Roy Exum: Gate D-2 In Minneapolis

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I’ve been on a lot of airplanes in my life, as the million-miler badge from Delta on my battered satchel will attest, and that means I have been in a lot of airports. But when I had a lay-over in Minneapolis several weeks ago, I got to see the future and, I am here to tell you, there is the most eye-opening experience a frequent flier will ever witness at Gate D-2 in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

I was reminded of my adventure of finding an oasis in the teeming desert of endless corridors and worn-out waiting rooms when it was announced this week that the Chattanooga Airport Authority is saying a bitter goodbye to the company that has operated the restaurant and concessions business at Lovell Field. Air Host, a Memphis based company that has become a huge disappointment, will be gone by the end of September and will be replaced by Tailwind Concessions.

To buy out the Air Host contract will cost the Airport Authority almost a half-million dollars but the Tailwind group, based in Wilmington, N.C., promises to pay back the buyout with increased sales. We hope this will mean (much) better food, beverages, newspapers and magazines, along with other services that airports in all but Third World countries routinely deliver.

True, the Chattanooga airport lost its sparkle several years ago and parking is a huge mess. Most of the time it resembles a ghost town but not long ago I found it was cheaper to fly from Chattanooga to Minnesota than from Atlanta or Nashville. It was a wonderful experience with far less hassle and the airplane was packed, lending credence that other travelers are also discovering the better pricing from Lovell Field.

On the way back home, the Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta originated from the most unbelievable waiting area I have ever seen. You enter the main gate area through what appears to be a beautiful bazaar of food, beverages and anything a traveler could possibly want. There are huge, well-kept hot and cold food tables where you serve yourself in containers in a way similar to Whole Foods. You dish up whatever you want – the big Styrofoam container is weighed at $9.99 a pound if memory serves me right – and the selections are astounding.

There is regular yogurt, Greek yogurt, and mounds of fresh fruit. Along one wall are all kinds of gourmet coffees, a cooler with every bottle of preppy iced-tea and fruit drinks that are hard to pronounce, and 18 or so varieties of water. That’s right, just water. The whole concept is so upscale, fresh, and high tech it is invigorating There are made-to-order gourmet sandwiches, creative salads and packages of hard-boiled eggs, fresh grapes, and things you have never seen outside a grocery store.

Forget TSA inspectors making you pour out any liquids. This is at the gate, far from where you take off your shoes, and with airlines now charging for food and drink, you can load your satchel with everything from peanut M&Ms to two cold bottles of Gatorade. I’m telling you, it is fantastic, but the real kicker is when you arrive at the ticket counter itself.

They had very few of the old side-by-side row seats. Instead there was this huge restaurant-type seating area and at each seat was a fixed iPad. There was room for food or a newspaper but the iPad offered free personal Internet to each person in the waiting area. It flashed a menu from the restaurant next door with the promise whatever you ordered would be delivered within 15 minutes or be absolutely free. You could check your email or watch the news or play a game.

I would estimate 70 percent of the passengers were savvy enough to be enthralled rather than sit terribly bored waiting for the flight to be called but, for the record, the flight attendant still gave the laborious speech of how to put on a seat belt. In a car they’ll give you a citation but they still give lessons on our modern jets – go figure.

Yes, it was a little pricey – have you noticed that everything good and fresh and jazzy is today? But it was no more than you would pay at any airport where modern-day highjacking has moved from the cockpit to airport lounges and cafes in recent years. Moreover, it was great fun to be in a throng of waiting-room strangers who all seemed happy and content.

I am the first to recognize that Chattanooga can’t play in the same league as Minneapolis, where over 33 million passengers were seen last year, but as we strive to make the Chattanooga airport sustainable, the waiting area should certainly be more than rows of benches with a counter holding three very-tired muffins and vending machines that offer Diet Coke for $2.50 per pop.

Tailwind Concessions will take over in a temporary way Oct. 1 and a modern, updated build-out will be ready by February of 2014. If they need any ideas, go to Gate D-2 in Minneapolis. It is the future of air travel and evermore a sight to see.

royexum@aol.com


Why The Big Money In District 1 School Board Race? - And Response (2)

With the influx of money from Lookout and Signal Mountains as well as the teacher’s union, one of my opponents has already been able to send out 3-4 mailers, two letters and a postcard. One should ask why would the “big money” people on Lookout and Signal Mountains care about a school board race in District 1? The only answer is control and they know they cannot control me. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Jerika’s Last Dance

There is a horrifying disease called spinal muscular atrophy type 2 that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. What happens is the nerve cells in a person’s brain stem and spinal cord slowly die and, without the ability to voluntarily control your muscles, your body withers away in one of the most painful ways you can imagine. Jerika Bolen, age 14, can’t stand it any longer, nor ... (click for more)

County Schools Receive Community Gift For Almost $1 Million To Fund Public School Bible History Program

Bible in the Schools presented a community gift for nearly $1 million to the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) to reimburse 100 percent of the costs of funding a Bible history program in 18 public schools for the 2015–2016 academic year. Enrollment data for 2015–2016 reported 3,582 students in grades 6–12 elected to take a Bible history classes. “This gift from the ... (click for more)

DA's Office Defends Suspended Sentence In School Bus Driver Rape Case

The District Attorney's Office defended a controversial suspended sentence in a rape case involving a substitute county school bus driver. Prosecutor Jason Demastus said the victim, who was 15 years old at the time of the March 2015 incident, was in agreement on the plea and refused to testify against Alexander Rodriquez. Rodriguez, 34, last Thursday pleaded guilty to ... (click for more)

Dunbar Promoted To Head Wrestling Job At Ooltewah

J.D. Dunbar had been promoted to head wrestling coach at Ooltewah High School. Dunbar, an assistant with the Owls’ mat program since 2012, becomes a head coach for the first time at the high school level. He replaces Bryant Blackmon, who recently resigned. The 36-year-old Dunbar is also the school’s strength and conditioning coach and assistant head football coach on ... (click for more)

Another Big Week For Chattanooga Football Club

More than 10,000 fans gathered at Finley Stadium last Saturday to see a 5-3 penalty kick win over Miami United.   CFC keeper Gregga Hartley made a save and scored the winning penalty kick, helping his team to advance to the national semifinals on Saturday.  They will host Sonoma County Sol at 7:30 in the comfy confines of "Fort Finley"  Chattanooga is the top ... (click for more)