A supine snooze at the airport

An airline passenger in the international departures lounge of Vancouver International Airport tries a sleeping pod offered by NapCentre
Times Staff Writer

A Canadian airport has added a new twist to “airport lounge.”

Since December, international travelers on layover at Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia have been able to catch 40 winks inside individual sleeping pods called MetroNaps. They made their debut in May at New York’s Empire State Building, providing naps that cost $14 for 20 minutes.

The pods are recliners equipped with privacy hoods and speakers that produce soft ocean sounds to deaden outside noise. Gentle vibrations awaken nappers.

In Vancouver, the first airport installation by the New York-based NapCentre, which runs the service, three pods offer fliers short-term rest to recover from long flights and jet lag, said Christopher Lindholst, co-founder of NapCentre. Under a recent introductory promotion, the first half-hour has been free; otherwise the price is about $12 for up to two hours.

“We’ve been pleased with the response,” Lindholst said, declining to say how many people have used the service.

“It’s a trend that’s catching on,” said Christopher Gilliland, the airport’s manager of retail sales and service programs. “People aren’t quite sure what to make of it.” He said he welcomed MetroNaps, because “I walk through the airport every day, and I see these people camped out on our seats,” waiting for flights.

Americans typically won’t encounter the pods, which are in the international departures lounge, because they go through U.S. Customs in a different area of the airport. But if the service is successful, Gilliland said, it might be expanded to that area.

In the arrivals area, one innovation already available to Americans is a pay-per-use lounge, similar to those the airlines offer to their first- and business-class customers. This one is open to anyone willing to pay $20 a day.

The price includes shower facilities, a TV area, Internet access, beverages (including beer and wine) and snacks — handy if you arrive in Vancouver hours before your hotel’s check-in time or are on a quick in-and-out day business trip.

A similar lounge in the departures area offers private resting suites and hot food to international travelers in transit; the all-inclusive price is $24. Hours vary; call (604) 303-7600 for details.

Pay-per-use lounges are popular in Europe and Asia. But Vancouver’s Plaza Premium lounges, opened last year, are unusual in North America, Gilliland said.

For the ultimate layover, travelers can pay a day rate, good for stays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, inside the terminal. The day rate was recently about $105. Information: (800) 257-7544 or (604) 207-5200, .

“We’re a fairly forward-thinking airport,” Gilliland said.