The Philosophy of the Airport Hotel

One of the best airport hotels in the world was the Kempinski Munich, recently rebranded as a Hilton.

Price aside (and price matters..) I’ll always pick the property connected to the terminal if there is one, followed by the most recently renovated hotel near the airport.

I love airport hotels as a rewards member, where hotel loyalty programs price awards based on a property’s average daily room rate. Airport hotels tend to have low room rates on average, lower even that what consumers usually see, since they tend to have large and inexpensive airline contracts bringing down those rates. Airport hotels can be a steal on points, even as their public-facing rates can be very ‘lumpy’.

Currently I view the best New York JFK airport hotel as the Hilton. That’s not saying much. The Hilton O’Hare, attached to the terminal, is the preferred option there. (Although the Intercontinental, now Loews, is a fabulous property – a better hotel – just less convenient.)

The Grand Hyatt DFW is attached to the international terminal and is an excellent hotel in its own right.

Near LaGuardia the Sheraton is best. At Pittsburgh, the Hyatt. In Detroit, the Westin. In Los Angeles.. well, there are no great options, the Sheraton is tired but among the best. The Concourse Hotel could challenge it now that it’s part of Hyatt and seeing renovation. There’s nothing I’m fond of near San Francisco.

It’s hard to beat the Bangkok Novotel Suvarnabhumi.

Or the Hyatt Regency Incheon. The Premier Inn Abu Dhabi airport is more than serviceable, largely because it’s new.

I’ve spent many nights at airport hotels, whether flying to and from destinations abroad or for conferences where they tend to be cheap.

So I was fascinated by the Hilton ‘philosophy’ of airport hotels. (HT: Alan H.)

Conrad Hilton pioneered the airport hotel concept with the launch of the San Francisco airport property in 1959. It basically served as a big billboard that directed a lot of eyeballs toward Hilton’s new hotels worldwide and the reality of international travel for more consumers.

“Conrad thought that if people had a good experience in San Francisco, the next logical stop was Tokyo, and so on…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve overnighted at the CPH Hilton and find it a fantastic option, especially considering how few of the US main brand chains are in that country.

  2. I want to support the airport hotel that says in big letters on its website “24/7 on demand airport shuttle, no exceptions, no breaks, no excuses.” Heck, how many even put their shuttle schedules on their websites?

  3. I don’t do overnights at airport hotels very often. If I’m coming back through HKG, I’ll grab a room in the city.

    The one airport hotel I have used was the Hilton ORD. Yes, it was more expensive than some of the neighboring properties, but I had the cash and was with my dad. And OMG, was it nice to get off the plane and hit the hotel, and in the morning just stroll on over at my leisure without fighting the shuttle bus issue.

    When I transit HKG, it’s so easy to get into the city that I stay there if practical. Other times, I’ll include a day or two in HKG on the way back so I can see the city.

  4. Thinking of airports where I stay regularly…

    The Hilton attached to BOS is a nice hotel – I choose there when I have to stay near Logan even though I’m a Hyatt diamond member. The Logan Hyatt is less convenient.

    SFO doesn’t have good options, but the Hyatt there is decent, although I don’t really like atrium hotels generally.

    I would be very happy if someone could build a decent hotel at YYZ – right now the Crowne Plaza is probably best, but it’s still very mediocre and a long shuttle ride.

    ATL is also lacking in good hotel options – I’ve tried a few and they are all generally crappy.

  5. I’ve always loved the Westin at SFO. The hotel is perfectly located for plane watching, right down to the small walking park across the street with benches where you can watch planes coming and going. The adjacent Aloft is another gem in that vein of service.

  6. At ORD, The Hilton Rosemont is my preferred hotel. 10 times better than that attached, overpriced “thing”.

  7. I stayed at the Kempinski Munich last year. It’s my favorite airport hotel so far. Reasonably priced. Very convenient to the terminal. Good rooms. Great service. And best of all: you can take your luggage cart to the hotel room. Perfect, when you have two 70 lb bags + carry ons. 🙂

  8. I’m with Rapid Travel Chai and I know VFTW feels the same. That shuttle makes it a valid airport hotel or simply a hotel somewhere that calls itself one. They should all put on their website the frequency, hours of operation, cost (if any) and method of using the shuttle.

    The Mexico City Hilton is another quality example, located right inside the terminal. No need for a shuttle for that one.

  9. My favorite airport hotel has long been the Fairmont at YVR. It’s truly a beautiful hotel. I’ve stayed there twice and loved it each time—especially on the Fairmont Gold floor. Highly recommended.

  10. Another vote for the Hilton CPH
    The enclosed walkway, train stop and the attached airport and garage.
    It has everything

  11. The Hilton at Terminal 4 in LHR is fine and the Sheraton at FRA
    The Hilton and Sheraton at CDG can be reached with the airport trains, but they are a hike at times

  12. Not a glamour airport, but the Hyatt at MCO has a pretty hard to beat location literally atop the terminal.

  13. @ Sunrise089 — Agreed. The MCO Hyatt is a terrific option for a 7 am flight out of MCO. My wife and I have used our annual free night certificates from the credit card (category restricted) a couple of times there. A nice hotel that is insanely convenient for MCO.

  14. Maybe this is true in North America & Asia, but not my experience in Europe. Both the Hilton property connected to LGW & the Sheraton connected to FRA were both INSANELY expensive.

  15. At PHL the Doubletree is a good value on points. Convenient shuttle, good breakfast for diamond members, and best of all a whole week of airport parking for just $40.

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