Helsinki Airport Opens Free Lounge With Real Beds

helsinki airport relaxation lounge
Photo: Juho Suoperä

If you’ve ever tried to sleep on one of those hard airport terminal chairs as announcements blare over the PA system and passengers jostle into you with their luggage, you know how hard it is to get any decent rest while waiting for your flight.

Skift reports Helsinki Airport is giving travelers a reprieve by opening a relaxation lounge where travelers can sleep, rest or work in peace. The lounge has pod style chairs and even real beds, so passengers can choose the relaxation option that best suits them. The walls and ceilings are designed with acoustic technology to ensure a quiet environment, and the décor is meant to reflect the calming Finnish landscape, with ice and northern light motifs incorporated into the design.The relaxation area is open to passengers 24 hours a day, and here’s the best part -– it’s absolutely free. While we’ve seen a number of airport terminals incorporate mini hotel suites and pod sleeping areas in recent times, most charge by the hour for the privilege. Thankfully, in Helsinki that’s not the case. There’s no need to be a member of an airline loyalty program or fork over any exorbitant fees to get some shut-eye here.

First-Class Lounge For Pets Opens At Chicago O’Hare

dog carrier airport
Tom Check, Flickr

Luxury pet hotels, pet portraiture, pet birthday parties and even pet facials – these are just some of the ways the travel industry has bent over backwards to make our furry friends feel like they’re on vacation too.

Now, our four-legged besties are getting the first-class treatment at airport lounges, thanks to the opening of a lounge designed especially for pets at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

The on-site kennel is located in United Airline’s new cargo facility and has 28 separate enclosures designed to hold different types of animals comfortably until it’s time for them to fly. The kennel is temperature-controlled, as are the purpose-built vans that shuttle the pampered pooches from the lounge to their flights come boarding time.The lounge, which opened at the end of last month, is the third such pet facility that United is operating in airports across the U.S., with similar services available at Houston and Newark airports.

United says the lounge staff is trained to provide first-class care for the animals, which includes walking, bathing and grooming them. After all, even pets like to stretch their legs, take a hot shower and freshen up their look when they’re in transit, right?

A Tour Through The Best Airline Lounge In The World

Nordic countries are often well regarded as the design hotspots in Europe, and their airports are no exception. Helsinki is a prime example. In addition to its well laid out and spacious construction, the airport is also home to the top voted airline lounge in the world. Its operator? Finnair.

Passing through the airport on the way back from a week in Helsinki last month, Gadling Labs stopped by the Finnair lounge to check out what all the buzz is about. Take a look at what we found above, and do yourself a favor: find some lingonberry soap. It’ll change your life.

Babies and first class: why is this an issue?

babies first classEarlier this week, I saw a story about babies and first class air travel posted on Facebook. The Facebook poster asked our own Heather Poole (flight attendant, mother, and new book author!) for her thoughts on the story, and she replied, “I’m fine with babies in first class. Usually they just sleep.” Columnist Brett Snyder is a frequent flier and new dad wondering if he should use miles to upgrade his first flight with the baby. Reading the article and the many comments, I wonder: why is this (or really any story about babies and airplanes) a contentious issue?

Long before I even thought about having children, I thought the same about babies in first class that I thought about anyone in the front of the plane: must be nice for them. Sure, it might be a waste of money to give a premium seat to someone whose legs don’t touch the ground and who can’t enjoy the free Champagne, but it’s the parents’ choice to splurge on the ticket. If the parents are more comfortable, the kid might be happier and thus quiet — a win-win for everyone on the plane. Does the child “deserve” to sit up front? Perhaps not, but airplane seating has never been based on merit. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, a passenger is a passenger, no matter how small.As the veteran of nearly 20 flights with an infant in Europe, the US and trans-Atlantic, I’ve been fortunate to fly a few times with my daughter in business class. While the roomy seats and meals make a 10 hour flight easier with a baby, more valuable is the ability to skip check-in and security lines, board the plane early, and spend layovers in a spacious lounge with a place to heat baby food or change a diaper. Some of those perks used to be standard for all passengers with small children, but have now gone the way of the hot meal in coach. Some airlines still make travel easier for parents: JetBlue is one of the only US-based airlines to allow you to gate-check a stroller of any size and check your first bag free (checking a bag becomes inevitable with a baby). Gulf Air offers free “Sky Nannies” on long-haul flights for young children, and Lufthansa offers a guide service (for a fee) to escort families traveling through their German hubs. Turkish Airlines (my most frequently-used airline while I live in Istanbul) always offers a “baby meal” and blocks off empty seats when possible to give us more room.

I’m also fortunate to have an easy baby who so far (knock on wood) has been very well behaved on every flight. This is in part very good luck, but also due to the fact that I watch her constantly and head off any signs of crying before they start. I’ll hold and feed her as often as it takes, even if it means I rarely rest anymore on a plane. Many of the same people who’ve given me “the look” when boarding with an infant have complimented me after on her behavior. Brett also notes in his article: “Don’t just sit there while your baby screams. Do everything you can to calm him and people will be more understanding.” This is good advice, but does it really need to be said?! I’d never dream of sitting by idly while my child disturbed other people and I’m embarrassed by any other parents who would consider such behavior acceptable. Still, I recognize that even with the most watchful parents, sometimes a cranky baby is unavoidable but I hope that when/if that day comes, my fellow passengers will see how hard I’m trying to make the flight easier for all of us. Better still, if I anticipate a difficult age for my baby to fly, I’ll look into alternative methods of travel (or postpone until an easier time).

If we are going to ban babies from first class, or even segregate them from adults on all flights, why stop there? Why not a separate flight for the armrest-hogs, the obese, the incessant talkers, or the drunk and belligerent? I’d like a plane full of only frequent flyers, who know not to use their cell phone after the door closes, who don’t rush the aisles the minute the wheels touch down, who don’t recline their seats during drink service or bring smelly food (or nail polish) onto the plane. Start flights for only considerate, experienced travelers and you will find me in the front of the plane, with my baby on my lap.

For more about (considerate) travel with a baby, read my past “Knocked Up Abroad” stories here.

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White Collar Travel: Accelerate your trip to the hotel club-level lounge

Access to a hotel‘s club-level lounge is a small perk. It doesn’t equate to an ostentatious suite, but does rank higher than bathrobes. The amenities are nice, usually consisting of a mix of free food and liquor, but they won’t change your life. For me, at least, the lure of the lounge involved having a place to go that wasn’t my room. I could hit the lounge with a book and relax while sipping a drink. It beat the lobby, which usually had too much traffic for my taste. If I needed to get some work done, the change of scenery was a plus, and the environment afforded a bit more privacy than the public areas of the hotel.

Unless you pay a few extra bucks for club-level access, though, you can only gain admittance through your status with the hotel’s rewards program. This takes time, unfortunately, as the hotel uses the lounge as a way to thank you for your loyalty (translation: spending). There’s a third way to get into the lounge that many business travelers don’t think to try – negotiation. It will only take a few minutes of your time, and it could buy you several months of comfort ahead of schedule.If you’re on a long-term engagement, you will be a frequent guest at the same hotel (unless, for some reason, you choose to bounce around). As early as possible in the project, contact the hotel’s management and let them know your plans. Explain that you’ll be staying with them for a while and that you’d like to be comfortable while you do. Tell the manager that you’d be willing to make your reservations far in advance and would appreciate early access to the club-level lounge. You may not be able to get a room on the club floor, but that isn’t as important as lounge access.

Before you make your case to the hotel’s management, put your case together. If you aren’t on a solo project, ask the other people traveling with you if they want to get in on the action (they probably will, even if they have no plans to use the lounge). Note how long you’ll be staying at the property and calculate how much you’re going to wind up spending there in room expenses alone. Don’t lead with this number, but have it in your back pocket. In all honestly, it probably won’t get that far: when you tell the manager how long you’ll be a guest, he’ll already be doing the math in his head. When you multiply that number by everyone who is on your project, the result is an incredible amount of spending power. It will be noticed, and it will have an impact.

The beauty of the hospitality business (unlike the airlines) is that it really does tend to be focused on the guest. If a hotel’s management sees a promising business opportunity, it has the flexibility to accept it. As a result, guest loyalty increases, and word spreads. And, it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents. Most hotel professionals are simply committed to ensuring their guests have positive experiences. If they can do something to help you, they will. Giving you early access to the club level in exchange for a commitment from you for a long-term stay doesn’t cost the hotel any real cash, but it sure brings plenty in.

Asking for early access to the club-level lounge could be the best 10 minutes you invest.