For the Up in the Air screenwriter and director, a passageway at Chicago O’Hare International Airport transports him to a traveler’s state of mind.
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Credit: Rob Rich © 2009

Everyone who travels through Chicago will tell you about the tunnel that connects Concourses B and C in O’Hare’s Terminal 1. First, you descend by escalator, and then you find yourself on a moving sidewalk, surrounded by neon lights and soothing music. There’s something oddly calming about it. It’s a sight-and-sound transition into the air world—almost like a dissolve in a movie. This moment of escape, being en route, is what George Clooney’s character experiences so often in Up in the Air, and I wanted to capture that feeling.

“As a kid, I used to go to movie theaters to be alone, and now I cherish time by myself in airports. Air travel is the last refuge for people who enjoy being alone. As soon as I go through security, I’m surrounded by strangers. My only companion is the person in seat 17J—you find out about occupations, even life philosophies. You have conversations you would never have in any other place.

“Only citizens of the air world can be present in the Terminal 1 tunnel. You’re carried along on moving sidewalks between concourses, people are coming or going, and it isn’t just the way it looks but the way it sounds. The architect decided not just to connect two buildings by a tunnel, but to incorporate a specifically designed musical score that takes you from one place to another. It was a brave decision.”

Reitman’s latest film since Juno, Up in the Air, which follows a man (George Clooney) on a mission to reach 10 million frequent-flier miles, is in theaters now.

Must-See Airport View

Denver’s United terminal overlooks six busy runways. Denver is the airport I thought of while writing Up in the Air.”

Unique Airport Feature

“When you disembark at Vancouver’s YVR, before you get to customs, you walk through a forest scene filled with woodland creatures and fake trees and wilderness sounds.”

Hospitality in the skies “I love getting a warm chocolate chip cookie when you’re upgraded to first class.”

En-Route Essential

“A Kindle (; $259) is indispensable. Now I’m reading Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir by Christopher Buckley.”

Top Meal In Chicago

Giordano’s Pizza (40 locations in Illinois;, for the deep-dish pepperoni pie.”

All-Time Favorite Hotel

“London’s Covent Garden Hotel (10 Monmouth St., 800/553-6674 or 44-20/7806-1000;; doubles from $476).”

Covent Garden Hotel

In the heart of Covent Garden and Theatreland, this secret retreat comes with a fabulously artsy milieu. The spacious 58 bedrooms and suites give a nod to British colonial style (think luxury Kenyan game lodge with dark-wood antiques), and though traditional in design, the hotel doesn’t feel chintzy or outdated. Instead, it’s become a hot spot: the lively bar and brasserie fill up with stage actors and media types who spill out of the Royal Opera House and 21 theaters that are all within walking distance.

Room to Book: The four-poster suite with its 10-by-10-foot bed.