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Host Flyby Meetings at Airport-friendly Hotels

By Belinda Lichty Clarke

There are obvious perks to hosting your next meeting near a major airport. Convenience for out-of-town attendees is one advantage, but there are other reasons planners are moving their meetings to just a few miles from a large transportation hub. Texas airports— and airlines—are working harder than ever to accommodate business travelers and planners with bonuses, airport amenities and a commitment to improved customer service.

United Airlines recently launched a new meetings product called United Jetstream that’s designed for meeting planners to help streamline booking and rewards redemption.

“The new United Meetings portal makes it simple for customers to make a request and receive flexible discounts within one business day, as well as quickly turn travel funds into rewards, such as beverage coupons, travel certificates, United Club passes and memberships, and more,” says Jake Cefolia, United’s senior vice president of worldwide sales. “The site also provides travel planners with a personalized dashboard to track the number of tickets booked, flights flown, amenity funds earned and the number of tickets needed to reach the next amenity award.”

American Airlines, too, has a group sales team dedicated to supporting meeting planners. Based out of Fort Worth with hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., the airline offers group block fares, zone fares, and meeting and conference discounts for qualifying groups.

“We specialize in providing dynamic products that offer discounts in premium and economy cabins for meetings and conferences expecting at least 40 attendees, and our options are perfect for meetings and events with self-booking attendees. For further information, please contact,” says Yvonne Ulrich, senior specialist of group sales and luxury leisure for American Airlines.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

In March 2019, the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) earned the title “Best Large Airport” among North American airports serving more than 40 million passengers each year, according to Airports Council International (ACI). With 23 airlines serving 69 million passengers in 2018, DFW was the first carbon-neutral airport in North America and is the largest carbon-neutral airport in the world. Looking to unfurl your cramped legs in between flights? Head over to DFW’s yoga studio, with two locations in terminals B (D40/B1) and E (E31). There are practice mats, exercise balls and stretch bands to use, along with 20-minute-long instructional videos for beginners and advanced yogis.

Just 2 miles from DFW, the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel is also just a five-minute drive from the Irving Convention Center. With 300 recently renovated rooms and club-level accommodations available, it’s an ideal location for larger groups. The venue offers 48,221 square feet of meeting space—the largest comes in at 1,300 square feet—and the hotel provides 23 separate meeting spaces. For entertaining and unwinding after a busy agenda, the hotel’s signature restaurant, Whiskey Tango, is available for private dinner events.

Dallas Love Field

Dallas Love Field (DAL), the recipient of the 2018 Airport Service Quality Award for North American airports that service 15-25 million passengers per year, served just over 16 million passengers in 2018. Only 6 miles from downtown Dallas, DAL is home to Virgin America Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines. While it’s now common for airports to showcase artwork by community artists and host rotating installations, DAL was a pioneer in this movement, first installing public art in the airport in 1961. Today, travelers can enjoy art inside and outside of the DAL terminal. The Art’s Travelers Exhibition Program promotes diversity in visual art and provides access to culture to the traveling public while giving educational institutions, arts organizations, museums and cultural institutions the chance to showcase their work.

Located 3.9 miles from the airport, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Love Field has meeting space for up to 300 guests and features 3,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

Post-meeting, visitors can relax with a drink on the quiet patio or take a run around the 4.5-mile greenbelt jogging trail leading to Bachman Creek Park.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) welcomed a record 43,807,539 passengers in 2018, a 7.6 percent increase over 2017. With 28 passenger airlines, IAH is also the hub of United Airlines, the world’s second-largest airline. As for amenities, food ranks at the top of the list. According to Eater Houston, in the past few years, the airport’s dining scene has seen a significant boost, and it now offers cuisine from nationally renowned chefs Ryan Pera and Chris Shepherd. At gate C5, Pera’s restaurant Pala offers unique oven-fired pizzas and tasty desserts, while gate C12’s Ember is home to James Beard Award–winning Shepherd’s hand-cut steaks and seafood dishes.

With more than 31,000 square feet in event space and 34 rooms available, the Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental not only will make reservations for all of your guests, but the meetings team will also follow up with a report showing which of your guests have reserved rooms and when they plan to arrive. To further streamline your meeting, the hotel’s booking tool will give you a custom meetings link that can be shared via email or embedded in a website. Mobile Check-In is another favorite Marriott amenity that allows guests to check in before their stays, receive instant alerts when their rooms are ready and check out automatically.

The Corpus Christi International Airport

Three airlines fly in and out of Corpus Christi International Airport (airport code: CRP, also referred to as CCIA): Southwest, American and United. Because of its smaller size and convenience for both beach vacationers and meetings attendees, the airport prides itself on offering a stress-free experience for visitors. In fact, the airport website emphasizes, “When you Fly CCIA, you always go to a happy place.”

The airport has meeting rooms available for rent by the hour or by the day with maximum seating for up to 40 guests. According to Kim Bridger-Hunt, marketing manager, the CCIA conference rooms are used by airlines, state leaders who stop in the city for news conferences and organizations that need a place to gather before or on the back end of a convention being held in Corpus Christi. “Our meeting rooms at CCIA are conveniently located for use by airport customers who need to conduct business on the go,” explains BridgerHunt. “CCIA is open for business and is ready to host groups that need a quiet space that is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of our world today.”

William P. Hobby International Airport

William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), also known as Houston Hobby, has four runways and four passenger airlines and served 13.8 million passengers in 2018. Houston Hobby is the largest hub airport for Southwest Airlines. HOU is located about 7 miles from Houston’s business district and was honored by Airport Experience News in 2018, along with George Bush Intercontinental, for “Best Customer Service.”

The DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Hobby Airport is less than a half-mile from the airport and features 303 guest rooms and 18,000 square feet of total meeting space, including an 8,000-square-foot ballroom. With naturally lit, expansive prefunction space, meeting guests can network and mingle, and the huge open space in the lobby is perfect for dinners, exhibits and receptions.

Corporate planners choose the DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Hobby Airport for two reasons, says General Manager Helen Bonsall: The hotel is a cost-effective solution for a planner’s meeting needs and has a reputation for attentive service. She adds that the hotel’s meetings team works hard to help meeting planners work within a budget.

“A meeting planner is always focused on costs, and the DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Hobby Airport offers many cost-saving amenities, such as a complimentary Hobby Airport shuttle for attendees from outside the area, complimentary parking for local attend – ees and convenience to downtown Houston without the hassles of being downtown,” Bonsall says.

While the hotel is definitely convenient for out-of-town visitors, it’s a great choice for local groups, too, Bonsall explains.

“The hotel hosts meetings and events for local corporations, area associations and neighborhood social clubs,” Bonsall says. “Since the hotel is an established fixture in the southeast Houston area, we regularly host legacy year (40th, 50th and 60th) high school reunions. The hotel is also a housing choice for local sports tournaments.”

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

More than 15.8 million passengers flew through Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) last year, an increase from 13.9 million passengers in 2017.

Located 5 miles outside of downtown, Austin’s airport serves 15 airlines and was named Airport of the Year for “its continued collaboration in partnering with pilots on important safety and construction issues” by Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA).

The airport is home to a lot of local flavor. Austin hot spots such as the Salt Lick Barbecue and Second Bar and Kitchen have outposts at AUS. There is also a food truck court in the newer South Terminal with a rotating selection of food trucks.

Located adjacent to Austin Bergstrom International Airport and close to Circuit of the Americas racetrack, the Hilton Austin Airport is an excellent option for meetings and corporate events. Whether guests are coming in from, out of, or around town, the hotel features 48,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor event space with 18 different meeting rooms. The large atrium is a popular space for events, too, and the round ballroom adds character to functions for up to 800 people.

Bring Your Own Plane
JL Bar Ranch in Texas Hill Country offers the maximum in service and convenience for destination meeting groups.

For the ultimate in fly-in, fly-out exclusive events and luxury corporate retreats, check out JL Bar Ranch, Resort and Spa in Sonora, which has its own private airport. The ranch has accommodations and meeting and event space along with amenities, such as a rejuvenating spa with massage and facial services, fully equipped fitness center, chipping and putting green, an infinity pool and hot tub, and a full recording facility.

Located on 13,000 acres in Texas Hill Country, the ranch’s main lodge has a game room, 900-plus bottle wine cellar and tasting room, and two dining rooms. Surrounding the lodge are 16 private, exquisitely appointed cabins that can accommodate up to five guests. Post-meeting activities can include swimming, yoga, mountain biking, hiking, archery, hunting and shooting. The property can even host concerts for up to 500 guests, and on-site catering is available. The ranch’s JL Bar Airport also offers a conference room for up to 12 guests, passenger lounge and a hangar for multiple jets.