Airport Check-in: United spoils preferred Chicago fliers

CHICAGO

Go to the front of the line

United Airlines uauathis month plans to open a check-in lobby at Chicago O'Hare for its best customers. It'll be located near United counters used by preferred customers, and available to first-class passengers on international flights and members of Global Services, United's most elite group of regular fliers. In the new lobby, United staffers will process bags, handle tickets and passports, and escort passengers to the front of security lines.

SANTA ANA, CALIF.

What's in a name, Pilgrim?

Local tourism officials are proposing a name change for John Wayne Airport, which provides the only commercial air service in Orange County. They'd prefer Orange County/John Wayne Airport.

Gary Sherwin of Orange County Tourism Council says the current name is "very confusing" for travelers because it doesn't refer to a destination.

"We don't want to take his name off the airport, but we do want clarity," Sherwin says.

Tourism officials are meeting with members of the Wayne family this week and hope to get approval from the county board of supervisors this year, Sherwin says.

The airport was originally named Orange County Airport, but local political leaders renamed it when the actor, a longtime county resident, died in 1979.

Orange County has been enjoying a national spotlight brought on by TV shows such as The OC, Laguna Beach and The Real Housewives of Orange County. The shows feature the county's beaches, surfing culture and balmy weather.

SAN JOSE, CALIF.

New and improved

Mineta San Jose International late last month began tearing down the north end of Terminal C to clear the site for construction of the new Terminal B.

It's part of the airport's $1.3 billion program to replace and upgrade terminals, roads and parking by 2010. "We will be building up, tearing down, upgrading and replacing most of our terminal facilities" in the coming months, the airport said on its website.

The demolition work, to be completed in the next several weeks, will be done late at night to minimize disruption of flight services, spokesman Dave Vossbrink says. Terminal B is expected to be open in mid-2010, and will replace Terminal C, the airport's only building for many years following its opening in 1965. Terminal C serves a majority of airlines at the airport, including Continental, Delta, United and JetBlue.

CLEVELAND

Shopping upgrade

Cleveland Hopkins has signed a deal with BAA USA to overhaul its concessions. BAA USA, which runs its Airmalls at Boston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore/Washington, plans to bring a similar concept to Cleveland, President Mark Knight says.

The 10-year contract calls for BAA to be the master developer of airport concessions, and will result in the "at least doubling" of concession space in two years, Knight says. He didn't commit to specific stores, but says passengers can expect a lineup similar to other Airmalls. Among the stores it runs at other airports: Clinique, Gap, JoS. A. Bank men's clothes, Borders and T.G.I. Friday's.

BALTIMORE

Honoring achievers

Check out a new art exhibit at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport later this month celebrating Black History Month. Scheduled to run Feb. 21 to April 30, the exhibit will feature 18 works by local artists. It will be on the upper level of the international terminal.

Every Monday, we report on the latest news in airports across the USA. See something noteworthy in your travels? E-mail your suggestions to ryu@usatoday.com.

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