Great Layover: Vancouver International Airport

US arrivals hall
Courtesy of YVR

Ugh. Layovers. We’ve all had to while away the hours at airports, but regular travelers know that every so often, a layover can be more respite than penance. Such is the case with Vancouver International Airport, a modern marvel with art and architecture to die for.

In addition to high-tech design that includes soaring ceilings, lots of skylights, and sculpture from the region’s indigenous tribes, there’s a leafy, indoor aquarium/park area ideal for destressing, and loads of boutiques and food outlets that are a notch above the standard airport fare.

What makes YVR (the airport code) equally distinctive, however, is the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel. Sure, other hotels have airports, but have you ever stayed in them? What you usually get is a musty, generic, not terribly hygenic, overpriced room, and a complete lack of serenity or style. The Fairmont, by contrast, is an oasis not only for guests, but travelers just passing through on layover. Read on for the best ways to spend your layover at YVR (for once, you can hope it’s a long one).

vancouver airport parkCourtesy of YVR

Some people like to get their layover exercise by strolling the airport shops, and YVR doesn’t disappoint. Be sure to pick up some pure maple syrup, maple cream cookies (delish) and smoked salmon in Duty Free or at one of the specialty shops. But if you’re looking for a serious work-out, consider dropping $15 to use the Fairmont’s health club, pool, and jacuzzi.

Afterward, soothe sore or travel-fatigued muscles at the luxe Absolute Spa. In addition to massage, there are the usual pampering facials, body treatments, and mani-pedi’s. Or perhaps you’d prefer to unwind over a drink (Canadian whiskey, anyone?). Hit up the swanky Jetside Bar or GlobeYVR restaurant, which has floor-to-ceiling, sound-proof views of the runway. Jets literally take off from just yards away. And yes, there is great airport food: think creative, seasonal PNW fare, with some ingredients (notably, honey, herbs, and greens) sourced from the Fairmont’s own hives and gardens (most of the chain urban farms on their rooftops; this being an airport, a separate farm is located nearby).

exterior fairmont vancouver airportCourtesy of Fairmont Vancouver Hotel
Should your layover require an overnight, business meeting, or other function, the Fairmont YVR is definitely the place to be. It’s also convenient to downtown, because the clean, speedy Canada Line public transit system connects to the airport. Be sure to take advantage of the transit by visiting the outstanding public market on Granville Island (which will require a short cab ride or walk from the rail system, FYI), or hopping off in buzzing Yaletown, home to Vancouver’s trendiest shopping and dining. Outdoorsy types will want to connect to a bus that will take them to sprawling Stanley Park, with its miles of hiking trails.

The 300+ rooms at the Fairmont YVR all overlook the runways, either for arrivals or departures (again, soundproof glass makes for stunning, yet quiet, visuals). Some rooms are equipped with telescopes; one floor is reserved for hypoallergenic bedding and skin products. Other rooms are pet-friendly. The natural light is plentiful, the bedding plush, the bathrooms cushy (suites come with hand-hewn jade from a British Columbian quarry). With accommodations like this, layovers are…fun.

room at fairmont vancouver airport
Courtesy of Fairmont Vancouver Airport

Vancouver itself is a progressive, outdoorsy city that takes full advantage of its stunning location nestled in the Coast & Mountains region. But even if you never make it past the airport, it’s sure to leave you with a positive impression that leaves you longing to return.

US Grounded On World Airport Awards, But Shopping Great At Heathrow

World airport awards

As a top honor in the world airport industry, the World Airport Awards rank the best airline facilities on everything from how they operate to airport hotels, shopping and more. To determine the winners, actual travelers from over 160 countries take part in an annual airport satisfaction survey.

A global benchmark of airport excellence, the survey pool is deep. The World Airport Awards results use the answers to 12.1 million questionnaires completed by 108 different nationalities passing through 395 airports during the nine-month survey period in 2012 and 2013.

On top? Singapore Changi Airport took top honors, followed by Korea’s Incheon International Airport, a Gadling favorite, then Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. U.S. airports fared fairly well, coming in with 15 spots on the World’s Top 100 Airports ranking.

While no U.S. airports made the top ten (again), the top three U.S. airports are: Denver International Airport at number 36; San Francisco International, which ranked 40th; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which squeaked into the top 50 at number 48.

But in the top ten, multiple-award winner London’s Heathrow Airport (number 10) was voted best for shopping too. Boasting over 700,000 of high-end retail space, here are some of the more than 500 shops that air travelers can choose from.

%Gallery-185376%It was a good year for Heathrow, which won the World’s Best Airport Shopping award for the second time, rounding out the top ten list. In addition, Heathrow’s $9 billion Terminal 5 was named as the World’s Best Terminal Building in category listings.

Some other interesting wins:

  • Best Airport Security Processing- Copenhagen
  • Best Airport Immigration Service- Kuala Lumpur
  • Best International Transit Airport- Incheon
  • World’s Cleanest Airport- Tokyo Haneda
  • Best Airport for Leisure Amenities- Singapore
  • Best Airport Dining- Munich
  • Best Airport for Baggage Delivery- Zurich

The World Airport Awards survey was conducted from May 2012 through March 2013.



[Photo credits – Chris Owen/Heathrow Airport]