Airport Check-in: Memphis vs. smoke ban; trans-Atlantic style


Airport seeks smoking exemption

Tennessee's new anti-smoking law prohibits lighting up in enclosed public places. Memphis International Airport officials believe an exemption should be made for its restaurant patrons.

Two restaurants at the airport — the Blue Note Cafe and Maggie O'Shea's — have been issued notices of potential violations, and state officials are reviewing whether to pursue enforcement action, according to a report by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, which first reported on the flap.

Smoking is still allowed in over-21 bars, hotels and motels. But airport facilities aren't granted the same exemption because "They are enclosed facilities within an enclosed facility," Carter Garner of the Tennessee Department of Health told the newspaper.

The airport contends that the law would force connecting passengers to go outside to smoke and undergo the hassle of re-entering security checkpoints. Sara Hall, the airport's general counsel, says the bars have "sophisticated ventilation systems" that provide safer air-quality levels than the law requires. She also contends that the secured areas aren't truly "public," because only ticketed passengers are allowed.


OpenSkies takes off between JFK and Paris

OpenSkies, a new premium-class trans-Atlantic airline from British Airways, launched its first flight last week from Paris Orly to New York John F. Kennedy. The carrier, which operates a Boeing 757 with 82 seats, offers one daily round-trip flight between the cities. It's the first airline to start flying after the new "open skies" agreement that liberalized air travel between the USA and Europe.

British Airways spokesman John Lampl says OpenSkies hopes to avoid the fates of other premium trans-Atlantic airlines that recently failed by marketing to business and leisure travelers.


Revamped website upgrades features

Dallas/Fort Worth International has new features on its revamped website, Travelers can now use the new interactive flight tracker to receive flight information and gate location via e-mail. A handy terminal map and search function let travelers find the locations of airport shops, restaurants and lounges, plus where each airline's gates are. The site also features an interactive map that details all onsite parking facilities and prices, plus provides access to the airport's audio status reports.


Daily flight to Mumbai, India, added

Jet Airways, one of India's largest airlines, has launched daily service from San Francisco International to Mumbai, India. The flight, which will use Boeing 777s, stops in Shanghai en route.

It's the first direct service to India from SFO, airport spokesman Mike McCarron says. The Bay Area has a large population of Indians who work in the technology industry.

"It's nice for the high-tech connection from India to Silicon Valley. It's really exploiting the link, and it's a good route for them," he says.


Concessions upgrade coming soon

Mineta San Jose International is planning to revamp its concessions. In the next two years, new national and local chains of retail shops and restaurants will dot the airport, including Hudson News, Life is Good, Illy cafe, Peet's Coffee and Gordon Biersch. Among the 23 local shops that will open at the airport are Hicklebee's children's bookstore, Schurra's candy store, Chiaramonte's Deli and Paolo's Restaurant.

Once the work is completed in 2010, the airport will have about 43,000 square feet of concessions vs. 23,000 square feet now. It's part of the airport's $1.3 billion plan to replace and renovate aging terminal facilities, including a new Terminal B that will replace Terminal C and an upgrade of Terminal A.


Ground broken on new terminal

San Antonio International broke ground on a $134 million passenger terminal that will replace the aging Terminal 2. The eight-gate Terminal B, which is scheduled to be completed by 2010, will bring the total number of gates at the airport to 35.