While you're preparing for that trip to see loved ones over the holidays — or waxing your skis — at the airport we're also buttoning things up for winter.
Every fall we train for the upcoming season. We hold "snow and ice control" meetings with staffers from the airport, airlines, air traffic control and airport tenants. Our Airport Grounds and Fleet division checks all equipment for both Eisenhower and Jabara Airports to confirm it is in working order and equipment operators have tested each piece of machinery. Even more meetings are held to dive into the details of airfield clearing procedures and snow team communications. After each snowstorm, a debriefing is held to see if any improvements in procedures can be made in the future.
During wintry weather, we work around the clock to keep at least one runway open at all times. However, delays and cancellations sometimes do happen. Stay informed of flight status here.
In the meantime, go ahead and pack your bags. In fact, check out our advice in this issue on holiday travel tips and a few fun items you should pack this year. Yes, winter's coming. But our airport will be ready to go when you are.
Victor White, director of airports, Wichita Airport Authority
You know about the guy from the North Pole. Flies the world in a single night. Wears red. Seems to come sooner every year. But what do you know about this Eskimo fellow? The one from Alaska Airlines. Not much, right? Genuine smile. Big coat. Looks friendly. You should probably read on. He'll be arriving in Wichita in the spring and flying the country every day.
Alaska Airlines touches down at Eisenhower Airport on April 13, with daily, nonstop flights to Seattle and more than 100 destinations, from snowy Alaska to sunny Hawaii and many points in between (even to the East Coast). That's a pretty big deal. It is a major, low-fare airline — one of the most popular carriers on the West Coast. It has been the traditional, North American carrier rated highest in customer satisfaction, for nine years running. And it always seems to be on time.
It has been the No. 1 most punctual North American airline, earning the FlightStats On-Time Performance Award, for the past six years.
Here are a couple of other ways the airline can save you time and money:
You will know the airline when you see it. The smiling Eskimo painted on the fin is unmistakable on the tarmac or over the tundra. You will find that inside the crew is friendly, the vibe relaxed and the wine and microbrews are from the Northwest.
The planes — service in Wichita will be aboard new Embraer E175s with 76 comfy seats and no middle seats– feature large windows, some of the biggest in the sky. All the better to see the northern lights off the starboard side.
Today the airline that started in the bush of Alaska in 1932 is headquartered in Seattle and is the seventh-largest, based on passenger traffic, in the United States. It has partners to take you to over 800 destinations worldwide.
And the Eskimo? No one really knows his story. Or his name. But people have their theories. Some say it belongs to Chester Seveck, an Eskimo dancer and reindeer herder who used to greet incoming Alaska Airline flights in Kotzebue. Others claim it is Oliver Amouak, an Inupiat Eskimo hired by the airlines in the 1950s as a traveling stage performer.
Some say it is Johnny Cash. Unlike Santa, we find that one hard to believe.
A spring launch of Alaska Airlines service from Wichita to Seattle is good timing. The daily flights depart Wichita at 6:10 p.m. and will have you in Seattle by 8 p.m. (Return flights depart at 11:55 a.m. and will have you in Wichita at 5:13 p.m.) So whether it's a business trip to the city or a family vacation to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, the flights will get you in before bedtime and you'll be ready to start the next day fresh. And with a cup of the local coffee. They're famous for it there. They're also famous for rain, so pack an umbrella. And — in the land of the lumberjacks, birthplace of grunge and the capital of hipster America — flannel is always in fashion. Here's what else is cool.
Yes, you've seen this. Or think you have. It's on every poster, every postcard, in every movie you've ever seen about Seattle. But you haven't really seen it. Get yourself to the top.
At 520 feet, with a 360 view of the city and the mountains, you just may find yourself, spot your hotel, or discover that you never, ever want to come back down.
You've seen this, too, but haven't experienced it. It's the massive open-air market often featured coming out of the commercial breaks during Seattle Seahawks games.
One guy throws a big fish across a bed of ice to another guy. Looks fun. It is. Go there. Get a whiff of the place. Buy some cherries. Pop them in your mouth while you walk around with your sunglasses on. Look local. You can pull that off.
Hike. Fish. Kayak. Ski. Go wild in one of the Pacific Northwest's greatest wilderness areas, Olympic National Park. It is more than 1,400 square miles of forest and coast and mountain peaks. You can choose your adventure, or simply stand in wonder in the shade of a 1,000-year-old tree.
Manmade but glorious, Olympic Sculpture Park is a must-see for art lovers, urbanists or anyone that enjoys a pleasant stroll with a great view. What was once an industrial site is now a walkable plaza along the waterfront that blooms with public art, including more than 20 vibrant, colossal sculptures.
This one is for the aviation geeks — which is to say it is a must-see for Wichitans. You've seen plenty of aircraft in your day, and here you'll see more, but also spacecraft and artifacts and the first jet-powered Air Force One. Yes, you're from the Air Capital, you think you know everything about aviation. Perhaps. You should probably double-check.
a picture-perfect place where the sunsets are the color of tequila drinks and the beach is always open. It is one of America's most picture-perfect cities, too often overlooked, and could easily be the focus here.
But this is a portrait of a mother and son, of a remarkable, morale-boosting visit that forged their bond and has become a new tradition in their military family. It's a heart warmer. San Diego just happens to be the sunny backdrop.
Robert Stephenson was about to turn 21. That's a milestone worth celebrating. But Robert, a United States Navy sailor stationed aboard a minesweeper in San Diego, was not in a celebratory mood. He was homesick. So, as he often did, he called his mother, Lisa Marie Carroll Stephenson, back home in Wichita.
It was like the late-night calls he'd make while deployed in Bahrain, the kind of forlorn calls his mother grew to expect at 4 a.m. It's going to be OK, she'd tell him. "Whenever you feel lonely, look up to the moon and stars," she'd say. "I'm under the same sun, the same moon, the same stars."
As his birthday approached, Robert was making a lot of those calls.
Whenever you feel lonely, look up to the moon and stars. I'm under the same sun, the same moon, the same stars.
"He would call me and complain that 'I'm going to turn 21 and no one is going to be with me. You're not going to be with me. I'm going to be all alone and not have any family with me. I'm going to be miserable. I'm going to be all alone,' he'd say. He just complained and complained."
Between the calls, Lisa Marie made a decision. She would be there for her son on his birthday. She wouldn't tell him. It would be a surprise.
Meanwhile, the calls kept coming. "Keeping the secret was the hardest part," she says.
On a bitter, snowy morning in Wichita she boarded a flight out of Eisenhower Airport and arrived in balmy San Diego by noon. She had arranged with Robert's girlfriend (who was also in on the secret) to be let into his apartment. When the birthday boy got home, she hid herself in a closet and waited for the perfect moment to spring her surprise.
She could hear him removing his boots. A tired sailor at the end of the day ready to get out of his uniform. Moving kind of slow. It seemed to take forever, Lisa Marie recalls. She was trying not laugh, to give herself away. What was taking so long?
Robert finally opened the closet door. Lisa Marie, who had never traveled alone in her life before, had spent 10 days planning, flown 1,300 miles, kept a secret that she had been tempted to share just to ease her son's loneliness, all for this one moment. It was worth it.
"I thought he was going to break me in half, he hugged me so hard," she said.
I thought he was going to break me in half, he hugged me so hard.
Lisa Marie spent four days in San Diego with her son. He showed her around to the restaurants, shops and museums in Old Town. They rode together on the wooden roller coaster at Mission Beach, took photos of the sunset off Pacific Beach, and spent time with his girlfriend who would later become his wife. Along the way, Lisa Marie said, her son seemed to see the city in a new light. To feel at home.
He's a reservist now, no longer active duty, but still lives there.
"If you can do it, then you should," Lisa Marie said of the trip. "You see so many videos of service members that surprise their families at home, but for many of them, that's hard to do."
Instead, why not flip the script? Surprise or visit a loved one over the holidays, on Veterans Day or on a special occasion, or just because.
"It was wonderful," Lisa Marie said. "It brought us a lot closer."
So did the tattoos they each got during her visit. They were Robert's idea. A mother and son wearing matching tattoos of the "same sun, same moon, same stars."
on a beach towel on any patch of sand in the Caribbean, pop open a Corona and call it a vacation. But you crave adventure. You want to meet people, take in old architecture, learn a new dance step, get quiet in churches and forts, stand in awe in the places where the Old World met the New and think about your place in the universe. Then, after lunch, maybe go see the place where Hemingway dreamed up "The Old Man and the Sea." You want a vacation, but you don't want to lie down. You're an explorer, you need a mission, you need to see and do things that others have not and come back with stories to tell.
You need to get yourself down to Cuba. Here's how you're going to do it.
Cuba was forbidden fruit, off-limits to most Americans for decades. It's open today, within limits, but remains just as enticing. Go there to take in the authentic atmosphere, to breath in the papaya and tobacco leaves. To rub elbows in the bustling streets and bump along to the Afro-Cuban rhythms — salsa, rumba, Latin Jazz — of the place. It is not a free country, but the spirit of its people seems willing. You will be welcomed.
There are rules, of course.
You'll need a passport. And you'll need a legitimate reason to go there, as outlined by regulations from the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. That sounds more onerous than it actually is. There are 12 categories of authorized travel that do not require a license. You can see the full list here.
So long as your visit falls under any one of the regulatory conditions, you're good to go. You'll note that tourism is not among them.
But people-to-people visits — essentially sightseeing with the aim of learning about the culture, people and history of Cuba — are allowed. So plan on hitting historical sites, museums, interacting with the locals and soaking in the culture while you are there. It wouldn't hurt to take photos and notes. It's unlikely that any official will ever look over your homework, but it is a requirement of people-to-people visits.
And here's another important tip: U.S. credit and debit cards do not currently work in Cuba. Take cash. Currency can be exchanged in Cuba at the airport, hotels and exchange houses. Not to complicate matters, but there are actually two currencies in Cuba — the Cuban convertible peso, known as a CUC, and the Cuban peso, known as the CUP. You will want to use the CUC, which is 1:1 with the U.S. dollar. Bone up on the currencies here.
Booking accommodations in Cuba, such as hotels or Airbnb, is no different than finding lodging at any other destination. Google it, peruse the deals on the website of your choice, and get going.
The easiest part is booking a flight. Over the next few months, three airlines will begin regular service from Eisenhower Airport to Cuban cities.
Cuba is an island, not a resort. Yes, you can find guides or book bike tours and be shown around specific sites. But mostly, you're going to want to soak in the street life. That's where Cuba, especially Havana, is the most vibrant. Here are a few places to start.
There is a thoroughfare along the seaside in Havana called the Malecón that is the Times Square, the Vegas Strip, the Champs Elysées of Cuba. Cruise it by car or bike or on foot. This is the boulevard built in the 1900s for the pleasure-seeking middle class. It has been described by Lonely Planet as less a street than an "open-air theater where the whole city comes to meet, greet, date and debate."" Go there to be among the "lovers, philosophers, poets, traveling minstrels, fisherfolk and wistful Florida-gazers." And, they say, the sunsets there throw a torchlike, painterly light onto the crumbling facades. You will feel transported — a traveler in a distant land in a distant time.
Here's another street that rewards the wanderer. The Calle Mercaderas is a cobblestone and car-free road, lovingly restored to its original 18th-century splendor, where you'll find museums (most of them free) spice shops, perfume stores, relics, restaurants and more. It's the kind of place you could spend an entire day. You could also slip around the corners for more offbeat finds, like inside the Casa de Africa where sacred items related to Santera are on view.
Then there is the narrow two-block-long alley known as Callejón de Hamel. Here the buildings are lined with murals, the street filled with sculptures and objects, many of them ritualistic. It fairly vibrates with color and people. The street is a shrine to Afro-Cuban religions. But it's the opposite of church. There's live rumba music and dancing and a constant, carnival-like atmosphere. If there is a funkier place in all of the city, we pray that you find it.
The holidays are on the horizon and Santa Claus, as the song goes, is coming to town. If you're flying out, here are a few travel tips that can help you to get where you're going with all of your gifts, gear and holiday cheer intact.
Some are suggested by readers. Some by the TSA. Others are suggestions that, in a pinch, could also make a great last minute gift for the frequent traveler in your life.
Don't wrap gifts, either in your carry-on or checked luggage. If security needs to see them, they'll unwrap them. That slows the line and really spoils the surprise. Save everyone the heartache and wrap them after you've arrived. Or ship them ahead.
Grandad loves a good bottle of scotch. The airlines do not. No way you're getting that gift through security or on the plane in your carry-on. Packing it in your checked luggage is risky, too. But it can be done. You could wrap it in bubble wrap or the like, or better yet, put it in an inflatable wine travel bag, like this one. Maybe pick up two. Grandma loves wine.
You're going to forget something. But don't forget these things, as suggested by our readers. These are must-haves for your carry-on.
They really help you to keep things organized, and free up space for more. You're going to need room for all the gifts you're going to get.
Stow the sneakers and boots. Wear slip-on shoes while traveling. You'll be taking them off at the security line, and maybe while you're curling up on the plane.
Wear layers of clothing. Temperatures on the plane can change. By adding or removing layers, yours can too.
And whatever you do, don't forget your earbuds. It's the holidays. There will be babies on board.
Coffee and alcohol always seem like a good idea at the time. But what's really going to see you through the trip is water. Pack an empty water bottle into your carry-on. You can fill it for free at any water fountain in the world.
You're not too cool to use a neck pillow. No one cares. You might as well be comfortable. But if you really want to hide it, you can with a neck pillow hoodie. Now THAT'S cool.
We asked our friends on Facebook for some input. Here are a few of their suggestions.
Katie Garrett When packing, I lay out each outfit to make sure I have shoes, jewelry, undergarments, etc. for each one.
Beth Ann Hardin I think the most important tip I can pass on is: Pack only clothes which will not need pressing when you reach your destination. Limit the cosmetics and buy your lotions and shampoo when you arrive.
Sidney Rowe Get a juice pack to charge your phone. I loaned mine to a couple of passengers whose phones went dead while we taxied for an hour due to weather.
Eisenhower Airport is easy to get around. You'll have no problems once you're inside. But if you haven't been there in a while, it's a good idea to visit FlyWichita.com and get familiar with the parking and pickup procedures. You'll find them here.
And while you're there, check out a few other travel tips from the airport here.
|Editor||Valerie Wise, Wichita Airport Authority|
|Creative Agency||Greteman Group|
|Creative Director||Sonia Greteman|
|Art Director||Meghan Smith|
|Contributing Writer||Barry Owens|
|Photography||Alaska Airlines, Tiffany Von Arnim,Gavin Schaefer, Cord Rodefield, Josh Sniffen, Meghan Smith, Lisa Marie Carroll Stephenson|
Eisenhower Air is published for the traveling public by the Wichita Airport Authority. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please direct them to Valerie Wise at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage you to share articles through social media and email. Help us spread the word about the good things happening at our airport.
2277 Eisenhower Airport Parkway,
Wichita, KS 67209
© Wichita Airport Authority
An Enterprise Fund of the City of Wichita