Weary travelers have a new option for easing the pain of a long layover in one of the world's worst airports: Yotel, a low-cost, high-concept "pod hotel" inspired by first-class airline cabins, opens today in Terminal 4 of London's Heathrow.
Yotel, which launched its first property in London's Gatwick Airport this summer, charges from about $52 for four hours in a standard single "cabin" and $115 for an overnight stay. A double cabin starts at about $82 for four hours and $169 a night.
It's the latest example of a new breed of budget hotels, offshoots of Japan's coffinlike "capsule hotels," that combine snug spaces (rooms are typically 75 to 100 square feet) with tech-conscious design (many feature self-service check-ins, iPod docking stations and free wireless, wall-mounted, flat-screen TVs and adjustable mood lighting).
A look at some major players:
• easyHotel: Part of the company behind Britain's low-cost airline easyJet, these orange-hued hotels are in London (Kensington, Victoria and Earl's Court, from about $52 a night), Basel and Zurich, Switzerland (from about $47 and $49 a night), and Budapest, Hungary (from about $22). easyHotel.com
• Qbic: Open in Amsterdam and Maastricht, Netherlands, Qbic's "fun, sassy and efficient" hotels feature extra-long beds, Philippe Starck bathroom design and vending machines with homemade food from local caterers. Priced from about $57 a night. QbicHotels.com
• Pod Hotel: Rates at the former Pickwick Arms in central Manhattan start at $99 a night for a tiny but chic room with twin bed and shared bath down the hall; double rooms with private bath from $139. ThePodHotel.com
• Nitenite Cityhotels: Open now in Birmingham, England, with expansion plans for New York City, the U.K. and Germany, Nitenite hotels feature ergonomically designed, yacht-style rooms in neutral colors. Rates from about $82 a night, double. Nitenite.com
• Hotel SO: Compact rooms at this eco-conscious hotel, launched last month in Christchurch, New Zealand, include free Internet phone calls. Rates from about $53 a night, with optional $11 "servicing charge." HotelSO.co.nz
•Tune Hotels: Cheap is the byword at this garish red hotel in central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: rates start at about $3 a night, though towels and air conditioning are extra. TuneHotels.com
• CitizenM: Amsterdam's CitizenM (short for "mobile") opens early in 2008. Rates will start from about $101 a night for a room with mood lighting ("any color except tartan") and a king-size bed "as big as your dreams, but not as weird." CitizenM.com