For too long, the airport hotel has been regarded as a soulless purgatory for the most transient of travelers: a (usually) wallet gouging means-to-an-end for travelers with canceled flights or a series of corporate group meetings. But the winds have shifted in recent years. Tired utilitarian accommodations are being elbowed aside by newer transit hotels with ever-better technology and business services, eye-catching style, and amenities previously seen only at upscale resort properties (spa treatments and pillow menus, anyone?).
And while there are still some major airports begging for smart hotel options (we’re looking at you, JFK and LGA), others have raised the bar for this formerly utilitarian stay.
Below, we highlight seven domestic airport hotels that are first-class options for business travelers.
The pool at the Aloft San Francisco Airport (Photo: Aloft)
The Hotel: Aloft San Francisco Airport
Where It Is: It’s on the edge of Millbrae, located a half-mile south from SFO, with free and frequent shuttle service 24/7.
Why We Like It: Although it’s more of a stylishly practical spot to bed down before an early morning flight than it is a long-term work space, we like this two-year-old Aloft for its convenience and quiet — and that it doesn’t sacrifice a fun design. Guests skew younger and less corporate than the typical business road warrior.
Best Amenities: The hotel encourages time out of your room, with an indoor pool and backyard patio space adjacent to the bar (DJs and live music on weekends). The lobby contains old-timey board games and a pool table.
Dining Options: It’s limited to grab-and-go sandwiches and salads or light snacks at the typically busy bar.
Pet Peeve: The business center is actually an extension of the open air lobby space, so if you need a spot for private meetings or quiet work time, you’re out of luck.
The Details: 252 rooms, rates from $169.
A guest room at the Custom, in LA (Photo: Custom Hotel)
The Hotel: The Custom Hotel, Los Angeles
Where It Is: It’s about one mile from LAX’s main terminal — accessible by free shuttle service (running 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.) — and a mile and a half from the beach.
Why We Like It: The tongue-in-cheek mod ’60s décor and relaxed vibe attracts younger road warriors who blur the lines between work and play (think communal tables with power outlets, a small pool with cabanas). Staff uniforms are a nod to the airline uniforms of the era. Small but otherwise well-equipped rooms come fun with LED mood lighting.
Best Amenities: Like all of Joie de Vivre’s tech-friendly properties, there’s free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. Multiple lounges include a quiet “relaxation” lounge with leather massage chairs (for guests in the premium Elevated room category) and — quite the opposite — a Xbox-equipped “gaming” lounge with surround sound.
Dining Options: Lobby breakfasts are $14 and the outdoor/indoor American comfort food–inspired restaurant is open for dinner. There are a number of decent restaurants within walking distance and several that deliver to the hotel.
Pet Peeve: High parking rate ($27!) and tiny bathrooms.
The Details: 250 rooms, rates from $189.
The inviting pool at Miami’s Element (Photo: Element Miami)
The Hotel: Element Miami International Airport
Where It Is: The three-year-old Element is a 10-minute shuttle ride from Miami International Airport and next to the rental car center. Although the immediate area is undeveloped, the hotel is set within gated grounds.
Why We Like It: A bright, clean design incorporating natural light, an eco-friendly ethos, complimentary breakfast, and (free!) in-room Wi-Fi make it an attractive alternative to the usual ho-hum mid-range airport options.
Best Amenities: Suite-size rooms with kitchenettes (and a proper couch), an outdoor pool, and evening firepit give the property a resort-like feel. Its environmental initiatives include a fitness center with pedal-powered generators on stationary bicycles.
Dining Options: Not many, unless you’re up for cooking (there’s a 24/7 grab-and-go pantry on-site). A new lobby restaurant is set to open in late summer. Until then, there is a free shuttle service to neighboring restaurants within a three-mile radius.
Pet Peeve: Overhead noise from planes. Earplugs are provided.
The Details: 209 rooms, rates from $109.
The outdoor pool — with runway views at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport (Photo: Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport)
The Hotel: Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport
Where It Is: Located between Terminals A and B, an elevator ride up to level 4.
Why We Like It: The convenience is hard to beat for early-morning flights. Guestrooms are quite large and many come with balconies for watching planes take off and land.
Best Amenities: The hotel has its own airline check-in counters and offers luggage retrieval and delivery services. Its fitness center is well-equipped and the outdoor pool allows for an outdoor escape.
Dining Options: Two greatest-hits American restaurants (breakfast, lunch, dinner), a lobby-bar menu, plus 24-hour room service satisfies most palates.
Pet Peeve: The complimentary in-room Wi-Fi is too slow for downloading documents or streaming. Upgraded bandwidth tacks on a $15 per day fee.
The Details: 445 rooms, rates from $189, day rate (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is $99.
The Westin Detroit Metropolitan (Photo: Westin Detroit Metropolitan)
The Hotel: Westin Detroit Metropolitan Hotel
Where It Is: The hotel lobby is directly down an escalator from the corner of the Edward H. McNamara/World Gateway Terminal (where Delta and Air France is based).
Why We Like It: This is the easiest commute to/from your gate, as the Westin is built into the terminal. Many rooms face the bamboo-filled, spa-like atrium lobby. Small but equipped, flexible workspaces for up to four people can be booked by the hour ($75 per hour). The hotel has a small indoor pool and adjacent whirlpool.
Best Amenities: The Westin comes with its own private security line into McNamara terminal (carry-on luggage only). Guests can obtain a permit to enter the secure side of the airport for shopping or dining.
Dining Options: Along with 24-hour room service, there’s a casual restaurant and cocktail bar in the lobby atrium.
Pet Peeve: A $10 charge for in-room Wi-Fi. The business center also charges fees for Internet use.
The Details: 404 rooms, rates from $242.
The Hilton Chicago O’Hare (Photo: Hilton Chicago O’Hare)
The Hotel: Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport
Where It Is: Immediately across the entrance from Terminal 2.
Why We Like It: Location, location, location — the ultra-convenient 41-year-old hotel gives the ultimate edge in a city whose weather can wreak havoc on airline schedules for half the year. Automated phone check-out lets you go straight from your room into O’Hare.
Best Amenities: Room categories include Runway View and Allergy-Friendly (hypoallergenic bedding, air purifier, hardwood flooring). Note: The indoor pool, hot tub, and steam room are closed for renovations until August 15.
Dining Options: There’s 24-hour room service in addition to a grab-and-go sandwich café, a 12-screen sports bar, an all-day Italian restaurant, and a live music cabaret restaurant.
Pet Peeve: Again, there’s a daily charge for in-room Wi-Fi use.
The Details: 858 rooms, rates from $259. Day rate (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is $99.
The Grand Hyatt towers over the terminal at Dallas Fort Worth Airport (Photo: (@JohnstonDavidL/Twitter)
The Hotel: Grand Hyatt DFW, Dallas
Where It Is: The hotel lobby is an elevator ride up from the departures level of International Terminal D, and accessible by SkyLink (airport train) and Terminal Link (airport shuttle bus) to the other airport terminals.
Why We Like It: In an airport so vast it has its own zip code (75261, for you trivia buffs), the Grand Hyatt is that scarce high-class haven located within the airport, providing pillow-top beds and speakerphones in spacious, soundproof rooms, round-the-clock services, and hyper-efficient staff.
Best Amenities: In addition to a 24-hour business center and dozens of meeting rooms, the hotel has a full-service spa, 24-hour fitness center, and an outdoor rooftop saline pool. (A $30 day pass to the gym and pool is also available for non-guests.)
Dining Options: The hotel covers most of the bases with upscale American and sushi restaurants, a bar/lounge (casual menu includes smoked brisket flatbread, lobster mac ’n cheese), and a café that brews illy coffee. Similar to the Westin Detroit, hotel guests can obtain a permit to access the airport’s restaurant and shopping areas past security.
Pet Peeve: In-room Wi-Fi requires a fee ($10). The lobby offers free Wi-Fi.
The Details: 298 rooms, rates from $229.
Lisa is a freelance writer and editor covering lifestyle, the arts, and travel. For 15 years she was a senior editor at Conde Nast Traveler. She lives in New York City with her husband and three sons.