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Mini-suites offer airport travelers retreat by the hour

Compass

Many a weary traveler has curled up on the floor of the airport or set up camp in a corner next to an outlet. But no more.

New mini-suites, called Minute Suites, are opening up right inside the terminals to give passengers a chance to sleep on their own private daybed, use the workstation, or just watch a movie – without having to leave the airport and go back through security. Suites are already open in Philadelphia and Atlanta airports, with more set to open in March at Dallas-Fort Worth and next year in Chicago.

The idea is to create a small respite from the hustle and bustle as travelers wait out delays and layovers. And, when the company first did market research testing the idea, they were met with an overwhelming response from tired airport-goers. “We struck a raw nerve,” said Daniel Solomon, CEO of Minute Suites.

Since the first five suites opened in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2009, Solomon said 40,000 guests have “checked-in,” with over 60 percent of them using the time to nap. The rest either use the desk and workspace or simply relax and watch TV.

The suites, located right in the busy concourses, are $32 for the first hour and $8 for each 15-minute segment after that, with discounts available after four hours. Because the rooms don’t come with plumbing – guests have to use airport bathrooms – they aren’t hotels, but simply tiny retreats staffed by college students in hospitality.

While some airports in Europe and Asia pioneered similar concepts with small pods or boxes for travelers to take naps, so far Minute Suites is the only provider of these rooms in the U.S. Other companies have attempted nap stations or mini-offices, but they have mostly been unsuccessful.

One issue raised during the approval process in Chicago was concern about illicit behavior in rooms rented by the hour. But, Solomon says it’s just not a problem. The locations are staffed; airport security can always check on people; and, mostly, passengers just want a chance to rest, relax, or get work done.

Solomon, himself, knows what that’s like, having racked up nearly a million miles over the years. “I certainly know the pain of the weary road warrior,” he said. “I am my own biggest customer.”

The main issue he has, besides winning over the travel industry, is finding the right location inside the terminal for a new set of rooms. Because the turnover of airport vendors is low, it may take some time before mini-suites are at an airport near you. But, with a national ad campaign from Chase Bank about to roll out featuring Minute Suites, Solomon is optimistic that tired travelers will find their way to his rooms.

“Our goal is to have one in every commercial airport worldwide,” he said.

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