In airport news this week, new technology could soon be coming to TSA’s carry-on bag screenings; Oakland Airport gets its first premium lounge; National Car is opening “pop-up” airport lounges for Emerald Club members; San Jose introduces robots; and better Wi-Fi is coming to Boston Logan.
Starting next week, members of National Car Rental’s Emerald Club will have a new lounge option at five major airports. The rental firm said it will bring back free “pop-up” lounges for Emerald Club members at Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Sacramento, St. Louis and Washington Dulles. They’ll remain in place through April, then move to other airports for the summer, National said. All will be located post-security in one terminal per airport; they’ll be open 24 hours, but only staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Users will get free Wi-Fi, charging stations, and access to tablets and TVs for checking flight status, sports, news and weather information.
For years, the Transportation Security Administration has relied on traditional x-ray technology to see inside travelers’ carry-on bags – not always with great results. But those machines could be replaced soon with a more effective technology, according to a report from Bloomberg News. It said that the CT scanners currently in use behind the scenes to inspect passengers’ checked bags could be adapted to serve the same purpose for carry-on bag scans. “Instead of the two views of a bag generated by the current machines, CT scanners shoot hundreds of images with an X-ray camera spinning around the conveyor belt to provide screeners with three-dimensional views,” Bloomberg noted. Among the benefits of using that technology for carry-ons: Passengers would no longer have to remove liquids and laptops from their bags.
A mid-November opening is expected for the first premium passenger lounge at Oakland International. Operated by the U.S. division of Britain’s Manchester Airport Group (MAG), the Escape Lounge will be available to all travelers on a pay-per-use basis, for a fee of $45 on site or $40 if booked in advance. The 2,700 square foot facility can accommodate 50 travelers, and will have separate zones for relaxing, dining/drinking and work. Food will be supervised by Oakland chef Chris Pastena, whose restaurants include Calavera, Lungomare and Chop Bar. Admission fees cover food, drinks and Wi-Fi. MAG also operates an Escape Lounge at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, and it just opened one at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.
Mineta San Jose International has rolled out – literally – a trio of friendly robots to help travelers find their way around the facility, giving directions to gates, shops and restaurants. Users can even take a selfie with the devices, which are equipped with 32-inch touch screens and were developed by a South Korean firm called Future Robot. You’ll find them at Gates 11, 21 and 25. Information can be displayed in six languages.
The board of directors at Massport, which oversees Boston Logan Airport, has voted to revise its contract with Boingo, the provider of the airport’s free Wi-Fi service. Massport said a new pilot program starting this month in Terminal E will increase the allowable free Wi-Fi session time limit from 45 minutes to four hours, and will also boost connection speeds. In addition, users will see a new single-click link to the Wi-Fi without ads. The pilot program will run through March. Massport said passengers at Logan currently make 24,000 Wi-Fi connections per day, with an average session time of 88 minutes.
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