In the hypercompetitive world of air travel, top airports differentiate themselves by offering state-of-the-art amenities for travelers. The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the need to provide quality services with an emphasis on safe practices.
Laura Chiu, a recent passenger at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), is ecstatic about one such amenity at IAH, the Yoga Studio.
Chiu was introduced to the studio prior to a recent flight by Viorica “Ella” Ghica, Interim Division Manager, Terminal & Customer Experience at IAH. Ghica happened to overhear Chiu asking for directions in locating the gate where her fiancé’ was soon due to arrive. Chiu had planned to surprise him and meet him at his arrival gate, having planned her flight arrival to coincide with his.
Ghica immediately offered escort assistance, which Chiu happily accepted.
Since the gate she was looking for was in the vicinity of the Yoga Studio, Ghica shared that there was sufficient time and they could stop in on the way. The Yoga Studio is located in Terminal A near Gate A3.
Chiu, who happens to be a yoga instructor, said it was love at first sight.
“The space was beautiful, open, airy, and clean,” she said. “They had mats for use, yoga props, and it gives passengers an excellent way to manage time between TSA and your flight.”
Her complimentary words are especially fitting as September is National Yoga Month, a national observance and awareness campaign that educates people with regard to the many health benefits of yoga and seeks to inspire a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.
“Yoga is just one of the many great amenities offered here at Bush and throughout the Houston Airport System (HAS),” Ghica said. ” I invite anyone who can and feels so inclined to stop by and relax the next time you are visiting our wonderful airport.”
“Houston Airports has always been very deliberate in its efforts to engage passengers beyond a range of dining options and some nice stores to pick up gifts, stories like Chanel, Tumi, and Pandora to name only a few,” Ghica continued.
IAH and William P. Hobby Airport offer other amenities, services, and attractions such as Harmony in the Air, Little Libraries, Children’s Play Areas, Mother’s Rooms, and Service Animal Relief Areas among others. Others include a Lost and Found, Airport Information Booths, and Battery Charging.
The popular Children Play Areas are located in Terminal A by Gate A7 and in Terminal D by Gate D6.
After a pause in operations predicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Harmony in the Air returned to IAH and HOU with daily performances by some of Houston’s finest musicians. Maricela Kruseman, Founder and Director of Harmony in the Air said “So much in the world these days is uncertain, unpleasant or even tragic. When we decided to resume performances, the musicians were ready to get back to work and they appreciate Houston Airports vision, leadership and guidance as they get through these troubled times. The Harmony in the Air musicians are honored and proud to be unofficial ambassadors of the great City of Houston and our terrific Houston Airports. While the extra challenges travelers face today undoubtedly adds to their frustration and stress, the live performances we provide at our Houston airports helps to bring levity, comfort and joy to these weary visitors to our city. Harmony in the Air strives to make their travel experience better while representing our four-star airports as two of the best in the world.”
Harmony in the Air has been lauded by international airport ratings organization Skytrax. The musicians play a wide range of music that includes classical, jazz, pop, and international music performed by over 75 of Houston’s finest professional musicians. Performances take place from noon to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays in the Rotunda at HOU and in the Art Gallery Connector in Terminal A at IAH.
IAH and HOU also have free Little Libraries available to travelers. The “novel” concept is to take a book, return a book or leave another book for children and adults. At IAH, you’ll find Little Libraries in Terminal A, near Gate A3 and in Terminal D, near Gate D9. In HOU, find the Little Libraries near Gates 44, 4 and 23.
Hobby Airport recently added an outstanding space-themed children’s play area across from Gate 4 in the west concourse. The 450-square-foot area offers a rocket slide, comet climbing structure, interactive light board and bench space for parents who need to take a break.
Another amenity that has proven to be quite popular is the Mother’s Room. IAH and HOU offer multiple mother’s nursing rooms where mothers can nurse their children. Each room is private and equipped with an AC and USB power outlet, a changing table, and nursing glider chairs for the comfort of mothers and babies.
Trai Hicks, Assistant Customer Service Manager at HOU, was quick to add that the mother’s rooms and the children’s play areas are all disinfected a minimum of three times per day.
“These initiatives and others like them are designed with one purpose – to please the passenger and improve their comfort. If we can make our airports more like home, that encourages travelers to return,” Hicks said.
Those initiatives are achieving their intended purpose. Chiu said she was especially gratified that Ghica took the time to introduce her to IAH’s yoga studio.
“The next time I’m at IAH,” she said, “you can be sure that you will find me in the yoga studio. It can be a tremendous de-stressor – allowing you do some pre-flight stretching in a really safe and inviting place.
“Yoga is tremendous,” she continued, “as it allows you to ‘get physical’ while also focusing on your mental health and emotional well-being.”
Liliana Rambo, Chief Terminal Management Officer for Houston Airports, said that HAS never rests on its accolades and is constantly working to improve the passenger experience. Houston remains the only city in the Western Hemisphere to have two four-star Skytrax rated airports in IAH and HOU. At the 2020 World Skytrax Awards in May, Houston Airports earned a bevy of honors, including the recognition of IAH as the top airport in the United States and the second-best airport in North America. HOU finished third among Best Regional Airports in North America.
“It makes us work even harder,” Rambo said. “We will continue to strive to make each flying experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, from the moment customers enter the airport until they board their flights. We are pleased to offer amenities that make people happy and that set the tone and table for a pleasant flying experience.”