American Airlines delays start of Chicago-Beijing flights

Yesterday, American Airlines was scheduled to start a new non-stop route from Chicago O’Hare to Beijing – but a last minute snag has forced them to delay the launch. American had requested a preferential take-off and landing slot from the Chinese Government, but was handed slots for a 2:20am arrival, and a 4:40am departure – making the whole thing pretty useless.

American Airlines is working behind the scenes to negotiate a better schedule, and as of right now, the first Chicago-Beijing flight should leave on Tuesday May 4.

Customers who were supposed to be on the inaugural flight are being offered a full refund or free date change to the later flights. Of course, nobody knows yet whether those dates will stay put, or what the final departure and arrival times are, so keep checking for updates.

Delta Airlines adding hourly Chicago <-> New York service

Delta airlines just announced the introduction of 22 new daily flights between Chicago and New York. The new flights will be operated as Delta Shuttle flights, and will start June 10th.

The new hourly service out of O’Hare replaces current Delta flights between Chicago Midway and LaGuardia.

Delta obviously means business – because they are also going to offer free coffee and newspapers at the gate, which will be located as close as possible to the terminal 2 security checkpoint.

More flights on this route means cheaper fares for everyone, because the other airlines will clearly be paying attention to this increased capacity. Delta kiosks will be available for same-day ticket purchases.

The route will be operated by an Embraer 175 jet – with 12 seats in first class, and 64 seats in coach. Because this is a narrow body jet, there are no middle seats. The flights will offer Delta’s “enhanced shuttle service” which means meals in first class, and free wine and beer in all cabins.

Layover: Chicago O’Hare

If you are flying across the country, or heading abroad, then chances are you’ll be passing through O’Hare International Airport.

The airport itself is not a horrible place to be, but it is hardly the kind of location you’d want to spend a large portion of your day. As an international gateway to (or from) the United States, O’Hare is pretty unimpressive. So, if you find yourself stuck at the airport on a layover, check out some of these tips on how to survive.

Of all the major airports in the country, O’Hare probably has the least to offer in the way of entertainment and shopping – but its location also means you won’t really be able to leave unless you have more than 4 hours between flights.

Shorter (2 hour) layovers

Unless the prospect of walking from terminal to terminal appeals to you, you’ll probably want to stay in your own terminal. You can walk from terminal 1 to terminal 3 (there is no terminal 4, and terminal 5 is not connected to the others by walkways).

Terminal 1 (occupied by United Airlines) has a fairly underwhelming assortment of your average airport food, but it is also home to a Berghoff cafe, selling “authentic” German food, sandwiches and of course Berghoff drinks. You’ll find Berhoff’s in the C concourse of Terminal 1 by gate 25. One other “highlight” in Terminal 1 is the Billy Goat Tavern in the food court located in concourse C.

Don’t fall for the “authentic Chicago pizza” or “Chicago hot dog” stands located throughout the terminal – they are not authentic, unless authentic is code for overpriced and bad.

Right behind the TSA security zone in Terminal 1 is a replica dinosaur, on loan from the Chicago Field museum. Next to this dino is a Field museum store, which is great if you want souvenirs for people, without actually having to visit the museum itself.

Terminal 2 is home to a Children’s play area. It is a pretty long walk from the other terminals, but may be worth the trek if you need to entertain kids for any length of time. A similar play area can also be found in terminal 5 (International terminal).

Terminal 2 is also home to a small medical facility, where you can get a quick checkup or flu shot (in the winter season) as well as other immunizations.

American Airlines takes up most of Terminal 3, which happens to be the terminal with the best assortment of concessions. Sadly, this terminal is also one of the worst to navigate, and moving from one are to the next can easily take 20 minutes. The terminal is also cramped, so on a busy day you’ll be stuck in walking traffic.

There are virtually no stores at O’Hare Airport, especially if you are used to nice international airports like Hong Kong or Amsterdam. Of course, you’ll still be able to find the usual assortment of Hudson News, Brookstone and the Sunglass Hut, but don’t expect to find any cool stores where you can waste any of your time (or money).

If you have the time and energy to leave the secure area of the airport, you can head towards the (connected) airport Hilton, where you’ll find a decent bar, health club and even a tiny underground hotdog joint. Just keep in mind that the trip back through airport security may take up to an hour.

If you decide to stay in the airport, you can also splurge and get access to one of the many airport lounges. Unless you are an elite member with access rights, expect to pay about $50 the the “privilege’ of a couple of free drinks. If you are stuck at the airport for just a few hours, I’d suggest saving your money and not bothering with the lounges, none of them are really worth your money.

WiFi is available in the entire airport, access is $6.95 per day. The airport is also home to several free charging stations where you can power your gadgets for the next leg of your trip.

Longer layovers (+4 hours)

Downtown Chicago:
O’Hare is about 13 miles from downtown Chicago, but this still translates to a 45 minute train ride. During the day, trains operate every 10 minutes and are fairly reliable. On weekends, the transit authority is often doing construction work, so be sure to check before you get on a train or you may lose valuable time with a bus transit between closed stations.

Once downtown you can of course enjoy the 1000’s of things Chicago has to offer, as long as you keep an eye on the time. If you have the time, try taking a quick trip to Millennium park by taking the Blue line (from O’Hare) and getting off at Clark/Lake. Change to the Brown line and get off at Randolph/Wabash. It’s then a short walk to the park. Other destinations worth checking out are the stores on Michigan Avenue or one of the many museums.

Unless you are 100% sure that traffic is light, I would not recommend a cab – it’ll take longer, and cost substantially more than public transit.

The area around O’Hare:
O’Hare is surrounded by a whole lot of nothing (mainly offices), but there are still a couple of gems within 10 minutes of most terminals. Muvico is an all-digital movie theater just 10 minutes from the airport. The theater also features are very decent restaurant. You can get to Muvico with a $10 cab ride, or a 5 minute train (from O’Hare to the Rosemont station), followed by a 10 minute walk.

Rosemont is also home to a large convention center, so check out their schedule, perhaps there is something really interesting in town.

Rosemont is not much more than hotels, restaurants and the convention center, but it is also home to some very good restaurants. In the main “hotel row” of the village you’ll find a Mortons, Gibsons and Carlucci’s.

Cheaper food can be found towards the Allstate Arena area with a Steak and Shake, Panda Express and a Target. It may be boring, but it’s only an $8 ride away, and may be a simple way to kill some time.

7 fantastic airport restaurants from around the world

When I started traveling as a young kid, I was perfectly content with one of the bad cheese sandwiches served on Air UK.

Nowadays I’m a little more spoiled, and am often on the lookout for good food on the ground, as many airlines have stopped serving anything decent (or anything at all) once you are on board.

Here are 5 airport restaurants from around the world that stand out amongst the usual McDonalds and Chilis junkfood.

Gordon Ramsay Plane Food at London Heathrow

There is more to Gordon Ramsay than yelling at kitchen staff on TV. He owns and operates a large number of restaurants around the world, including one in the recently opened Heathrow Terminal 5.

Plane Food serves food all day, including a fantastic breakfast lineup. How about a nice Croque Madame with pan fried quail’s eggs before your flight? Or if you are in a hurry, you can even pick up one of their amazing picnic meals with treats like a roast beef, truffle and watercress sandwich. It sure beats the usual Big Mac people bring on board their flight.

Location: London Heathrow Terminal 5, unit 29
Website: Gordon Ramsay Plane Food
Opening hours: 5:30am-last departing flight (casual dress code)

Berghoffs at Chicago O’Hare

Berghoffs Cafe has been a Chicago icon since 1898. German immigrant H.J.Berghoff made a name for himself when he sold his beer at the 1893 worlds fair.

The downtown location is well known for its authentic German food, but the airport location offers a more limited menu. You’ll still find delicious corned beef sandwiches, but also pizza and basic mexican food. Of course, the airport location also sells the signature Berghoff beer and root beer.

Location: Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Terminal 1, Concourse C, Gate 25
Website: Chicago O’Hare concession listing
Opening hours: 5:15 am-10:30 pm

The Caviar House at London Heathrow

The Caviar House has long been one of the more upscale airport concessions. What started with just a handful of airports, has now evolved into over 15 worldwide locations. The first one I can remember was at London Heathrow Terminal 4 (Heathrow now has one at each terminal).

The Caviar House sells Caviar (duh), Salmon, Oysters, and many other seafood products. To compliment your snack, they also have a fantastic lineup of Champagne and Vodka. It isn’t cheap, but since many people passing through the airport are on their way to a vacation, it could be the best way to start off a great trip.

Location: London Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 and 5 (as well as 10 other international airports)
Website: The Caviar House
Opening hours (London Heathrow): T1,2,3: 7am-9:00 pm, T5: 5:30 am-last departing flight

JFK Terminal 5/JetBlue

With the launch of terminal 5, New York JFK airport suddenly went from one of the worst airports in the world, to one of the more decent options.

Unless I was flying British Airways (with lounge access), I always dreaded flying through JFK. Of course, it took a low cost airline to bring some luxury to JFK. When Jet Blue moved into Terminal 5, they brought along a great lineup of restaurants.

For once, someone decided to design an airport terminal without filling it with the usual suspects. The T5 restaurant lineup includes Aeronuova (an Italian eatery), 5ive steak and Deep Blue Sushi.

Even the food court food court has a good assortment with Cheeburger Cheeburger, Fresco Pasta and Belgian fry joint Pommes Frites.

In total, you’ll find 20 different restaurants and bars at JFK Terminal 5.

Location: John F. Kennedy International airport, Terminal 5 (Jet Blue terminal)
Website: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Opening hours: varies per restaurant

Airbräu at Munich International airport

Airbräu opened at Munich airport in 1999, and is the only restaurant in the world to bring an authentic Biergarten to an international airport. As far as I can tell, they are also the only airport facility where you can order a 10 liter beer and have yourself one heck of a party.

Of course, Airbräu also has a pretty comprehensive menu offering everything from pork sausages to roast duck and of course, Schnitzels.

The funniest thing on their menu is the “Hang Mans Lunch”; for 95 Euro cents, you get a glass of water, a bread roll and a cigarette.

Location: Munich International airport in the concourse between terminals 1 and 2.
Opening hours: 8am-1am daily

The noodle bar at The Wing – Hong Kong International Airport

This entry in my lineup is a little unfair as it is not accessible to everyone. The noodle bar at The Wing is inside the Cathay Pacific lounge at Hong Kong Airport.

To get into The Wing, you’ll have to be flying in Business Class or First Class (or be a top tier elite member of the airline). Once inside, you can grab yourself a bowl of freshly made noodles from the self service bar.

I’ve been to the Wing several times, and absolutely love it. If you are leaving on a late night flight, the place is usually quite peaceful, and having access to free noodles (and free beverages) is a fantastic way to start your trip.

Location: Hong Kong International airport – right after the security checkpoint
Opening hours: 5:30am – last departing flight

In De Bonte Koe – Amsterdam International airport

Amsterdam airport has always been a great place to spend some time. Between their massive assortment of stores and the airside Casino, you’ll always find something to do. The airport has its fair share of generic fast food places, but they also
offer a couple of more upscale choices.

One of them is “In de Bonte Koe”. This establishment is decorated like the famous 17th century Dutch ship, De Bonte Koe. The food choices are fairly basic, but since it is above the main terminal, it is a great way to escape the crowds.

Location: Amsterdam Schiphol International airport, Lounge 3, 2nd floor
Opening hours: 11am-7:30pm

Our Readers Respond:

* John says: “You know, a good Cornish pasty and a pint of real ale at Newquay Airport in Cornwall beats just about any other airport food ever.”

* Marilyn Terrell says: “If you’re hungry at Dulles airport and it’s not time for breakfast, I’d suggest local favorite burger joint Five Guys, which serves a juicy (messy) burger with free toppings. They also serve fries, and a sign will tell you what state the potatoes are from that day.

* Anne says: “I wholeheartedly endorse the Cuban restaurant in the Miami airport: La Carreta. You have to leave security, and re-enter, but let me promise you: it is worth it. Delicious rice and beans, Cuban sandwiches, tostones, the works. And the best possible mix of clientele–from baggage handlers to tourists. It’s also a great place to kill some time, as I’ve never had a flight leave from Miami on time.

* Zach Everson says: “Legal at Logan (Boston) and Reagan (DC). A chain now, but an excellent one. Chappy at DC is a great bartender.”

** Alan says: Try Vino Volo at multiple US airports, including BWI, JFK, etc. Good wines, good atmosphere, neat snacks. Its a good place to take a break. [Also,] two airports with diners…NJ Diner at EWR and Silver Diner in the Southwest Terminal (Concourses A and B) at BWI. Putting in all the chrome at BWI cost an obscene amount, but it really is a different look for the airport. [Finally,] California Tortilla at BWI and DCA…fast Mexican food, high quality. The street locations are more fun, but the value is still there at the airports.”

** Scott McMurren says: “In Seattle, the Pacific Marketplace food court is fabulous. My absolute, standout favorite is Anthony’s walk-up Fish Taco stand. They typically have Mahi Mahi and Rockfish. I go for the Rockfish. There’s also a Wolfgang Puck restaurant on the C Concourse to grab a pricey Caesar Salad to go….oh-so-much better than anything served on board, IMHO. There are TWO delicious wine bars that serve some glorious vintages by the glass. High marks!

** Coreyo says:at Kansas City International Airport you can get classic KC BBQ and KC beer at the Boulevard Brewery with Arthur Bryant’s BBQ”

** Heather says: “The best sandwich in the world is called “The Wreck” available at Potbellies at Chicago Midway. The staff is no frills and even when the line goes all the way out the door the wait is never long.”

Virgin America Delays Start of Service from O’Hare

Virgin America has been flirting with Chicago O’Hare for several months now. The airline had hoped to launch its service in the fall of ’08, but, obviously, that isn’t going to happen. Now Virgin is telling fans that the first take-off from the famously busy airport will be in Spring of next year. Fair enough. It hasn’t been a good year for airlines. Why not back off and wait for calmer skies?

But the delay has nothing to do with economics. At least, that’s what Virgin is saying. Rather, the failure to launch from ORD is due to the high demand for gates at the airport. O’Hare was not able to provide the gates that Virgin wanted because they are already being used. That is not a new scenario for those familiar with the airport. Even hyped and hip airlines like Virgin have to wait in line like everyone else. But don’t fear, jet-setting hipsters of Chicago, Virgin America will be losing its O’Hare cherry soon enough.