Weather delays mean plenty of free time on our hands, but chances are, you fill it by checking flight information. How to make the most of your wait? You can settle in with a neck pillow and the latest Stephen King tome, of course, from the airport bookshop. Or check into a micro-hotel, listen to a string quartet, visit a museum or explore the quick service efforts of a rash of celebrity chefs at many of the following domestic terminals in 10 major airports across the country.
Layout: The nation’s busiest airport, Hartsfield is made up of domestic and international terminals that bookend seven perpendicular concourses. The underground Automated People Mover bisects the concourses, linking them to one another and the terminals. “For as busy as Atlanta is, it’s rather convenient,” said Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly.
Security lowdown: There are three checkpoints in the domestic terminal, Main, North and South. The airport lists checkpoint wait times on its website. Alternatively, fliers can fill out an online Trak-a-Line form, providing an email address to which security updates will be sent.
Best dining: Among many local choices, Atlanta’s landmark Paschal’s operates a satellite restaurant in Concourse B, serving Southern classics like fried chicken and catfish. Pick up pizza and hamburgers from Varasano’s Pizzeria in Concourse A and Grindhouse Killer Burgers in Concourse D. For sit-down meals, try One Flew South in Concourse E, which conjures rural Georgia with a photo mural of a forest. The menu offers sushi and upscale Southern fare such as pork belly sliders and pulled duck sandwiches, many labeled gluten-free and available to go.
Connectivity: The airport offers free Wi-Fi.
Other amenities: Work, sleep or watch TV in privacy at Minute Suites in Concourse B, offering mini-offices with daybeds, desks and showers ($38 an hour; one-hour minimum). The airport’s new iFlyATL app for iOS and Android devices provides updates on parking, security wait times and flight departures, plus information on restaurants and stores.
Layout: O’Hare has three largely domestic terminals: Terminal 1, dominated by United; Terminal 3, a hub for American; and Terminal 2 for nearly all others. Once travelers are through security, they can freely walk among the adjacent terminals, which can be a hike. To take the intra-terminal train, however, requires leaving security. It also connects to the remote international Terminal 5.
Security lowdown: The busiest security lines seem to be in the center of Terminals 1 and 3 (Terminal 2 has just one checkpoint). In 1 and 3, check security lanes on the outer edges. The Terminal 3 security lane to the right of American Airlines international check-ins is often less crowded, for example.
Best dining: The Chicago-based celebrity chef Rick Bayless runs three sandwich-focused Tortas Frontera outlets, in Terminals 1, 3 and 5. Dishes like Cochinita pibil sandwiches and guacamole and chips come in bulky but easy-to-eat-from cardboard boxes. Another locally popular chef, Paul Kahan, has just opened a branch of his Publican Tavern in Terminal 3. Healthy snacks such as Kind bars, Greek yogurt, sushi rolls and gluten-free boxed salads are available from Cibo Express Gourmet Market, which operates in Terminals 2 and 3. Less healthy but perhaps more popular, Garrett Popcorn Shops, also in 2 and 3, specialize in the Garrett Mix, a blend of cheese and caramel popcorn.
Connectivity: The airport offers 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi, and higher speed access for a fee. Each terminal offers several Power Stations with four to eight stools.
Other amenities: If you have children in tow, let them play at the Kids on the Fly play zone in 2. A mother’s room in 3 offers privacy for breast-feeding mothers. Get your om on in the Yoga Room, which offers free loaner mats and cleansing wipes, also in 3 (access is free). There are day spas in Terminals 1 and 3. Haven’t had your flu shot? During flu season, get one ($30) during your layover at clinics in Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
Layout: An elevated intra-airport train, Skylink, makes constant loops connecting the airport’s five terminals, A through E. American Airlines, which uses DFW as a hub, operates from Terminals A, C and D, and its affiliate American Eagle uses B and D. Other domestic carriers including Delta, JetBlue and United use Terminal E.
Security lowdown: Fifteen security checkpoints are strung along gates that are generally arranged end to end. When one backs up, try the next one down; T.S.A. staff members often direct travelers to uncongested checkpoints next door. Not all lanes have a T.S.A. PreCheck line; if you are cleared, ask to be directed to the nearest appropriate security area.
Best dining: Terminal A hosts a branch of Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, famous in the Austin area. Cousin’s Bar-B-Q from Fort Worth is in B. From the many Mexican selections, Urban Taco in Terminal C offers a variety of tacos on corn or flour tortillas or a lettuce wrap, plus rice bowls and salads. Sky Canyon from the celebrated local chef Stephan Pyles does Texas cuisine including Freeto-Chile Pie, barbecued brisket in sandwiches or tacos, and some international options including a ceviche bar in Terminal D. If you’re a fan of Slurpees, the first post-security 7-Eleven convenience store is in Terminal A.
Connectivity: Wi-Fi is free throughout the airport. Free travel lounges, at B28, C8, C27 and E8 offer power outlets at each seat. Workstations (also free) with power outlets and USB connections are in Terminals A, C, D and E.
Other amenities: If you need a nap, private office or shower, Minute Suites in Terminal D offers mini-offices with daybeds and private bathrooms (fees range from $30 for a 30-minute shower to $160 for an eight-hour stay). Strike a pose in a Yoga Studio, equipped with mats, near Gates D40 and E31 (access is free). Children’s play areas known as Aquafina Junior Flyer’s Club are located in Terminals A and B. XpresSpa offers spa services in Terminals A, B, D and E. Terminals A and B have nursing rooms. In Terminal D, spruce up at new shops from the beauty brands Aveda, Jo Malone London and MAC Cosmetics.
Layout: From the main Jeppesen Terminal, noted for its multipeaked roof, an underground train bisects three terminals, A, B and C Gates, making it easy to travel among them. United dominates B Gates; Southwest and Delta park at C Gates. American, Alaska, Frontier, JetBlue and others are at A Gates. A pedestrian bridge links the main terminal and A Gates.
Security lowdown: All fliers undergo security screening in the main terminal at one of three checkpoints. Check the airport’s website for estimated TSA wait times.
Best dining: In addition to fast-food chains, DIA, as the airport is popularly called, salts its dining selections with local outposts. At C Gates, Root Down, a branch of the Denver restaurant, offers farm-to-table fare, including raw items and sandwiches packed for the plane. At B Gates, Elway’s steakhouse is popular for its burger as well as Colorado-raised steaks, and New Belgium Hub serves microbrews from the Fort Collins brewer. Modernmarket at B and C gates caters to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets. In the B Concourse, the new SkyMarket sells healthy and locally sourced foods.
Connectivity: The airport offers free Wi-Fi and has just installed more than 2,400 “power hubs,” each with two electrical plugs and two USB outlets, found at seating areas. The Sky Lounge at the Westin Hotel next to the airport offers outlets at each table.
Other amenities: DIA is proud of its public art collection, which includes “Open Windows,” an interactive light tower triggered by a motion-detection camera (near gate B51). The west end of the C Gates is the best place to catch the sun setting over the Rockies. The new Westin Denver International Airport Hotel, just beyond the main terminal, provides harbor for waylaid travelers and includes an indoor pool and hot tub. The new University of Colorado A line train provides direct service to downtown from the airport in 37 minutes.
Layout: Laid out in linear fashion, Houston’s main airport is a hub for United, which dominates Terminals B, C and E. Terminal A houses the other North American carriers, including Air Canada, American and Delta. An underground subway links them all pre-security, while an elevated Skyway train connects them post-security.
Security lowdown: There are T.S.A. checkpoints at each terminal. The airport’s website offers a handy guide to checkpoint wait times on its opening page.
Best dining: In Terminal B, 3rd Bar Oyster & Eating House is a spin-off of the popular Midtown restaurant Reef from the chef Bryan Caswell. Also in Terminal B, the Frutería features Mexican sandwiches and juices from the San Antonio chef Johnny Hernandez. The locally popular Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack operates in Terminal B. In Terminal E, Greek and Southern influences surface at Cat Cora’s Kitchen from the eponymous “Iron Chef.”
Connectivity: The airport offers free Wi-Fi with speeds up to six megabits per second.
Other amenities: Houston’s “Harmony in the Air” program seeks to minimize stress through live music performances. Programming ranges from string quartets to Baroque guitarists, usually at midday hours, Monday through Friday. IAH has more than 100 pieces of art arrayed around its terminals and publishes maps to them, available via download from the website. Handling longer layovers, the 573-room Houston Airport Marriott at the center of the airport has an outdoor pool.
Layout: American Airlines uses Miami as a hub for its Caribbean and Latin American network, occupying Concourse D, also known as the North Terminal. Five more concourses, E through J (there is no A, B or C), swing around in a horseshoe shape and are grouped together as the Central (E, F and G) and South (H and J) Terminals. Corridors with moving walkways, known as the Skyride Connector, link them pre-security. It’s a 15-minute commute from North to South. Concourse D has its own dedicated train to take passengers from one end of the milelong building to another. United and Frontier are in G, Delta is in H.
Security lowdown: Most of the concourses have just one security checkpoint, though the large North Terminal (D) has three. American also uses Terminal E gates and E and D connect, allowing those departing from D to use that security lane.
Best dining: There is a strong Cuban accent in Miami’s airport restaurants, beginning with four Café Versailles, branches of the Little Havana landmark (two in D, one each in E and F), serving strong café con leche, guava pastries and Cuban sandwiches. Also in D, Ku-Va specializes in ropa vieja and mojitos, and Lorena Garcia Cocina offers Caribbean fare and a Bacardi-branded mojito bar.
Connectivity: MIA offers free Wi-Fi access to select websites for airlines, hotels, car rental companies and the tourism bureau. Full access costs $4.95 for 30 minutes and $7.95 for 24 hours.
Other amenities: Casey, a golden retriever and the airport’s goodwill ambassador, occasionally roves the halls, ready to be petted. Get quickie manicures, pedicures, facials and massages at Xpres Spa in D. Jetsetter spas in H and J also offer spray tanning. A branch of the Miami bookstore Books & Books in D also stocks children’s games. Make a scavenger hunt for marine plants and vertebrates inlaid in D’s terrazzo floors by the artist Michele Oka Doner. A baggage storage service in Central Terminal E allows passengers with long layovers to park their bags while exploring Miami beyond the airport.
Layout: New York’s Kennedy operates six remote terminals, numbered 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8, strung together by an intra-airport Airtrain outside of security checkpoints. Transferring among them requires connecting fliers to pass through security again at their new terminal. Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic are in terminal 4; JetBlue and Hawaiian are in 5; Alaska, American Airlines and American Eagle are in 8; and Delta operates in terminals 2 and 4.
Security lowdown: The domestic terminals at JFK are among the better equipped at the airport, with a dozen or more security lanes.
Best dining: Terminal 5 offers a substantial and varied lineup of dining options, from tiny La Vie offering French bistro fare to the Spanish tapas specialist Piquillo and Deep Blue Sushi, which also offers grab-and-go fare.
Terminal 2 recently got a dining upgrade to include Croque Madame, a French sandwich spot from the chef Andrew Carmellini, and BKLYN Beer Garden with tap beers and a menu by Laurent Tourondel.
There are two branches of the restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in Terminal 4, and one of his barbecue place Blue Smoke on the Road. The chef Marcus Samuelsson recently opened Uptown Brasserie here with an eclectic menu including fried chicken and pasta.
Cibo Express Gourmet Market in Terminals 2, 5 and 8 stocks healthy snacks including fruit, granola bars, yogurt and gluten-free salads. In Terminal 5, Re: Vive Food Ordering Tables offers touch-screen monitors for gateside meal delivery.
Connectivity: The airport offers 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi. There are charging stations at most Delta gates, and the central atrium of Terminal 5 offers many outlets.
Other amenities: A free-standing suite for nursing mothers features a changing table, electrical outlet and a bench at Terminal 5 near Gate 12. Also at the terminal, or, rather, outside of it (pre-security), JetBlue operates the new T5 Farm on the departures level, a 24,000-square-foot container vegetable garden, which passengers can visit curbside. Atop the terminal, all passengers can visit the outdoor terrace on the rooftop, which includes a dog walk.
Layout: Four remote terminals, A through D, handle domestic traffic at La Guardia. Delta runs its shuttle to Chicago and Washington, D.C., from Terminal A. Delta also operates from C and D. The largest terminal, B, has four concourses: A, with United and JetBlue; B, with Southwest and Spirit; C with American, United and Virgin America; and D with American.
Security lowdown: Patience. Security stations tend to be narrow, especially in the Terminal B concourses, each with its own checkpoint.
“It’s definitely worth springing for one-day priority access that will get you through security faster, at least on American and Delta,” said Michael Alan Connelly, editor of Fodors.com, referring to premium economy seating that often offers a special security line.
Best dining: In Terminal B’s common area, Bowery Bay Tavern trades in Philly cheesesteak and burgers, and Todd English’s Figs Restaurant does Mediterranean dishes. Post-security in the A gates, Metro Burger Bar uses Pat LaFrieda beef, and near the B gates, Six Blocks Bakery serves pastries from Balthazar Bakery in Manhattan. In the B and C concourses, Cibo Express Gourmet Markets stock healthy snacks including salads and nuts.
Several acclaimed chefs are attached to sit-down restaurants in Terminal C, including Cotto, which offers Italian paninis and pastas from Michael White; Victory Grill from Andrew Carmellini; and Biergarten from Brooklyn Brewery, which also offers sandwiches and small plates.
At its culinary rival, Terminal D, Bisoux will box your croque monsieurs and other bistro fare to go, and Taste of Tagliare offers pizza by the slice. Custom Burgers, also from Pat LaFrieda, grills to order. The Minnow, also by Mr. Carmellini, includes a raw bar and sushi. For healthy to-go, try Cibo Express Gourmet Market.
Connectivity: The airport offers 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi throughout its terminals.
Other amenities: A free-standing suite for nursing mothers features a changing table, electrical outlet and a bench at Terminal A, Concourse A. Terminal B has been redesigned with newer upscale shops, including Tumi, Lacoste, Desigual and L’Occitane. American Express credit card holders can gain access to the Centurion Lounge for $50 a day (free for some high-level card holders); children under age 18 are free.
Layout: In the midst of a multibillion-dollar renovation to update and better link all terminals, LAX has nine terminals including the new Tom Bradley International Terminal (1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 are undergoing construction). American Airlines parks at Terminal 4, Delta at 5 and United at 7 and 8. While spread out, Terminals 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are accessible by walking without having to exit and re-enter security.
Security lowdown: With construction inside and out, the airport has created a new LAX Is Happening website that offers travel tips for each terminal. Additional screening checkpoints have been added to Terminals 5 and 6, relieving congestion. Still, the proximity of checkpoints to gates will determine where you enter. “If you try another terminal and walk back, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just a worse schlep,” said Brett Snyder, who blogs about the airline industry at the Cranky Flier.
Best dining: In American’s Terminal 4, the LA Gourmet Street Truck is designed to change concepts and currently hosts Grilled Cheez Please!, serving from a parked vehicle. Real Food Daily features plant-based foods. In Terminals 5 and 7, Loteria Grill, which is also popular around town, serves tacos, enchiladas and burritos. Terminal 5 also has Ford’s Filling Station, a branch of the gastro pub by the chef Ben Ford, son of the actor Harrison Ford.
Connectivity: LAX offers free Wi-Fi throughout its terminals. Faster access is available for $4.95 an hour or $7.95 for 24 hours.
Other amenities: Terminal 5 features a new nursing room. Seven indoor relief areas for pets means that there is at least one post-security pet station at each terminal.
Layout: Three domestic terminals, including recently renovated Terminals 2 and 3, are laid out in a semicircle. Southwest and Delta’s domestic operations are in Terminal 1, American Airlines and Virgin American are in Terminal 2, and United’s domestic flights are in Terminal 3. Some domestic carriers, including Hawaiian and JetBlue, are in the International Terminal. The pre-security people mover AirTrain links all terminals.
Security lowdown: Each terminal has its own security, meaning that many travelers connecting to another carrier leave and re-enter screening areas. However, there are two inter-terminal walkways: one between Terminal 1 (Boarding Area C) and Terminal 2; and another from Terminal 3 to International.
Best dining: SFO offers a higher-than-average ratio of local-to-chain restaurants. In Terminal 2, Burger Joint uses Niman Ranch meat, Napa Farms Market serves everything from local cheeses and wines to mixed-to-order salads and hot meals, and Lark Creek Grill does full-service seafood and steaks. Terminal 3 hosts the wine bar SF Uncork’d, Tomokazu for sushi and noodles and a branch of Buena Vista Café, famed for Irish coffee. In Terminal 1, Perry’s, like the Union Street original, is a full-service grill. The local chain Peet’s Coffee & Tea can be found in all terminals.
Connectivity: The airport offers free Wi-Fi. The just renovated East concourse in Terminal 3 offers three new boarding gates and lounge-style seating with 230 electrical outlets and 200 USB outlets.
Other amenities: SFO pioneered the airport Yoga Room, which it now offers, free of charge, in Terminals 2 and 3. There are no classes, but mats are provided and mobile devices banned. Terminals 1 through 3 offer private nursing rooms. For longer layovers and with children in mind, the airport has created self-guided tours that take place pre-security. The airport has an extensive exhibition program.
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