The evolution of airport hotels: From staid to stylish
Hilton Frankfurt Airport, connected to terminal one via skywalk, has a six-storey atrium lobby with panoramic glass elevators.
The reputation of airport hotels speaks for itself. Most people would agree that they're staid, soulless and lacking personality with little imagination to interior design and restaurant menus. There's usually more concrete than charm, beds are often uncomfortable, and let's not get started on that view of… a parking lot.
But with more travellers taking to the skies than ever before, airport hotels have started wooing fliers by throwing decades-old expectations out the window. Older hotels have gone through redefining facelifts while newer hotels come equipped with first-class gyms and spas, spacious workstations and swimming pools. In fact, airport hotels, which are generally cheaper than their city-centre counterparts, have been experiencing a major style evolution.
Hilton Hotels and Resorts pioneered the concept of airport hotels in 1959 at San Francisco International Airport. Since then, the brand has continued to reconceptualise the airport hotel model, infusing comfort and functionality with sleek design. The latest example is Hilton Frankfurt Airport, opened in December 2011 in the futuristic Squaire complex and connected via skywalk to the airport’s terminal one. The 249-room hotel, only 15 minutes from downtown, has a six-storey atrium lobby with panoramic glass elevators; its Fifth, Lounge and Bar is socially buzzing; the spa comes with a 24-hour fitness centre, steam room and sauna; and the business centre operates 24/7 with 10 meeting rooms. And you can leave your earplugs at home – the hotel is equipped with soundproof windows.
Hilton has continued breaking new ground with a 433-room hotel at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, designed by the prominent Dutch architects Mecanoo. The new building will replace the current Hilton property and is scheduled to open in 2015 with 23 meeting rooms, a restaurant and bar, a spa and fitness centre and an atrium lobby.
“New airport hotels have become destinations much like an urban downtown hotel or resort property by focusing on forward-thinking design, leisure amenities and outstanding culinary and beverage offerings,” said Rob Palleschi, global head at Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
Perhaps the most groundbreaking airport hotel concept to recently make waves is Starwood Hotels and Resorts' Aloft brand. This "style-at-a-steal" concept launched its first hotel in Montreal in June 2008 and, due to its success, 11 others have popped up near airports around the world, from San Antonio, Texas to Bogota, Colombia. Repeat guests have become accustomed to Aloft’s signature amenities such as re:fuel, a 24-hour deli; re:mix, a social lounge; and w xyz; a cocktail bar. The brand also offers Arf, a dog-friendly programme, and Splash, an indoor or outdoor pool depending on the location. While the demographic skews toward younger travellers on a budget – rooms cost around $120 a night, depending on the location – business travellers consider it a convenient option thanks to the excellent amenities.
Quebec’s Groupe Germain Hospitalite, known for their boutique properties throughout Canada, opened their first airport hotel in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in July 2012. The 153-room modern lodging, connected to the airport via the regular LINK train, offers extra comfort amenities such as 100% Egyptian cotton and goose down bedding and work stations with ergonomic chairs. They’ve ditched a full-service restaurant for a self-serve commissary, and minimise superfluous services to keep prices down. And in another win for travellers, the nightly rate of 149 Canadian dollars is the same every day of the year.