Not so long ago, the smart traveler did whatever it took to avoid staying in hotels near the airport. These benighted places were typically threadbare, noisy, cramped and, at times, downright depressing.
Some airport hotels are still like that. Increasingly, however, international chains are opening airport hotels in major markets around the world that are well-appointed, well-run and well-located, with many right at the airport. Here is a short list of the best:
FAIRMONT VANCOUVER AIRPORT, Vancouver, B.C., Canada:
Arguably the pick of the litter, this sleekly designed, 4-star property has a main lobby that opens directly into the main airport check-in area, down one level. All guest rooms are soundproofed. Most rooms have fine vistas, overlooking the runway and the flat, watery landscape south of the airport or the mountains to the north. The 10-year-old hotel has a spa with Jacuzzis and deep-soaker tubs and offers 24-hour printing and faxing services and a small-business center. Business travelers also can access in-room Internet service.
FOUR POINTS BY SHERATON, Baltimore Washington International, Baltimore:
A well-maintained, 201-room business hotel, this property isn't right at BWI but it's close: half a mile away, linked to the airport by a free, frequent, 24-hour shuttle. While not as sweet an airport as Washington's Reagan National, BWI is a good alternative to the larger, relatively remote Washington Dulles airport. The hotel soundproofs the guest rooms, provides in-room data ports and 32-inch LCD TVs. Guest parking is free.
HYATT REGENCY DALLAS-FORT WORTH AIRPORT:
Hyatt recently spent $43 million renovating this Texas-sized (811 rooms) property, located inside DFW. The 11th floor conference rooms were set to be finished March 28, and the hotel has an 18,000-square-foot meeting hall. Guest rooms have iPod docking stations and Wi-Fi. If you've got time on your hands, the Hyatt Regency runs a shuttle to Bear Creek Golf Club. The hotel also boasts a fitness center and rooms have an iron and ironing board.
SOFITEL HEATHROW AIRPORT, London:
This sharp business hotel, opened in 2007 and linked to Heathrow airport's 2008 terminal 5 by an elevated walkway, has a full kit of business facilities, including 45 meeting rooms and Heathrow Express rail link to central London. There's also a spa and a gym for downtime. When it debuted, the place was dedicated by Sir Cliff Richard, the Elvis of 1950s Britain.
HILTON COPENHAGEN AIRPORT, Copenhagen, Denmark:
Located just across the street from the airport, this modern business hotel flaunts extra-large, well-wired guest rooms arranged around an airy central atrium and has oodles of meeting space. The bar in the main lobby is a good place to seal the deal with a drink. A fast train links the hotel and airport with Copenhagen's center.
MOVENPICK HOTEL AND CASINO, Geneva, Switzerland:
Whoever thought the sober Swiss didn't know how to take a risk hasn't visited this happening hotel-cum-casino located half a mile from Geneva International Airport and a major rail station. Glamorous it's not; rooms are cramped, in-room TVs are miniature and drinks and snacks are pricey. But there is a free, 24-hour business center in the main lobby and the hotel's helpful staff and briskly efficient shuttle service do the most important thing right: getting guests to their flights on time, no matter what the hour.
MILLENNIUM AIRPORT HOTEL, Dubai, United Arab Emirates:
A fitness center and pool grace this circa-2000 hotel, located half a mile from the real eye-popper: Dubai's expansive, state-of-the-art airport, designed to be the premier hub of aviation in the Middle East. As expected in this on-again, off-again boom town, Dubai's 116-room airport hotel is very business-friendly, with a contemporary business center, ample meeting rooms and comfortable places to work in smartly designed guest rooms.
SKY CITY MARRIOTT, Hong Kong International Airport:
Big guest rooms overlook either a golf course or the South China Sea and are stocked with big desks for getting work done. Free shuttles run to the nearby terminals. The hotel is joined at the hip with AsiaWorld Expo, where many exhibitions take place. Of course, there's a hotel spa for chilling out after a day of doing business in frenetically paced Hong Kong. Traveling with the family? Hong Kong Disneyland is about 20 minutes from the hotel.
CROWNE PLAZA, Changyi Airport, Singapore:
If an airport can be said to be manicured, this verdant city-state's Changyi is such an airport. The sleekly modern Crowne Plaza is nearly as tidy as the airport and is linked to the new terminal 3 via a covered walkway and to terminals 1 and 2 by moving sidewalks. Singapore Expo and a hive of office parks are located close by. If you're sticking around, golf and the beach are on offer nearby, and if the tumultuous economy brings out your aggressive side, there is a crocodile farm in the neighborhood.
David Armstrong is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer. He covers airlines and airports, hotels and resorts, food and wine, and writes travel destination features.