A new generation of airport hotels

Story highlights

Hilton Frankfurt Airport is part of a mixed-use complex atop a high-speed rail station

ALT Hotel Pearson in Toronto features original art and Egyptian cotton linens

Guests at the Element Miami help make electricity by using the hotel's stationary bikes

CNN  — 

Airport hotels have always been necessary but unloved stopover spots for the depleted traveler, places to shower, rehydrate and let the body recuperate from the merciless rigors of flying.

Yet checking into the Hilton Frankfurt Airport, which opened in December turned out to be much more. It’s an example of the emerging generation of airport hotels that are intended to function as destinations, real places where one might reasonably stay longer than a single night.

Some of the best and most spectacular airport hotels are in Asia: the Regal in Hong Kong; the Crowne Plaza in Singapore. Now the rest of the world is catching up, and the newest airport hotels in Europe, the United States, Latin America, and elsewhere are responding to the generalized craving for experience. And there’s more going on than that: the increasing sophistication of these hotels parallels a reemergence of civilization—daring architecture; edible food—in airports themselves.

Travel + Leisure: Innovative new airport terminals

The improved hotels are one component of a backlash against that shiny one-world placelessness that airports have long cultivated. Moreover, they are being retooled for a new breed of business traveler. “The nature of work is changing,” says Erin Hoover, head of design for the Sheraton and Westin brands, “and it’s very collaborative.”

Now airport hotels—like the newly opened Hilton in London, Novotel in Auckland, New Zealand, and Element in Miami—are catching up, bringing technology, design, and style to the international stopover.

Hilton Frankfurt Airport

The Hilton Frankfurt Airport is a stylish, hyper-connected oasis. The hotel, along with the lower-priced Hilton Garden Inn, occupies the eastern end of the Squaire (a name meant to evoke town square and air), an ultra-elongated mixed-use complex that rests on angled columns atop a high-speed rail station, is adjacent to the airport’s commuter train station, and is squeezed between two major autobahns. When Squaire managing director Christoph Nebl char