I just flew through JFK on my way from Maine to SF and REALLY enjoyed the new post-security rooftop lounge at Terminal 5/Jetblue (it opened in July 2015). There was a dog run, tables and chairs, two faux-grass lounging areas, a dirty water hot dog vendor and most wonderful of all…sunlight and fresh air!
I spent over two hours of my 3-hour layover doing yoga al fresco and reading in the sunshine, which made the next 6 hour part of my flight more bearable. What a revelation for a fresh-air junkie like me. I hate staying in hotels where the windows don’t open, and being trapped inside an airport on a nice day is just gross. It was such a nice break from the canned air of the plane and the terminals to be able to get outside.
Not only did Jetblue open the new beautiful roof deck, they are taking the project to the next level—with a full-on farm. They can’t grow any plants that will attract birds, so they are growing 1,000 potato plants (eventually to make the blue chips they serve). The garden took 3 years to get approval, and the airline partnered with GrowNYC to get the mini-farm going and to connect with local healthy food organizations.
If an airport farm sounds odd, that’s because it’s a pretty different idea: “If it sounds crazy from the outside, it sounds mind-blowingly dumb inside an airport community. A lot of people raised their eyebrows,” Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s manager of sustainability, told NPR about the project’s inception.
But it’s taking off (Ha!) and the formerly empty roof space is going to be used to grow garlic, basil, mint, arugula, and onions, and even lavender—and they’ll be inviting local schoolkids to use the space as a learning laboratory. It’s currently closed to the public but will open in a few months.
Jetblue’s not the only airline realizing that the travel experience needn’t be so indoor. The new Star Alliance lounge at LAX opened at the end of September, and part of that is open to the sky (again, post-security). Of course, the lounge isn’t open to everyone (only those who pay the big bucks to fly business or first class), but it’s a step in the right direction and looks beautiful.
Of course, some older tropical and Caribbean airports have a more indoor-outdoor feel and always have. When I fly in/out of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii I especially love that it’s mostly breezeway and gardens (so is its sister airport in Kona, which is more updated and is a series of thatched huts connected together). Last time I was there a butterfly landed on me while I was waiting at baggage claim, no joke. Talk about Aloha spirit!
I also loved the new Punta Cana airport in the Dominican Republic, which I flew into last year— it’s all thatched roofs and open air breezeways, very mellow place upon arrival.
More outdoor-accessible airports, please!