Photo courtesy of Michael Spears and D/FW International Airport
Sleeping or working in between flights seems almost impossible in a crowded terminal, but that's the sort of idea Minute Suites tries to take advantage of, starting at $34 for an hour.
Currently open in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Dallas/Fort Worth International airports and set to open in Chicago, Minute Suites offers private suites inside airport terminals with a sofa and a sliding trundle, pillows, blankets and a sound-masking system to reduce outside noises in a busy airport. Customers are also encouraged to take advantage of high-speed Internet, DirecTV and up-to-date flight-tracking information in each room to ensure no customers miss their flights. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport even offers shower rooms as part of their Minute Suites.
"It's a traveler's retreat," DFW's Assistant Vice President for Airport Concessions Michael Baldwin said. "To be able to retreat and catch a nap for an hour, you could do that, you can stay overnight, it's getaway...So it's really a very accommodating program. And I think it gives travelers the next level of customer service and exceeding expectations."
This sort of idea almost sounds too good to be true.
A complaint heard several times about the concept of Minute Suites is that a location that rents itself by the hour can be used for -- ahem -- hourly activities. A City Council meeting at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago had Minute Suites promise they wouldn't become "no-tell motels" before the council would okay the development of a Minute Suites in that city.
Karen Pride, director of Media Affairs for the Chicago Department of Aviation, told Hair Balls that meeting in one of these rooms for a quickie or even prostitution is unlikely to happen. She reminded Hair Balls that the only way to enter the terminal is as a ticketed passenger who has to go through security first.
"The Minute Suites company has a track record, and they haven't had any problems that we're aware of," Pride said.
These sorts of concerns examine city ordinances from several years ago, when the city of Houston considered banning pay-by-the hour hotels. City Attorney David Feldman told Hair Balls this was opposed by hotels near airports or truck stops, which argued they might rent to a pilot or driver who could only stay for a brief period. The city settled instead for city ordinance Section 28-14 of Chapter 28, which prohibits hotels from knowingly renting to prostitutes.
That could be a reason Solomon is so quick to remind everyone that Minute Suites is not a hotel but rather a "traveler's retreat" or an "airport hostel."
According to Baldwin, Solomon is committed to his program and prides himself on a well-trained staff, partnering with the University of North Texas in Denton to provide students work opportunities in a professional setting.
"I think it's going places," Baldwin said. "Honestly speaking, I think we've just hit the tip of the iceberg to how it applies with customers' expectations and what they're going to be looking for. It's like at some point someone told you that you need an iPad or an iPhone or some kind of unique device for communication. You didn't know that years ago, but today you can't live without it almost. So what's going to happen with this whole nap-center concept and where it's going?"
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Unfortunately, opening at George Bush Intercontinental Airport here in Houston doesn't seem to be in the near future, as Solomon refused to speak with Hair Balls, adding that after talking with the airport, they both felt it was at too preliminary a stage to discuss any plans for Houston.
Darian Ward, a spokesperson for the Houston Airport System, told Hair Balls that Minute Suites had looked at coming to Houston in the past, but couldn't determine a location. She said that if an available location could be identified and does not pose a conflict with the airport's Host Hotels contract, they would explore the possibility of opening a Minute Suites in Houston.
Baldwin said Minute Suites would be good for Houston to have, but if we didn't, that would be fine by him.
"Houston doesn't have to do it because people can keep flying through D/FW and take advantage of our customer service, so I'm happy with that," Baldwin said. "But Minute Suites is a great concept, and we're very excited about it."