GateGuru - Revolutionizing the Travel Experience

Feb 18

Important Update

GateGuru users –

Recently some users have had experiences using GateGuru that were less than satisfying or even frustrating due to performance issues on our end.  Specific examples of some actions that have taken an excessively long time for some users include emailed journeys not coming down to the GateGuru client as well as failures when doing valid flight searches.  First and foremost, we apologize for those users that are experiencing these issues.  That said, we wanted to give a bit of background into what is going on and what you can expect in the coming weeks. 

 

First the background - many of you may not be aware, but a story broke this past week regarding our hosting and bandwidth provider, Heroku. Without getting too technical, instead of intelligently distributing requests like they used to, Heroku now randomly routes requests.  This has the effect of a request now sometimes getting stuck behind another long-running request, which will then result in GateGuru not getting the information back in time and we are then forced to timeout the operation.

 

With that background behind us, we turn to the more important question - what are we doing about it?  To start, we have recently implemented more granular tracking technologies, which will enable us to get a better handle on where the biggest issues lie.  We have already shipped a few performance improvements that have helped, although they have not solved all of our issues.  Over the coming weeks we will be spending a meaningful amount of time on this situation until performance for our userbase gets back to acceptable levels. 

 

Thank you for your patience as we work through these performance issues.  We will continue to update you as the situation evolves and the performance in GateGuru improves. 

 

Dan

Jan 16

The Best and Worse Airline Lounges

The trend is clear.  Airports are redefining themselves as enjoyable destination spots.  Everyday we see airports emerging with better shopping, eating and even activities. However, there is one place that still tends to be hit or miss – the airport lounge.  In some cases, the lounge is a haven of tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the regular airport area.  Unfortunately, in other cases the lounge is so old, depressing and crowded that we would be better off sitting by the gate, despite our membership.

At GateGuru, we know the power of a great airport lounge.  We also know the frustration that can come from walking into a lounge that isn’t worth the price of admission (even when that price is $0).  To give you the insider’s view, we wanted to highlight the best and the worst airline lounges in the United States.  The rankings are based purely on GateGuru reviews, and encompass everything from furniture, location, staff, food / drink, and other “loungy” factors.  So without further ado…

The 5 Best Domestic Clubs

AA Admirals Club (LAX, Terminal 4) The most popular GateGuru lounge in the US is commended for being large, comfortable and quiet (separate children’s play area).  Top that off with good food and an attentive staff and you have the best domestic lounge in America. It is the best lounge in the AA network and its members come here to “enjoy a shower, views of planes, or a hot meal”.  The staff is consistently described as having a “smile and are happy to help out,” so we aren’t surprised that after many requests for more power outlets, they installed special “power” chairs.    

United Club (IAH, Terminal E) This flagship United Club is modern, very clean, has private showers, and a huge multi-level space (three floors!) with a great staff. Just when you think it can’t get any better you learn that most cocktails are complimentary, including a Bloody Mary that “is awesome.”  Traveler beware though, you might lose track of time in this paradise, so don’t forget to leave in time to catch your flight.

Delta Sky Club (ATL, Concourse C) One might think it impossible to find a quiet oasis in the busiest airport in the world, but alas there is the flagship Delta Sky Club. This club has plenty of room and “awesome window cubes” that allow you to be productive in a quiet environment. The best GateGuru tip is that the lockers have built in outlets inside of them. You can charge your laptop from the safety of the locker while you sit back and relax. Genius, we say. 

 Alaska Airlines Board Room (SEA, Central Terminal) When you think of “best airline lounges” you think of mainly the large airlines.  But the Alaska Airlines Board Room at SEA proves that you should evolve that thinking.  This lounge has it all. The best part of the lounge is the two floors overlooking Concourse C for prime people watching. There are also windows with a view of the ramp and planes. The staff here is extremely friendly and always greeting you with a smile. If you’re here in the morning be sure to stop by for the fresh pancakes! 

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (JFK, Terminal 4) Being one of the newest lounges to the scene, we have high hopes for this location, and so far it has lived up to its high expectations. This lounge is “an oasis for those in the know,” (with GateGuru this includes you!). The lounge has all the shine and style of a brand new lounge – fitting for it being in New York City. The best part is certainly all the amenities to back it up including a full bar, entertainment zone, and a dining area with a la carte meals, desserts, and fine wine.  Given all of this, you will quickly forget that you are at JFK.

The 3 Worst

Delta (ATL, Concourse B) While just a concourse away from their flagship lounge, this Delta Sky Club is a pretty stressful experience.  GateGuru users note that it is always crowded, dirty and has a “totally ineffective layout”. This club shouldn’t even be called a club given how small and crowded it is, even though it was recently renovated. There are only a few outlets and only a subset of them actually work.  As one GateGuru user warns it is “too miserable to spend a complete layover.” Clearly the savvy Delta Sky Club traveler that finds themselves in Concourse B for any extended amount of time immediately heads over to Concourse C and the flagship lounge.

United Club (LAX, Terminal 7) This United Club is dated and subpar. There’s not much food available and the amenities are completely lacking according to GateGuru users. The best thing travelers can say about this club is that it “beats sitting at the gate” but only barely (not exactly a ringing endorsement). The worst thing users say about this place is that it has “fruit flies at the bar” (yikes!).  So if you are in Terminal 7, and find yourself with some time, check out our LAX Layover Guide (hello IN’N’Out!) rather than forcing yourself to spend a few hours in this club.

United Club (ORD, Terminal 2) Travelers deserve more from United at one of their hub airports. The lounge is tiny, cramped and there is hardly ever a place to sit.  On top of that, the lounge itself is not very well kempt.  The one plus of this place is that the staff here is extremely friendly. Our advice, is that similar to the Delta Sky Club at ATL, if you have some time, you should make your way over to Concourse B in Terminal 1, where the United Club is a much better experience.

Dec 03

GateGuru 3.1, which adds back Search By Airport, is Live!

Hi GateGuru Community - 

Thank you again for the feedback that continues to pour in through our support channels (Email, Twitter, Facebook and the App Store).  This has been quite an enlightening week and a half for us.  In the long-run, I think we will look back on this experience and recognize that we learned a lot about our userbase.  In the short-run though, it has been nothing short of painful hearing the frustration we have caused our users, and we are focused on getting things right for so many of you that rely on GateGuru to be a powerful travel tool (and enabling you to use the app the way in which you prefer).  

As you most likely know from our responses and communication, we have been working hard to submit an update to Apple that restores the Search by Airport functionality.  We submitted this (GateGuru 3.1) to Apple on Friday and we are excited to let you know that it has just been approved.  You should see it in the App Store within your Updates either now or over the next few hours (or you can just go straight to the GateGuru page to download the update).  

Please give GateGuru 3.1 a try - either through the Search by Airport functionality or by adding a Journey.  We would love to hear your thoughts on the Search by Airport experience specifically, and on GateGuru 3.1 as a whole.  

Clearly we made a mistake with releasing GateGuru 3.0 without the search by airport functionality.  If you are happy with GateGuru 3.1, and / or how we rectified the situation, we would love a review in the App Store (we got hit pretty hard with GateGuru 3.0 and we would love to get our average rating back up).  You can leave a review by visiting GateGuru in the App Store and tap Write a Review.

As always, thanks very much for the continued feedback along the way.  We hope GateGuru 3.1 gets us back on the right track in your minds.  Again, we would love to hear your thoughts on GateGuru 3.1 via any of the communication links above or feel free to email me directly at dan[at]gateguruapp[dot]com with questions or comments.

Thanks

Dan

PS - A special thank you to our 25 (or so) loyal GateGuru users who helped beta test GateGuru 3.1 to ensure that we put out a product that met their high quality standards.

Nov 26

GateGuru 3.0 Update - Latest News

To the GateGuru community - 

Hopefully you have read our original post regarding the GateGuru 3.0 update and our plans to soon submit an update to the App Store that restores the Search by Airport functionality (so you can view an airport without adding a flight).  I just wanted to give a brief update on the status of our next release (3.0.1) which will bring back this functionality.  

Our team worked hard over the weekend to start to add back the ability to Search by Airport.  We will continue the work on this for the remainder of the week.  We hope to have an update submitted to Apple by next week that re-enables the Search by Airport functionality.  

We are definitely looking for beta testers (existing users) for the 3.0.1 update to give us feedback and uncover any issues that GateGuru users as a whole may experience once the app is released.  If you are interested in helping out and giving your feedback to how we will re-implement the Search by Airport functionality, please email support[at]gateguruapp[dot]com.

Please also feel free to reach out to the above address, or to my personal address (dan[at]gateguruapp[dot]com), with comments, suggestions, frustrations, etc.  We absolutely want to get this functionality right for our user base, so you all can continue to use GateGuru in your travels.

Thanks

Dan 

Nov 23

GateGuru 3.0 - App Store Update Coming Soon

To the GateGuru community,

The past 48 hours have been humbling to say the least.  We have received close to a thousand emails, tweets, App Store reviews, Facebook comments and other forms of communication.  While we expected a vocal welcome to GateGuru 3.0, we thought it would be overwhelmingly positive.  It was not.  While some users (especially new users or those that use GateGuru for flight tracking) loved the new interface and experience, many other users were clearly and immediately upset at the removal of the ability to search by airport, without entering flight information.  

While the negative reaction to GateGuru 3.0 was an incredible disappointment to us, we recognize the need to make things right.  So the short of it is that we are working on an update to GateGuru 3.0 that will include the ability to quickly and easily search by airport, without entering any flight information.  We hope to have it submitted and approved by Apple in the coming few weeks.

While I still have you here, I would like to impart a bit of background and insight into GateGuru 3.0.  This was a product that we spent about 9 months working on.  The decision to remove the ability to search by airport was one that we had a lot of internal debate on.  Ultimately, we felt that we could provide a much better and more consistent user experience for travelers by having them provide us with flight information.  A few reasons why we landed on this side of the coin:

- In the old version, we presented over 200 airports to a user - realistically, as a user you only care about 1 - 3 airports that they are going through as part of your journey.  This was not a great user experience.

- Additionally, many users often knew their airport, but didn’t know their arrival or departure terminal (we often get support emails about this).  This made GateGuru much more cumbersome for finding information quickly.    

- In the new version, once a users enters their flight information, we are able to tell you the airports, terminals, maps, and amenities that are relevant to your particular flight.  In our testing and interviews, this was a really powerful and magical experience.  Based on this, it made much more sense to us to present this customized, personalized, push-based flow.

- We felt that we made the process of entering flight information pretty seamless. If you didn’t want to manually enter your flight information, an even easier way to locate airport amenities in your terminal is register with GateGuru and email us your itinerary (plans@gateguruapp.com) and then we do all of the heavy lifting of figuring out your airports, terminals, amenities, maps, etc. (and matching all of those pieces up using our proprietary database). You can also bring your itineraries into GateGuru by connecting to Tripit or KAYAK.  Once you had any of these automatic ways setup, the user experience with GateGuru 3.0 is so much more powerful than previous versions.

At the end of the day, removing the ability for a user to search by airport was too extreme.  While pulling in all of a user’s day-of travel information may be the right experience long-term, we need to allow users to have access of their day-of travel information in the way that they want it.  

All of this being said, it was amazing to see the outflow of passion for the GateGuru product.  Going from a small idea to a product that has a significant impact on how people experience their day-of travel is truly humbling.  We hope to have the updated version of GateGuru 3.0 out in a week or two and we hope that you will come back and enjoy the powerful 3.0 user interface, while enjoying the ability to look up airports without entering any flight information.

Thanks for your time and continued support,

Dan

GateGuru Co-Founder and CEO

PS - Feel free to continue to email us at support[at]gateguruapp[dot]com, or you can email me directly at dan[at]gateguruapp[dot]com.  We appreciate any thoughts, ideas, comments, etc.  

Aug 23

8 Most Annoying Airline Fees

We love air travel.  The planes. The airports.  Heck even the airport food.  However, these days, one thing drives us nuts about air travel.  This “thing” is that over the past 5 years, it seems as if we have come to pay more in airline ancillary fees than for the ticket itself.  It has gotten so bad, that we can’t remember the last time we booked a ticket, without paying a “fee” of some sort.  While we understand the need for fees (after all that is the only way the airlines actually make a profit), the rate at which airlines have expanded the fees is simply alarming - ancillary fees grew from $13.5 billion to $22.1 billion over the past 3 years alone! 

With that said, we simply couldn’t go any longer without expressing our frustration with some of the more annoying fees the airlines hit us with nowadays.  So we put together a list of our 8 most annoying fees that airlines charge to travelers - starting off with everyone’s favorite, Baggage fees.

1. Baggage Fee:

Your 1st bag is free, but only for domestic flights. Your 3rd bag is half off, but only online. How much can my bag weigh before I have to start paying extra?  Will my checked bag be $10, $15, $20? With no industry standard, travelers are often rolling the dice with the hated “Baggage fee”. While most airlines executives are currently asking, “how much more can we charge for baggage fees”, we also want to take this opportunity to call out those airlines that don’t charge.  With JetBlue and WestJet, your first bag free. On Southwest, you get two bags free!!

 

picture by robef       

2. Change Fee

We know that airlines have extremely complex models for pricing tickets, sometimes defying common sense (a one way ticket from JFK to LHR is $800 while the roundtrip is only $900). The Change fee is supposed to cover revenue that could have been generated from some other customer. The frustrating part about the “Change fee” is when there are empty seats on a flight, and you want to switch at the airport (say for an earlier flight) but you still are forced to pay a fee. It used to be that you could just show up at the airport and fly standby - if there was an open seat, you could just jump on that flight.  Well, those days are long gone. 

3. Premium Economy Fee

Economy class, Economy Plus, Economy Comfort. Did we just say Economy Comfort?  What marketing exec came up with that concept (what then are the rest of the seats in economy)?  Though these classes of economy differ across airlines and planes, they usually include a few extra inches of reclining space and legroom. Are the various “premium economy” seats worth the extra charge? Depending on price, possibly, but we suggest checking out SeatGuru for insight on that question.

 

picture by hildgrim

4. Seat Selection Fee

Do you want to sit in a window seat? How about an aisle seat? Well be prepared to pay a fee. For the longest time seat selection was just part of flying – after all, I buy a ticket on the flight, so I need a seat right?   Well, Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines charge extra for choosing ANY advanced seat assignment. Another trick up the airline’s sleeve is withholding non-preferred seats forcing you to pay extra when you select your seat.

5. Sit Together Fee

A seat selection fee is bad enough, but separating a child from his/her mother? Certainly even airlines aren’t that evil (ignoring the United executives who LOST a 10-year old). It’s not that airlines are targeting families and making them pay more to sit together, its just that they are just making it impossible to buy three seats next to each other without having to pay extra. American, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines have increased the percentage of coach seats requiring an extra fee, often forcing friends and family who don’t want to pay the supplement forced to sit separately. Sounds like we are being penalized for flying in groups. 

6. Boarding Pass Print Fee

If you’re flying Ryanair or Spirit airlines, be sure to print your boarding pass at home. Why, you may ask?  Well, these airlines charge you a fee to print your boarding pass at the airport.  Spirit Airway’s $5 charge almost seems reasonable compared to the whopping $74 charge from Ryanair. Also, don’t assume that having the tickets on your phone is enough, or you might get stuck with a $370 bill!

7. Mile Redemption Fees

It used to be that redeeming frequent flyer miles was simple – 25,000 miles got you a free seat.  Who can remember those days?  Now, a 25,000 mile redemption flight is non-existent (think 35,000 – 50,000 miles) and even if you get one, the airlines start piling on the fees on top of the ticket.  So much for the “free” flight using miles.   

8. Food

We remember the days when you’d get a full meal on a cross-country flight.  Those times are long gone – heck even the days of free pretzels, animal crackers, or gold fish are a distant memory. If you want a snack, be prepared to pay a pretty penny. Some airlines are even starting to think about charging for premium meals on international flights in coach.

So there you have it – GateGuru’s guide to the 8 Most Annoying Airline Fees.  Hopefully the airlines won’t take this practice much further, but with them making enormous amounts of revenue from fees, we expect things to get worse not better.   At this point, our wish list is that airlines don’t start implementing new fees such as a board or deplane first fee, the use of light or air fee, a stretch your legs fee, or a bathroom fee (cut to an airline exec furiously writing an email to revenue management).

 Safe and Happy Travels!

Jul 02

No Fireworks Through Security Please

With 4th of July falling on a Wednesday this year, many people are taking the opportunity to take an extended vacation. In fact, a record number of travelers are expected to hit the road this holiday. Expect the air to be just as crowded. While we wish everyone an eventful firework filled 4th of July, we thought about the best way we could commemorate the holiday for the GateGuru community.  With that, we wanted to take this opportunity to review a few of the latest things TSA has done to make airport screening easier, and then follow that up with a game about what is and isn’t allowed through security.

First, a few updates regarding our favorite airport security department.

TSA PreCheck has been rolling out and expanding. In case you are not familiar (or want a refresher) with the program check out our post from a few months ago. PreCheck is now at 16 airports, expected to grow to 35 by end of year, and available on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways. Not everyone is happy though, as you don’t know until you get to the airport which line you’ll have to go through (so doesn’t help much with planning) and you aren’t guaranteed the fast lane every time.

Secondly, TSA has decided to ease the screening process for certain senior citizens  (based on age). In general, senior citizens who are 75 or older will no longer have to take off their shoes, removed light outerwear such as sweaters, and if they trigger a metal detector they will be allowed to pass through again before the infamous pat down. While this is a step in the right direction, we’d still love to see these rights extended to other groups of travelers.

With TSA updates behind us, onto some fun. We put together the list below to see how well you stack up against other flyers. For each item below, state True or False as to whether the item is allowed through carry on security. For each correct answer, give yourself a point. At the end, see which bracket you fall in. Feel free to test your friends!

Make sure to tweet at us (@gateguruapp) to let us know which bracket you fell in! Use #RoadWarrior

1)   Box cutter 

2)   Lighter (under 3oz of liquid)

3)   Meat cleaver

4)   Ice skate

5)   Cricket bat

6)   Knitting needle

7)   Baseball bat

8)   Parachute

9)   Screwdriver (7inches or less)

10) Hammer

11)  Dry ice

12) Butter knife

13) Deceased remains

14) Snow globes

15) Nunchucks

Answers: 1.F, 2.T, 3.F, 4.T, 5.F, 6.T, 7.F, 8.T, 9.T, 10.F, 11.T, 12.T, 13.T, 14.F, 15.F

1-4 points: please don’t be in our line at security

5-9 points: well-informed traveler

10-13 points: Road warrior

14-15 points: you must work for TSA

May 24

Summer Travel

With summer staring us in the face, thoughts are definitely starting to turn to summer vacation plans.  Given this, we wanted to help answer that age-old traveler question (no, not “should I eat before or after security?” – we already did that for you!); The other question - “Should I book now or wait?”

We all have that friend who watches airlines prices over a several week period, sees the prices go lower at some point, and then finally buys a ticket.  However, this is the exception rather than the rule.  In most cases, you should book the minute you finalize your plans (well, actually wait until the Tuesday or Wednesday after you finalize your plans) Why book now? In short, prices almost always go up.   Feel free to leave this post now to book your travel, or read on if you want to know the actual reasons why prices overwhelmingly go up as we get closer to the summer.

The first reason why this happens is simply supply and demand. Better weather and family vacation means more trips taken. Car, hotel, and airline companies all recognize this spike in demand and they start increasing prices around Memorial Day (aka – this weekend!). As time goes on, supply decreases, raising the prices even more. This macro analysis of seasons holds true on the micro scale of hours too, so look for off hours to travel. Instead of staying another night and catching the first flight out in the morning, take the last flight out the night before. While we all love to hate on the airlines (especially when they start charging us extra for a window seat), in this case, we can’t blame the airlines - we all sold lemonade at a higher price on those hot days.

Another reason that prices increase in the summer is because of the difference between winter grade and summer grade fuel. Without getting too technical (you can read more here if interested), because of seasonal differences winter-grade fuel is able to use more butane (which is cheap) as an additive in the mix of the fuel. It is because of the higher standards in summer that the cost of fuel actually goes up (again, the airlines deserve all the hate we given them, but this is one instance where they actually have a leg to stand-on, versus their lovely $150 change fees).  

Flights to Europe this summer. Forget about it. With a recovering economy, falling euro, and the Summer Olympics being held in London this year don’t expect cheap flights. Over 500,000 international visitors are expected via air. On the busiest days, passenger levels will increase from the average of 95,000 to 138,000. Talk about increase in demand!

Lastly, the airline business is a tough business. Though not unique to the summer, the recent mergers and consolidation in the airline industry does hurt the consumers’ wallet. Continental and United, Northwest and Delta, AirTran and Southwest—and who knows what will happen to American Airlines. Simple economics as we all know, fewer airlines competing mean fewer reasons to drop prices to win your business.  

Apr 13

The Definitive Guide to America’s Favorite Airport Restaurants

GateGuru has created an open forum where travelers can finally voice their opinion on airport amenities, and that is exactly what people have done.  To the tune of 35,000 reviews!  But we don’t want to keep those opinions bottled up just within GateGuru.  Rather we want to free them to the general public so that everybody has access to the knowledge that is contained within GateGuru.

To do that we are going to start publishing the most authoritative list on everything airports.  Best dining, best lounges, best shops, heck best AIRPORTS!  

To start, we have put together the Definitive Guide to America’s Favorite Airport Restaurants.  From casual to formal, this comprehensive list will serve as your guide to airport gastronomy.  So on your next trip, don’t forget to consult GateGuru to see if a favorite Airport restaurant is going to be in your airport or terminal.  Happy travels!


25) Interstate Barbecue (Memphis Airport, Gate B14) - 33 reviews, 4.2 stars

The Quick Summary:“I wasn’t planning on eating in the airport but the smell of this place was killing me.” Quick service, good prices, and great old fashioned Memphis BBQ. Extremely generous with the sauce, this is southern hospitality at its best. 

What the flyers are saying: BBQ Spaghetti. Sounds a little strange, but it’s a specialty of this place and you have to try it.

Best tip: don’t neglect the sides! Potato salad and cole slaw are a must

24) Ufood Grill (Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Gate B8) - 21 reviews, 4.6 stars

The Quick Summary: Tofu, bison burger, unfries (baked fries), steamed brocolli, egg white breakfast burrito, acai smoothie. Not exactly what you expect to see at an airport restaurant but it all tastes good here! Allergies? Not a problem as everything is clearly marked with ingredients.  

What the flyers are saying: “safe, tasty, and healthy food options for everyone.”

Best tip: calories are listed so you can be sure you are making the best selection for you

23) Shapiro’s Delicatessen (Indianapolis Airport, Gate B14) - 28 reviews, 4.5 stars

The Quick Summary:Although tinier than its downtown location, this place still packs all the great tastes into the sandwiches. As one New Yorker said, he was extremely reluctant to try the Rueben but glad he did, as he would “recommend it absolutely.”

What the flyers are saying: “the best Jewish Deli in the Midwest”

Best tip: must get it on rye, “seeing them hand-slice fresh rye bread just made me smile.”

22) Silver Diner (Baltimore/Washington Airport, Food Court) - 31 reviews, 4.5 stars

The Quick Summary:A true diner, something for everyone. Located right at the top of the gates, a very good typical diner with better quality than you’d expect. Excellent service, fair prices, and a 60s throw back feel with mini jukeboxes at each table , this place is well worth the visit.

What the flyers are saying: “Best milkshakes!”

Best tip: don’t have time to sit? Try the to-go kiosk

21) Urban Taco (Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Gate C22) - 55 reviews, 4.4 stars

The Quick Summary:Breakfast lunch or dinner, this spot has something for every meal of the day. Don’t let the food court location fool you, skip the fast food locations for this “tasty beyond tasty” Mexican food.  Signature rice bowls, tacos, or seven-layer salad for a healthy option, you will leave here happy.

What the flyers are saying: a little pricey but well worth it

Best tip: don’t try to eat this on your lap while at your gate, but you can bring it on the plane with you!

20) Chick-fil-A (Atlanta Airport, Gate A10) - 52 reviews, 4.4 stars

The Quick Summary: Limited menu but still the best chicken in the world. Even with long lines and weary travelers, this place gets it done. No lemonade but can’t pass up the sweet tea. Looking for a healthier option? Go with the char grilled chicken garden salad. 

What the flyers are saying: “Any layover in ATL must include a pilgrimage to the almighty delicious chick-fil-a”

Best tip: “always ask for extra pickles”

19) The Salt Lick (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Food Court) - 30 reviews, 4.6 stars

The Quick Summary:Looking for some genuine Texas food at the airport? Look no further. Great brisket, turkey, sausage, and a stuffed potato the “size of your head.” Beware, you will be offered money for a bite if you take this on the plane with you.

What the flyers are saying: “The restaurant is world famous for its BBQ and the little shack at the airport lives up to its name.”

Best tip: Get a plate order instead of a sandwich – much easier to eat.

18) Café Intermezzo  (Atlanta Airport, Centerpoint) - 69 reviews, 4.5 stars

The Quick Summary: An oasis in the midst of fast food junk in the world’s busiest airport. Soup, salad, sandwiches, pasta, sandwiches and treats, the atmosphere here really makes you feel like you are sitting in a café. With two pages of tea options and lobster ravioli, you wouldn’t believe it until you experience it for yourself. Don’t have time to sit? Take it to go.

What the flyers are saying: “So relaxing I almost missed my flight!” Enjoy, but don’t let this happen to you!

Best tip: try the black bean burger

17) Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen (George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Gate E4) - 39 reviews, 4.6 stars

The Quick Summary: Come with a big appetite cause the portions here aren’t small. If you’re looking for Cajun and Creole, this is your place. Not a fan of spicy, they have something for everyone; if you want healthy get your dish grilled with veggies, very gluten free friendly. Lastly, you can’t beat the lunch buffet, great price and solves the problem of having too many good things to choose from.

What the flyers are saying: “Hands down the best airport dining deal anywhere.”

Best tip: “Awesome alligator.”  ‘Nuf said!

16) Nonna Bartolotta (General Mitchell Airport, Gate D38) - 24 reviews, 4.7 stars

The Quick Summary:Keeping true to the Bartalotta’s chain of restaurants, you will only find excellent food and service at this airport location. Whether sitting at the bar (Spotted Cow on tap) or in the “patio” area across from the main restaurant, you won’t be disappointed with pasta or pizza here.

What the flyers are saying: “Salmon pizza for breakfast!”

Best tip: Save room for the gelato!

15) Anthony’s Restaurant & Fish Bar (Seattle-Tacoma Airport, Main Lobby Center) - 46 reviews, 4.6 stars

The Quick Summary:Not only does this place have a great view but also the staff is super friendly and attentive. Their breakfast can’t be beat, even though you don’t think of a seafood place for breakfast (think salmon bagel and other local fare). Salmon and chips is a must with the most reviews, but the Mahi Mahi Taco is a close second. Top it all off with a Bloody Mary.

What the flyers are saying: “Anthony’s wins for best local/regional tap selection I’ve ever seen in an airport.”

Best tip: Go to the bar and they’ll plug your laptop in on their side! 

14) Sushi Maki (Miami International Airport, Gate D29) - 27 reviews, 4.7 stars

The Quick Summary:Sushi here is always fresh and prices are comparable to outside locations. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The fried rice is extremely tasty and big enough for two.

What the flyers are saying: “This place made me a believer that it is possible to have fresh sushi at the airport.”

 Best tip: Ask for a cup to pour your soy sauce & wasabi into – the to-go trays are not very good for mixing the sauce.

13) Chef Jimmy’s Bistro (Denver International Airport, Concourse Center) - 45 reviews, 4.6 stars

The Quick Summary:Don’t think you can find chicken marsala and marinated skirt steak with tomato, basil, and balsamic glaze on an airport menu? Think again. With fast prompt service and over 40 options (you can go for a simple panini, or burger) you might just plan your trips around flying out of this terminal.

What the flyers are saying: “I eat here several times monthly. Never had any menu item that wasn’t good.”

Best tip: Only place open that serves alcohol in the entire airport past 9:30PM; a key for those taking the red-eye.

12) Brioche Doree (Atlanta Airport, Centerpoint) - 35 reviews, 4.7 stars

The Quick Summary: As quick as fast food but the quality of a restaurant. Hidden and a little hard to find (tucked in the corner right next to the bookstore), this best kept airport secret away from the noise is a superb place to get food, and a smile from the staff.

What the flyers are saying: “A hidden gem”

Best tip: Have to try the turkey/brie/ apple sandwich

11) Harry & Izzy’s (Indianapolis Airport, Gate A6) - 22 reviews, 4.7 stars

The Quick Summary:Best sit down restaurant in Indianapolis airport. Tremendous praise for all the food here, prime rib sandwich, fillet sliders, and calamari, you can’t go wrong. With prompt and polite service, Harry & Izzy’s provides you with everything you need for an enjoyable dining experience that makes you feel like you’re not in an airport. 

What the flyers are saying: “Outstanding prime rib sandwich.”

Best tip: Order the shrimp cocktail, but be careful, when they say it’s spicy they mean it!

10) Nature’s Table (Atlanta Airport, Centerpoint) - 25 reviews, 4.7 stars

The Quick Summary: “Not typical airport junk food. Delicious and health conscious!” From fresh squeezed OJ to generous portions of balsamic chicken, this place is worth a trip from other concourses. Tucked away in the quieter Concourse E, this is a great place to come for healthier options.

What the flyers are saying: “ Best fresh squeezed OJ I have ever tasted”

Best Tip: Crew gets a discount

9) Lenny’s Sub Shop (Memphis Airport, Gate B4) - 23 reviews, 4.8 stars

The Quick Summary: Name says it all; this is where you come for a great sub. Only the freshest best tasting ingredients go into the made to order sandwiches here and at a reasonable price.  No wonder there is a usually a long line, but don’t let that discourage you as they know how to keep it moving.

What the flyers are saying: “A really good sub on great bread. The friendly staff keeps the order flowing, so don’t let the line out the door keep you from enjoying a treat”

Best tip: Try to spicy relish!

8) Ivar’s Seafood Bar (Seattle-Tacoma Airport, Main Lobby Center) - 26 reviews, 4.8 stars

The Quick Summary:A great local fast food seafood chain but don’t let that fool you; this place is top quality.  A smart friendly staff trained well to handle the long lines that accumulate here. Smoked salmon chowder, fish and chips, crab cakes, everything on the menu here receives high praises.

What the flyers are saying: “Never had anything here that I don’t love! Have to try the smoked salmon chowder”

Best tip: Go for the grilled options to be healthier.

7) Five Guys (Reagan Washington, Gate 37) - 32 reviews, 4.8 stars

The Quick Summary: Everyone has their favorite burger place, and this one steals the hearts of east coasters. The Idaho potatoes can’t be beat (hint: get them Cajun style). Best part, they serve burgers for breakfast!

What the flyers are saying: “You simply cannot find a better burger or fries… Look for high quality beef augmented by fresh vegetables (jalapenos)!”

Best tip: “Be sure to get a few extra napkins, especially if you plan on eating it on the plane.”  Sounds like our kind of burger joint!

6) Potbelly Sandwich Works (Chicago Midway Airport, Gate B1 ) - 70 reviews, 4.7 stars

The Quick Summary:Don’t let the long line discourage you, this places moves fast thanks to great service, and is well worth the 5-minute wait. You cannot go wrong with anything here; sandwiches, salads, and soups are all worthy, with a special call out to The Wreck. You know you have a winner when you can spot flight crews dining.

What the flyers are saying: “Quite simply…the best food and value you will find at any airport.”

Best tip: If you call when you land, they will prepare your order ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line. Now that’s service!

5) One Flew South (Atlanta International Airport, Centerpoint) – 45 reviews, 4.8 stars

The Quick Summary: Can’t decide between sushi and a sandwich? Come here and have both, paired with creative cocktails to wash it all down! The sushi rolls are fantastic; the pork belly entree receives high praise for those less fish inclined. With a fancy atmosphere and great ambiance, you’ll forget you are in an airport. 

What the flyers are saying: “Proper respect for cocktails.” “Not many eateries are worth buying a plane ticket to get to, but this is one of them.”

Best tip: Despite Atlanta Airport being paid WiFi, the bonus of One Flew South is that it has its own free WiFi!

4) Ike’s Coffee Bar & Cocktails (Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, The Mall) - 25 reviews, 4.8 stars

The Quick Summary: Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the great American menu here is sure to please. A classy joint in a convenient location away from the airport turmoil with décor that will make you forget you are in the airport. The burgers receive the most praise.

What the flyers are saying: “Have to try the vanilla milkshake…just like Grandpa used to make!!”

Best tip: Not the cheapest of joints but you won’t be disappointed.

 3) Garrett’s Popcorn (Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Gate B8) - 29 reviews, 4.8 stars

The Quick Summary:You don’t have to stand on long lines in downtown Chicago to get the classis taste of Garrett’s, yes, the “famous one that even Oprah talks about.” However, one traveler said - “I don’t buy it because of Oprah, I buy it because its good.” Local and global favorite: the Chicago mix.

What the flyers are saying: ““Simply the best stuff on earth.”

Best tip: If you are still on the fence, “ask for a sample, they will give you a small cup of the cheese and caramel to help make your decision.”

2) Vino Volo (Washington Dulles Airport, Gate C3) - 23 reviews, 5 stars

The Quick Summary:Great selection of wine at reasonable prices and knowledgeable staff in an airport? Better believe it. This little slice of paradise is a great place to relax, munch on some food, and have a glass of good wine before you flight. Like the wine you were sipping on? Everything is available for take away.

What the flyers are saying: “An oasis of calm and good taste. What a refreshing experience!”

Best tip: Trust the staff when they make a recommendation. And don’t forget to use the GateGuru coupon for free olives!

1) Amy’s Ice Cream (Austin-Bergstrom Airport, Food Court) - 33 reviews, 4.9 stars

The Quick Summary:For a true taste of local homemade ice cream, this is your place. With the “wackiest/funniest workers” around, expect to have things your way. With innovative flavors like Mexican Vanilla, Sweet Cream, and Sweet Leaf Original and lots of mix-ins like Oreo’s crush, Reese’s crush, and strawberries, the possibilities are endless.

What the flyers are saying
: “They take a craftsman’s approach to making each customized order”

B
est tip: “Get a bottle of Sweet Leaf Original sweet tea to go.”

Mar 16

Bringing Social to the Skies

We’ve all been there before: trapped next to the exact wrong person, on a flight across the country for six hours.  Maybe the thought has crossed your mind – “why can’t I choose whom I sit next to.”  Well now you can (sort of).  So say goodbye to the chatty automotive sales guy and say hello to a business connection with whom you share 3 mutual Facebook friends.  Or perhaps just a quiet companion that shares your desire to be left alone.  Or maybe even a new life partner…

Now, just to take a step back, the idea of enabling travelers to choose their seatmates has been around for a while, but it has never quite taken off (travel puns are so easy :p).  Airtroductions, started in 2005 by Peter Shankman, was the first pioneer in social seating, but it was never able to scale its userbase. 

 

After a few year hiatus, we are now starting to see several startups emerge in the social seating / travel arena including Satisfly and Planely.  With Satisfly, you can connect your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts, and choose what mood you’ll be in, anywhere from Business Talk to Easy Chat to Work. Airlines use the Satisfly software and algorithm to seat you next to an ideal seatmate. If you are connected to someone through your networks, you will be able to see their profile and choose to sit with them.  

Planely is using a different approach to social travel.  Their goal is not to find the perfect seatmate, but rather to give you someone to meet or talk to before or after the flight.  After loading your itinerary, the service will let you know if any other Planely users will be in the same area. Integrating with several services (TripIt, Facebook, LinkedIn), it’s a seamless process towards a more social trip. The beauty of these airline agnostic services is that they don’t tie you down to a particular airline.    

 

This takes us to the airlines.  The pioneer in social travel is Air France, which first developed Bluenity in 2008 and claims to be the “first community for air travelers” (for Air France’s sake, we’ll ignore the similar site launched by Lufthansa two months earlier).  Bluenity, similar to Planely, is more of a social travel service versus social seating, as it allows you to communicate with, and meet people who, also travel Air France; it’s not designed to have you pick your seat based on whom you want to sit next to on one of their flights.

In early 2011 Malaysia Airlines launched a revolutionary Facebook app named MHBuddy that not only allows you to book and check-in to your flight, but also to see if any of your friends are on the flight or if any friends live near your destination. There’s even an overlay of the cabin with seat numbers and pictures of your friends so you can select your preferred seat upon check-in. Malaysia Airlines has been incredibly forward thinking and innovative in the social media landscape and we are excited to see them continue to raise the bar.

 

This takes us to what may be the most ambitious airline social seating initiative to date, launched by Netherlands based KLM, whose program, called Meet and Seat, is designed to allow you to view other passengers’ Facebook or LinkedIn profiles as well as where they are sitting. After you have booked your flight, you can opt-in to connect your Facebook or LinkedIn account, select which details of your profile you choose to share, and also add details about your trip. The service notifies you when new passengers have opted in to share, and you can change your seat as many times as you want.  Profile details will not be used for any other purposes besides Meet & Seat and the data will be removed automatically 48 hours after departure.

The difference between the new Malaysia Air and KLM programs versus the Air France program is that they do not attempt to be their own social networks; instead they build on existing ones.   We think this is definitely the way to go, as far as social seating is concerned. 

The bigger question though is will “social seating” catch on?  We think it is a unique twist on flying, and while it could enhance the experience in the right situation, we don’t see it getting enough traction to become a real feature in the future.  The idea of selecting someone to sit next for 3 – 6 hours, and then feeling compelled to talk to that person for most of the flight seems a bit daunting to us.  There is a ideal scenario where you find that perfect seatmate (future business deal, golf buddy or significant other) but that seems like an exception rather than the rule.  Call us anti-social, but we will opt for a few hours of peace and quiet (or work). 

What do you think?  Would you prefer social seating versus the traditional random model?  Do you think it will work?  Will it come to US airlines?  We would love to hear your thoughts!