Monday, February 9, 2009

Improving The Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Experience

Since an airport is one of the first things travelers will see when arriving into any destination, it only stands to reason that it should offer the best possible aesthetic and welcoming image. At Cleveland Hopkins, I am sure most of the needed improvements can be accomplished by reaching to the depths of creativity by those who's building renovation specialty is taking a rather mundane situation---and making people turn around and say "WOW!" after all the construction dust clears!

Improvements at Hopkins to make a big difference could be as follows: Let me start with the INSIDE of the airport…..


First there are obvious improvements to be made. Start by removing dropped ceilings and adding some skylights to open up the place and make use of natural lighting. Fresh coats of paint with timeless colors that will not look too dated in 5 years, and natural stone flooring would make a notable immediate difference in the otherwise dated facility. Oh, and please, NO MORE CARPET!!! Carpet in such places like airports or malls, where there are high volumes of foot traffic, does not only present a dirty germ laden condition (as carpet is actually a dirty thing), it also presents an ongoing cost factor to have to replace is ever 10 years or so. As far being cleaner, a timeless, and better flooring alternative that will add in making the place seem more roomy and less 'boxed-in' would be natural stone tile. It is also durable. In fact, the original flooring IS tile. As in Chicago O'Hare, for example, the only place I think carpet is acceptable is in places where people wait for flights in the chairs.

Other basic improvements could be a better selection of stores---many should be local "Cleveland" entities like Great Lakes Tavern, or Malley’s Chocolates, and local coffee shops that actually serve coffee in a glass mug should you chose to sit down at the establishment---and not serve it in wasteful styro-foam. Real classy, Starbucks! Please no more Starbucks!

Now how about basic cleaning at our airport? Better and more frequent washing of windows, and maintenance around door jams and frames as such gets used a lot would make small but noticeable differences. Having cleaner restrooms is something that good management should never have to be reminded about for an airport---or any place where a higher volume of people travel. It should be an ongoing thing all day every day as soon as crews get a break to go in and clean.

Now to address some of the d├ęcor and things that promote Cleveland and N.E. Ohio for visitors. I would suggest adding a lot more local artwork that displays the history, human made and natural, of Cleveland and the region. We need to put on a show for visitors who may happen to be wondering what the region offers in terms of things to do, places to go. This can be achieved by asking the visitors bureau to make their information booths available in more areas where travelers exit planes.

This brings us to the people who we see everyday at the airport. As for the staff at Hopkins, I am often surprised at much of the 'dead head' attitude of much of the help. These people, and their attitudes is not the first thing I would want visitors---or locals to experience when coming into or going out of our city. We need to hire people who are actually enthusiastic about living here, KNOW what the region offers, and people who want to see it become better. Yes, we DO exist amidst the pervasive culture of the Cleveland/North East Ohio inferiority complex.

Hopkins should not be hiring or maintaining people who exercise no class, and give us a bush league simple image, by shouting at their fellow employees from across the halls talking about what they are going to do Friday night and so on. It really is embarrassing for those of us who are proud of our city and trying to do good things here. Again, why this is important for the airport people to really have this sink in their heads is because the airport and personnel is what visitors will first likely encounter here. Overall friendlier help at the airport does much to leave people with a better image of your city and people.

Better signage and cleaner better lit RTA facilities would round out my immediate improvements on the inside of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. .


Now for the OUTSIDE…..


Airports are often in areas where the air quality is really bad. Traffic from cars, planes is commonplace, naturally. We are next to Ford and Ford is next to the airport---and this does not make for the freshest air around. People getting off of flights which contain bad air to begin with usually cannot wait to step outside and get some fresh air. Since airport air is not exactly a fresh breath of country air, we should do all we can to ease the poor air conditions.

What can the airport do about this? Simple...plant many more native tree species suitable for the grounds. (Ala Orlando--Beautiful!). This will make the airport look much nicer outside of the terminal. Trees filter air and provide oxygen, as well as offer a general healthier feel. Kindly asking smokers to stand clear of doors would be a plus. I personally do not enjoy inhaling second hand smoke the second I walk out the door, or have it whisked back inside by opening and closing doors---and people going in and out---if I am awaiting my baggage!

Better landscaping, litter clean-up and follow up on maintenance would be very noticeable as well. Just offer a little more earth and a bit less concrete as a general rule--and try implementing NATIVE OHIO plant species. I also notice that the airport can do a better job in sprucing up the outside building look as well by maybe painting, cleaning existing facades , and keeping up after litter bugs...maybe pressure washing certain areas as well. Better cleaning of the outside terminal structure needs to be performed, and that means maybe some pressure washing from time to time, or a new coat of paint.

Lastly, we NEED to employ a recycling program. Many airports have recycling programs. Why have we not joined the progressive examples? Airports generate an incredible amount of senseless waste. Can we do a little to at least show wee care? These are some of the improvements I see should be implemented at our airport. Many are simply BETTER and basic maintenance and follow up routines--which require a staff that actually takes pride in its work. The others are renovations that can be all completed in a year or more. Seeing the changes should not take 10 years. Oh and by the way, for people groaning about walking too far in the terminals. I say this to you….Unless one is totally incapacitated and cannot move there is no excuse to not get off your rear and walk. You will have plenty of time to sit and cramp-up on flights or rides home. North East Ohio should be the last place anyone complains about walking because obesity and laziness is out of control.


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