrivals and departures are so bipolar.  When people get here, they’re ready to party, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  And then when they leave…well they look more like Conor McGregor after 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather.

The security lines are always a bit hairy, and you’ll watch the TSA video featuring celebrity impersonators/Vegas entertainers like a hundred times, but once you’re in, there’s chimes and flashing lights and all sorts of commotion from the slot machines!

They have good fast food options, it’s easy to get from one concourse to the other (although from the Southwest C gates takes half your life).   You have to take a tram from the gates to baggage, but it’s quick.  The baggage claim area is huge.  Their rideshare waiting area can be tricky to get to (have to cross the street into a parking structure whose elevator levels have the weirdest designations–random mezzanine level, huh?). But overall, if you had to have a layover here, it wouldn’t be a complete loss (unless you do get tempted by the shiny machines with the flashing lights).

Remember: ✈️ = lost wages to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = viva, las vegas!

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (good signs, it’s a long walk)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (get there early)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (mostly fast food, great hours, and there’s Coffee Bean and Starbucks)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️ (always crowded, need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, not enough charging stations in the gate areas, but have designated areas that are always packed)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Gaming facilities.  People watching can occupy you for hours.  Only a few lounges (AmEx and United), some Xpress Spas, weird B list mall stores, no luxury purveyors because I think they want you to spend the money in their casinos instead)

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know before you go: SMF airport

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Flying out of Sacramento, California (SMF) airport is probably the fastest experience of any airport.  It’s impressive.  I’ve flown out of here dozens of times and it has literally never taken me more than 15 minutes from parking to gate, and this is even on holiday weekends.

The airport is about 15 minutes from Downtown Sacramento, so depending on the time of the day, you could be stuck in infamous California traffic, so plan accordingly.

There are two terminals: A & B with 32 gates total.  A is home to American, United, Delta, Jet Blue.  B has Southwest, Alaska, and Hawaiian.  I appreciate when airports have multiple options for coffee shops, and while they are still chains such as Starbucks and Peet’s, at least you have options.  The unique thing about Sacramento is that the food offerings are almost exclusively local Sacramento restaurants, which is an extra nice touch for people to get the local flavor of the town if you only have a layover.

Other than security being fairly efficient and fast, the airport is clean, has a lot of outlets for charging your devices, and has plentiful restrooms.  Downsides, there are not any lounges, but as there are not too many direct international flights, you’re probably not going to have too long of a layover or need to shower here.

Remember: ✈️ = old sac to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = sac kings

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (it’s pretty far from downtown, even though the traffic isn’t usually terrible)

Security: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️:  super efficient, especially if you have pre-check

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Dos Coyotes, Burgers and Brew, Iron Horse, Paesano’s, Cafeteria 15L, and Squeeze Inn are all local restaurants, which is nice if you don’t end up leaving the airport)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (clean facilities)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, charging available both in common areas and at the gates)

Amenities:✈️✈️ (no lounges, not a lot of shopping, a somewhat out of place Asian Pacific Californian exhibit?)

 

know before you go: JFK

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I have a complex relationship with JFK, as I do with LAX.  Being the two most populous international arrival airports, they should be more inviting and welcoming than they are.  Instead, customs lines are long, people aren’t the friendliest, and they both could be cleaner for sure.  Plus, at JFK, you have to leave security to go terminal to terminal!  There’s no way that’s not confusing to a foreign visitor, or even to a local for that matter.

Perhaps we’re trying to give foreign visitors a picture of what America’s truly like?  Confusing and crowded and sweaty.  At least it’s still better than LaGuardia?

JFK is located in Queens, about 16 miles south of Manhattan.  There are 6 terminals with about 128 gates.  Terminal one serves a bevy of international carriers (Air France, Korean, Lufthansa, JAL, Turkish, Norwegian, WOWAir, Alitalia, Air China, China Eastern).  Terminal 2 is for Delta, Four is for Delta and Skyteam (including Aeromexico, China Airlines, China Southern, KLM; JetBlue, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore and Virgin amongst many others).  Terminal 5 is a club in NYC and it also serves JetBlue.  Terminal 7 has British Airways, Alaska, LOT, Icelandair and Qatar.  Terminal 8 is for American.

Remember: ✈️ = ny i love you but you’re bringing me down to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = welcome to new york (it’s been waiting for you)

Transportation to the airport:  ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (metro, bus, taxi, car, airporter, lots of options)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️ (just the fact that you have to exit and re-enter security sucks)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (it goes as fast as it can with the sheer volume of passenger traffic; customs lines can be brutal here)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s lots of options, but it’s inconsistent; like some terminals have McDonald’s and Starbucks, some don’t.  Some have Peet’s and don’t get me started, eesh.  7-Eleven in a few, and Terminal 4 has two Shake Shacks while the others don’t have any.  Some have Dunkin Donuts and Buffalo Wild Wings/Panda Express!  Why so cruel, JFK?  And since it’s NY, so I’m kind of expecting elevated dining, but there isn’t much beyond fast casual)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (please don’t judge us by the bathrooms in this airport)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi — didn’t always used to be the case)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (again, inconsistent luxury shopping between international terminals.  Tumi, Cartier, Hermes, Mont Blanc — do people need last minute fountain pens as gifts? Good luck in Terminal 2, there’s like a Best Buy kiosk for shopping and that’s it.  Lots of international flights means lots of lounges {except for the last one shutting down in Terminal 5}, but don’t expect any yoga or meditation/prayer rooms in this airport, there’s no real estate for that)

know before you go: London Gatwick (LGW)

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London Gatwick may be my favorite airport in London (only because Heathrow is the LAX of London.  Sure, no American carriers are there, but it’s quaint and manageable. Even though it’s a smaller scale, it still has tons of amenities.  A sizeable Harrod’s!  A lot of seating! A Nandos, which is HUGE!

It’s located about 30 miles south of central London, but the Gatwick express will get you there from Victoria station in a jiffy (for about £20).

There are two terminals, North and South that are connected pre-security by a people mover.  There’s 115 gates split amongst both terminals.  North serves EasyJet, Air Canada, Emirates, Virgin, West Jet and Icelandair.  South serves British Airways, and everyone else (Norwegian, Cathay Pacific, Aer Lingus, etc).

Remember: ✈️ = london fog to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = london calling

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (Gatwick express is speedy, but spendy. i got to the train early and still didn’t have a seat either)

Security: ✈️ (if you print your boarding pass there, be forewarned, it probably won’t work too well in the self-check first security gate)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (5 planes for Nandos.  I love Nandos, and the fact that they serve their take away in containers making it easy to eat on the go is SO convenient –sorry seat mates on plane, I’m eating my pitta. There’s also Starbucks, Jamie Oliver Italian, wagamama, and wetherspoon)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (for some reason, never encountered a line)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, fair amount of charging)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (a bunch of lounges, British Airways and Virgin especially; Harrod’s, multi-faith prayer rooms, on site hotels and conference centers)