(LifeWire) -- Every week for more than a year of his travels, Jay Lenstrom, the chief executive of Chicago-based Radiate Group, got stuck for several hours at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. He tried to make the best of it.
Exotic gardens help travelers relax at Singapore's Changi International Airport.
"I created my own little triathlon," said Lenstrom. "I would record my time splits in a little book. On morning delays I'd go: one, Starbucks; two, shoeshine; three, rocking chairs. On evening delays, it would be: one, shoeshine; two, rocking chairs; three, piano bar."
These days, Lenstrom's quest for an airport diversion to make the best of delays is far from unique as on-time performance continues to be dismal.
The U.S. Department of Transportation ranked Newark Liberty International Airport as the worst for on-time arrivals between January and August; John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City was at the bottom for on-time departures. New York's other major airport, LaGuardia, also ranked near the bottom in both categories.
Maria Link, a homemaker and mother of two who recently moved with her family from Dallas to Dubai when her husband was relocated for work, isn't prepared to give LaGuardia Airport a break.
"I think someone needs to rip LaGuardia to shreds," she said. "What a (lousy) place to be delayed. Every flight in and out of that airport is delayed! I despise that airport."
If you can arrange to pass through certain airports, your travel trauma is likely to decrease. Salt Lake City International Airport was No. 1 for on-time arrivals between January and August, while Portland (Oregon) International Airport was tops for on-time departures. San Diego International Airport also did well, making both lists at No. 3.
At the same time, airports are promoting services and amenities that can reduce some of the stress associated with delays -- like serenading stranded travelers with live music, tempting them with sophisticated wine bars and offering spas and gyms to work off their worries.
Spas and fitness centers
A massage or workout may be the best stress relief. XpresSpa operates day spas in 11 departure terminals, including Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Philadelphia and Kennedy in New York, offering foot massages and treatments including seaweed facials.
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas boasts 24-Hour Fitness, where you can kick box or take a spinning class, while the Absolute Spa in Vancouver International Airport features yoga and a lap pool. Hotels at terminals in Detroit Metro and Chicago O'Hare also have gyms open to the public for $15 per day or less."
Live music, food and wine
Airports have struck upon music and food as a way to impart a sense of place while distracting travelers from the fact that they're stuck in an airport. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport features local musicians on weekday afternoons, celebrating the city's reputation as the live music capital of the world. Austin is also well represented by a number of local restaurants that have airport concessions, including The Salt Lick, a local barbecue institution.
Memphis International Airport features such offerings as the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum gift shop and the landmark Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Que, while at Boston Logan International Airport, passengers can savor New England clam chowder and fried clams at Legal Sea Foods (and even get live lobsters to go).
What could be more appropriate at an airport than a wine flight? Vino Volo operates wine bars in five airports across the country with plans to add up to 10 additional outlets next year.
For families, delays might be most trying of all.
"What makes the difference when delayed with kids is the airline lounges," said Maria Link. "The Admirals Club at DFW has a special room for kids with computer games and cartoons."
Several airports go a step further. O'Hare features a play area in terminal two designed by the Chicago Children's Museum. San Francisco International Airport's SFO Kids' Spot in terminal three features a crawling apparatus and a plasma wall that shoots arcs of energized color when activated by sound. Vancouver's newly expanded international terminal has a man-made stream that leads to a 30,000-gallon aquarium filled with 850 sea creatures and a 1,000-gallon jellyfish tank.
Home away from home
If you must be delayed, one of the best airports to be stuck in is Singapore's Changi International Airport, named the best airport in the world for the past two decades by Business Traveler magazine, which praises its "smooth efficiency, calm atmosphere and wide range of facilities and services."
Among the amenities the airport offers are exotic gardens, a two-hour tour of nearby Singapore, napping rooms, a movie theater and a full schedule of entertainment events including public appearances by music and sports stars. The airport has even received the Golden Pillow Award from the Web site SleepingInAirports.com for 10 years running.
"All in all a great experience," wrote one visitor to Changi Airport on the Web site. "I spent 20 hours there, and if I wasn't so tired I easily could have spent another 20." E-mail to a friend
LifeWire provides original and syndicated lifestyle content to Web publishers. Neil Edward Schlecht is a freelance writer based in Litchfield County, Connecticut, and the author of more than a dozen travel guides.
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