Best. Airport. Hotel. Ever…?

Most airport hotels are the ‘best’ because they’re halfway decent and incredibly convenient.

Examples I have in mind are the airport Sheratons in Frankfurt, Paris, and Toronto — all attached to the terminal. None is a great hotel, the Frankfurt property has a pretty good club lounge but the furnishings remind me of a college dorm. (The Kempinski Gravenbruch is a very nice hotel but too far from the Frankfurt airport, I would hate to be heading in during morning rush hour.)

There are a few airport hotels that are actually nice, the Novotel Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok is certainly a nice hotel but way too expensive for what it is, where it is. The Skycity Marriott is a very nice Hong Kong airport hotel, and one of the most convenient to the airport but not to so convenient that you can transit between the property and airport on your own power.

There’s nothing great in Los Angeles, the best is probably the Sheraton (nicer than the airport Westin) and if you want an actually good hotel you need to venture out further to Marina del Rey where you’ll find the Ritz-Carlton (one of the less-nice Ritzes).

New York’s JFK? Just a pit. About 5 years ago I would choose the Hilton Garden Inn as the only one I’d be confident of finding that was clean. Most recently I stayed at the Sheraton which I disliked (poor internet, freeway noise, ratty airport van). I’m staying next at the JFK Hilton, and have some hopefulness attenuated by experience.

When it comes to airport hotels the name of the game is tradeoffs. Except perhaps at the Munich airport Kempinski which is both an excellent hotel and on airport grounds.

And while not as convenient to its home airport, the Intercontinental O’Hare, which I dubbed last year the Greatest Airport Hotel Ever, is the best airport hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

Given that the Munich Kempinski is attached to its terminal, and the Intercontinental O’Hare isn’t on airport grounds, perhaps that was hyperbole — the Intercontinental should probably consider sharing that title, at least there’s an argument as to why they should.

But I returned to the Intercontinental O’Hare about a week ago, and continued to be very impressed.

I needed to be in Chicago, but West of Downtown. I would have stayed downtown even though it was equally convenient not to be there (especially for my Sunday departure since it coincided with the Chicago Marathon, so I was glad to already be away from downtown). The marathon meant that pretty much every hotel in the city had been sold out for weeks. I could have used my elite status to ‘force’ a room, but at the $700+ a night it would have cost me that wasn’t in the cards. So I decided to stay out by the airport. Which necessarily dictated a return to the Intercontinental, since I loved the property so much on my last visit.

It’s often cheap, last time I stayed it was $87. This time it was twice that, but nothing like staying downtown normally is, let alone what it would have cost a week ago. And I would be very happy with this hotel plunked down into any downtown city center as an all-around valuable proposition of price, service, quality, and benefits. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about any other airport hotel.

They have a nice airport shuttle, a black party bus with leather seats that’s in good repair.

The lobby has ginormously high ceilings, it’s incredibly bright, and the entire ground floor has modern art scattered about. It’s its own art gallery.

And as a Royal Ambassador the hotel is an exceptional value — they have plenty of suites, and I got one similar to the one I had on my last visit. My downtown view gave me a wonderful vantage point to watch the planes lining up to land at O’Hare. Internet and soft drinks from the minibar are free. There was fruit and bottled water in the entryway waiting for me (and I was given more bottled water and chocolates with turndown service).

The room had a beautiful master bathroom and a small half bath in the entryway. The toiletries are no longer Elemis as they were the last time I stayed, instead they offered Agraria products which were perfectly fine. And they’re very generous with the toiletries — they were by the sink, tub, and shower in the master bath and also soaps in the half bath all of which were replenished daily.

There was a large living room and separate bedroom.

There was a single shot coffee machine next to the minibar, I only took the waters out since they were free and I drink a lot of water. The minibar benefit was great when I first got it, now most of the time I just am thankful for water and juice.

The last time I stayed on property the breakfast spread was modest. This time it was much-improved. Breakfast was free — one strange thing about the property is that they do not give free breakfast proactively to Royal Ambassadors (it isn’t a benefit of the program), but always seem willing to comp breakfast based on elite status when asked. Knowing this from the last time I stayed, I asked at checkin and was given coupons with no hesitation. The coupons covered the breakfast buffet, tax, and gratuity. I was told in the restaurant I didn’t even need to wait for a check, just leave the coupon behind.

Facilities-wise the hotel is blessed with its own restaurant and bar, a coffee shop with sundries, and also on-property (though you can’t charge to your room for points) a Capital Grille and a McCormick & Schmick’s. I didn’t enjoy the latter last year, this time I met friends for dinner at the Capital Grille and had a fabulous (though pricey) meal.

There’s also an ample gym.

The staff here — from the shuttle drivers to the front desk to housekeeping — are all exceptionally friendly.

The property is a bit of an anachronism. It’s too nice for an airport hotel. But with rates similar to what other nearby airport properties offer, it is also too good a value as well. I’ve never quite understood how they make it work, but I’m happy that they do. (While I was in-house there were a couple of events on-property, and I imagine that the convention business helps. I’m happy to take the cross-subsidy.)

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. Pencil in the Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur Airport as one of the best, if not the best anywhere! Attached to the terminal, it is incredibly reasonably priced and great in every way. Phenomenal pool. Great fitness center. Amazing buffet with international cuisine. Plus good, good rooms. I’d highly recommend this hotel to anyone flying through KL. Plus, Malaysian airlines puts you up there for free, with vouchers for 2 meals per person on any layover with MH over 6 hours. Bonus!

  2. I actually like the Hyatts at DFW. Although they can be pricey, they’re pretty nice and very convenient.

  3. The Novotel Suvarnabhumi is awesome if the Airline is paying for it. Back in August our flight got delayed by 20 some hours. They put us up in the Novotel, which was very relaxing. I made the most of the free gym and sauna.

  4. @Douglas – Hyatt Regency DFW is ok, I’m not a fan of the restaurant breakfast and one of the two times I stayed there in the past year internet was unworkable. The Grand Hyatt gets really pricey at times, the last time I needed a DFW overnight it was over $400! But attached to the terminal is very convenient indeed.

  5. @Jimgotkp – technically only the drinks in the minibar not the snacks are free but some hotels would comp those too, I didn’t ask if this one does

  6. To the list of great airport hotels I would like to add the radisson in Hamburger, Germany. Great hotel and across the road from the termnal.

  7. I like that intercontinental a lot– but the Fairmont in YVR might be my favorite airport hotel!

  8. Holiday inn in Santiago. So convenient across from check in. Was a great way to connect the next day to Easter Island

  9. Stayed at The Westin Detroit during the Final Four a few years back and I was thoroughly impressed.

  10. Have stayed at the kempinski FRA – a dump – have stayed at Sheraton FRA – convenient – Novotel BKK – stayed there last week convenient and at $99 cheap. Best Airport Hotel for me has been either Fairmont YVR or Langham Place Beijing Airport.

  11. I think that the Hilton O’Hare is a great hotel – and no shuttle needed. As for LAX, as you stated there is no ‘attached’ hotel, but the Crowne Plaza LAX, now that it has been remodeled far exceeds the Sheraton LAX, which has gone way downhill (dated/dingy/dark/dank rooms, lawnmower-sounding air conditioner, etc). Plus their bar has live jazz on some night (if you have time between work deadlines! 🙂

  12. Gary, YVR Fairmont is pretty much on top of airpot hotels list. Give it a try next time your wings take you out west coast Canada. next to the terminal. superior view and noise proof, the whole building.

    I’m a local at YVR and my trip to YVR is not even that long but sometimes when I travel on 5 or 6am departures, i get my work to book me a night there prior to morning of. it’s a great little almost 5 stars treatment for an airport hotel!

  13. I agree and am glad to see someone else mentioned the Fairmont at Vancouver Airport. Great hotel and ridiculously convenient.

    Also – in terms of the Novotel at the Bangkok Airport, when you’re flying Cathay Pacific First Class for free, somehow the extra $$$ for the Novotel doesn’t bother you so much! 😉

  14. The Intercontinental at O.R. Tambo in Johannesberg is attached to the airport and was excellent.

    The Hilton Madrid airport is a short shuttle ride away and also excellent (at least when I was there a few years ago).

  15. A piece of very strange transportation history surrounding the Intercontinental O’Hare: Although connected directly to neither the El nor the airport, the Intercontinental, the Rosemont convention center, and several other sites were almost linked to both by a personal rapid transit system. It would have been the second PRT in the world of any size; the first being the Morgantown PRT in West Virginia.

    For a photo:

  16. Stay at Hilton ORD and InterContinental ORD last year for the Chicago Seminars. Even as a Hilton Diamond got a basic room with poor housekeeping and an AC that didn’t work. Totally disappointed. Stayed at the InterContinental the next night and was very impressed. This year for the Chicago Seminars I tried 2 Hyatt properties because I needed the stay credits. Not even close to the class that the InterContinental had.

  17. The Hilton in HELsinki is a short walk from the terminal; however, you may need to ask for directions. It isand modern and nice. The other hotel at the airport is inside the terminal and is OK, if you do not mind living underground with no windows!

    Milan MXP has a nice Holiday Inn a short van ride away.

  18. Kempinski at Munich (MUC) is my fave beyond all others. Great hotel, wonderful bar, and very convenient to walk out the door of the hotel and into the terminal!

  19. I will also go with the Westin Detroit Metro Airport. It has all the facilities you would ever need. It has a very relaxing atmosphere. And, after 7:30am, it has it’s own TSA security gate that is, literally, 10 steps from the main concourse of DTW McNamara Terminal.

    The rooms are very comfortable, and the staff is quite good.

  20. Another nod to the Westin DTW and would also note the Sheraton Schiphol, which I prefer to the Sheraton CDG. (Although the Sheraton CDG was my refuge after 9/11) As for the Sheraton Frankfurt, the furnishings are fine in the renovated tower, but agree about the dorm room feel in the main tower.

  21. I’ve got to say that, if you can get a decent rate, the Grand Hyatt at DFW is quite nice and it’s certainly convenient.

    The Hyatt Regency DFW is underwhelming, especially given that it’s often the same price.

    Since I usually have little idea what gates I’ll want to be near when I’m at DFW, there’s no way to know which property will be most convenient.


    The Marriott IAH is…convenient, which is actually a really big deal in Houston. The bars and restaurants are pretty nice, but the rooms are dull and tired.

  22. Just checked out of the Malpensa Sheraton for the xxth time. I love that place. The airport is NOT a favorite, but much nicer after having spent the night at the Sheraton. And the Club serves nice food at dinner and especially breakfast!

  23. I ran the Chicago marathon. While the marathon filled alot of rooms, there was a Notre ame vs Miami game that also filled many downtown rooms for the weekend. In tact some of the downtown hotels were sold out very early because of the game. I was at the Westin Mich ave on points. They were getting 400 a night by the way.


  24. @Gary, here’s my Top 5 airport hotels:

    1) Fairmont YVR
    2) Crowne Plaza SIN
    3) Westin DTW
    4) Sheraton AMS
    5) Holiday Inn SCL

    Have stayed at all of them…Westin DTW actually inside security!

  25. What? Nobody mentions the Hyatt Orlando Airport? Nice style and the location (within the terminal) can’t be beat.

    I’ve also recently appreciated the Hilton Gatwick which, while an older property, is super convenient to inconvenient Gatwick. Real early breakfast hours so you don’t have to miss breakfast on an early morning flight. Decent lounge and a huge family room if you’re travelling with kids.

    I’m also fond of the Santiago Chile Holiday Inn airport. It fills a great need, steps from the terminal. Wish it was a Holiday Inn Express, though, with a free buffet breakfast.

  26. @Ace – Westin DTW is actually landside, but it does have its own TSA checkpoint off the lobby for re-entering the terminal.

  27. I was at the IC O’Hare earlier this year and while far from downtown it’s actually a magnificent hotel. The shuttle is one of the nicest I’ve ever been in as well. 🙂

    And if you’re headed for the Hilton JFK, I’d lower my expectations quite a bit. 🙂

  28. I second the Orlando Hyatt, but also would add that the IC O’Hare has a park and fly package that’s a steal! We have relatives that live about 4 hours away so it’s much cheaper to drive them to O’Hare to visit. We paid $109 last time and got 14 days of free parking…less than economy parking by itself would have been.

  29. I think one’s elite status weighs heavily on their opinion of a property…being an IC RA or a Hyatt Diamond drastically changes the value prop. Would not having free internet/breakfast, or Club access or minibar (for the IC) make the stay not as pleasant? I think so. People without status should keep this in mind…Gary’s numerous glowing reviews of the Andaz 5th are at least 50% due to the free room service breakfast as a Hyatt Diamond.

    +1 for the hotels at AMS. I think the Sheraton and Hilton are worthwhile…and easy access to the train makes getting to the Amsterdam city centre very easy.

  30. @David it’s fair and I describe my perspective clearly, I think the voice this blog has is of a frequent traveler who earns elite status and benefits from that status. The Andaz 5th in particular, I wouldn’t get the upgrades or breakfast without status but I also think that’s one property where the stay is good regardless of status, free internet for everyone, free non-alcoholic beverages and snacks from the minibar from everyone, and the salient facts about the place are the same (everyone gets the same beautiful bathroom and toileteries).

    Would I have had as nice of a stay without a suite? Perhaps not. But the structure itself is still darned beautiful. 🙂

  31. Glad to see the cream of the crop getting recognition here. The convenience of the Westin DTW’s dedicated entrance inside security can’t be beat, and that (at least for me) makes it come across as a nicer hotel than it is. The Fairmont YVR is a truly great hotel that also makes the most of its airport location with floor-to-ceiling windows right on top of the runway.

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