10 best domestic, foreign airports for flier freebies
By Gary Stoller, USA TODAYUpdated 5h 56m a
North Carolina's Charlotte Douglas airport, frequent business traveler Kathryn Alice likes the rocking chairs, occasional free concerts and the grand piano where "passersby are welcome to sit down and tickle the ivories."
Alice, a vice president in the publishing industry in Los Angeles, says airports need to increase free services and activities for families traveling with children and other fliers.
"Perks like free Wi-Fi and aid to overburdened travelers ease the pain of travel, and small comforts go a long way toward making the traveler feel cared for," Alice says.
"Anything that gives travelers a taste of the local culture or a personal greeting upon arrival adds to the favorable experience of an airport and the city or country where it's located."
Though a growing number of airports provide free Wi-Fi, airports and their retail tenants are looking to make a dollar off a captive audience of travelers.
Freebies are scarce, but, when provided, they can make a lasting impression.
Frequent flier Murray Cook, whose company builds and designs sports fields, will never forget the freebies at Cuba's Havana airport.
"Once you arrive, you are taken to a waiting area where they bring you rum, Cokes and, if you like, a cigar," says Cook of Roanoke, Va.
Travelers may not find another airport with complimentary items such as those in Havana, but they can take advantage of other unique freebies at airports worldwide.
At USA TODAY's request, travel publisher Frommers.com went on the prowl to find the 10 best freebies at U.S. and foreign airports.
Here is what Frommers.com found:
•Chicago O'Hare: Children's play area. Plenty of airports have play areas, but the one called "Kids on the Fly" in Terminal 2 is more than 2,000 square feet, airport-themed and designed by the Chicago Children's Museum. The area has a play helicopter, play airplane, play check-in counter and a collection of giant Legos for making towers.
•Fort Wayne, Ind.: Cookies. This cheerful little airport draws passengers away from Indianapolis and Detroit by being easy to navigate and quick to get in and out of — and by offering free cookies. Volunteer hospitality hosts welcome passengers with a fresh-baked cookie.
•Honolulu: Outdoor gardens. The airport makes the most of its paradise location with beautiful Chinese, Japanese and Hawaiian gardens. In the Chinese garden, there is a statue of Hawaii-born Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China. The serene Japanese garden has great benches to relax on, and the Hawaiian garden has tranquil lagoons, bubbling springs and cascading waterfalls. Go at night when the luau torches are lit, casting a magical hue over the garden.
•Los Angeles: Shoe shine. Five shoe-shine stands offer free service with a smile in Terminals 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Tips are accepted, so be generous if you get a good shine.
•New York JFK: iPads. Delta has installed 200 iPads at restaurants near the gate areas of Terminals 2 and 3. You can use them to order food, surf the Web, check e-mail, stream videos or check the weather at your destination.
•New York LaGuardia: Newspapers and magazines. Before a Delta Shuttle flight at the Marine Air Terminal, stock up on reading matter, including New York newspapers and such
•Reno-Tahoe: Local phone calls. Spent your last dime on slots? That's not a problem if you have a friend in the area. Local calls are free at several airport phones; Wi-Fi is free, too.
•San Francisco: Yoga room. The nation's only airport yoga room is just past security in Terminal 2. There are chairs, mats and mirrors to practice your poses.
•St. Louis: Coloring books and crayons. Kids can pick up a set of crayons and an airport-theme coloring book with pictures of behind-the-scenes airport activities. Keep an eye out for historic, 1930s-era aircraft hanging from the ceiling near the security checkpoint, too.
•Washington Dulles: Aviation museum. A 50-cent bus ride can bring you to an incredible free museum a few miles south of Dulles in Chantilly, Va. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center blows other little airport museums out of the water. It has giant hangars stuffed with such items as an SR-71 Blackbird, the space shuttle Enterprise and the Enola Gay.
•Amsterdam: Library. Schiphol airport is big for layovers, and the Dutch are big on reading. The library is a showcase for Dutch culture, with Dutch literature, Dutch music and its own Twitter feed. Nine of 25 seats have iPads.
•Copenhagen: Strollers. Changing planes with a baby is a pain if you've been forced to check your stroller. Parents going through Copenhagen can take advantage of the airport's free strollers, which can be left at a departure gate.
•Hong Kong: Video games. PlayStation gaming systems are scattered throughout the terminals — in the arrivals and departures halls and past security on the north and south concourses.
•London Heathrow: Coloring books and crayons. Customer service agents at several counters throughout the airport hand out airport-theme coloring books, crayons and stickers.
•Munich: Showers and coffee. Taking a shower can be a real boon if you've just gotten off an overnight flight and need to be alert. Even if you can't face up to the shower, there's free coffee at various stations throughout Munich's Terminal 2.
•Seoul Incheon: Culture. The airport is filled with cultural attractions — a museum of Korean history and culture, a stall where you can dress in traditional Korean clothes and get your picture taken, and a stall where you can join a class making Korean handicrafts.
•Singapore: Movies. Terminal 3's movie theater screens big-name Hollywood flicks such as X-Men: First Class 24 hours a day. If you want to stream your own movies, there's free Wi-Fi throughout the airport, as well as 500 free Internet kiosks.
•Taipei Taoyuan: City tours. The Taiwan Tourism Bureau offers free morning and afternoon tours of Taipei from the airport. The morning tour visits an ancient temple and a pottery-making center; the afternoon tour visits another temple, Taiwan's tallest skyscraper and the home of Taiwan's president.
•Tallinn, Estonia: Skype calls. In April 2011, the first free Skype video chat booth popped up at Tallinn's airport, and you can use it to make unlimited, free video calls worldwide. If the line is too long, you can send an e-mail from 14 free Internet kiosks or hook up your laptop through the airport's free Wi-Fi.
•Toronto City Airport: Passenger lounge. The hub of Porter Airlines, this airport on an island that's a brief ferry ride from downtown is delightful, but it's made even more special by Porter's lounge. Regardless of ticket price, everyone flying on the airline gets free coffee, tea, soft drinks, snacks, Wi-Fi and comfy chairs.