Ever stayed at an airport hotel? I have. Talk about bleak. Think Lubyanka prison without the charm. Vending machines instead of restaurants. Guest rooms with all the warmth of a doctor's office. But Hilton Hotels & Resorts thinks it's time to change all that, to give airport hotel guests the comforts they would expect in a full-service property. Here's how:
Last July Hilton unveiled the Hilton Rosemont at Chicago/O'Hare (shown at right). It has more than 300 rooms and suites, swimming pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant "modeled after the great American grills of the 1920s," which sure beats the heck out of walking through the hotel parking lot in quest of a burger and brew at the closest Bennigan's or Fuddruckers.
That same month, Hilton opened the Hilton Beijing Capital Airport (shown at top), described as "China's first luxury airport hotel." The property features floor-to-ceiling soundproofed windows, a spa, retail outlets, pool, health club, wine and cigar bars, and a piano bar. A piano bar, I say!
Next on tap in Hilton's quest to upgrade the airport hotel scene is the Hilton Frankfurt Airport (at left), scheduled to open in either February 2011 (according to the publicist) or March 2011 (according to the website). This one will have most of the same amenities as the other two, plus landscaped atriums and a medical center.
While other forward-looking hotel companies are also bringing modern conveniences and extras to their airport lodgings, Hilton has the jump on them: The company introduced the very first airport hotel, in San Francisco, in 1959.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.