Lodgings near the airport used to have that terminal feeling, good only for an early flight or quick business meeting. Not anymore.
The image of airport hotels is changing - from drab to dazzling. No longer just a pit stop with a bed, the new airport hotel offers spacious, high-tech rooms, dramatic design, and upscale dining. With spas, workout facilities, and great lounges, some are becoming desti- nations in and of themselves.

"We're a great boutique-style hotel that just happens to have a very large airport attached to it," says Patrick Sorge, director of sales for the Hyatt Regency at Pittsburgh International Airport. "Most people think of an airport hotel as a basic box with a minimum of frills. Guests are surprised at our range of fitness equipment and the indoor lap pool."

Connected to the main Landside Terminal by enclosed moving walkways, Hyatt's newest onsite air- port hotel in Pittsburgh (they have one in Orlando, as well) illustrates the No.1 amenity an airport hotel can offer: location. Travelers who book onsite accommodations minutes (not miles) away from check-in counters can trade nerve-jangling traffic jams for peace-of-mind convenience.

In addition, onsite hotels are good for business. A direct connection is more advantageous for the business traveler who may fly in for a day meeting at the hotel and leave without staying, or who might arrive on a late-night flight for a meeting downtown the next morning. "It's a service that benefits and boosts the image of the airport, as well as the corporations located near it that use the meeting facilities," says Sorge.

"Research at other airports with our customer base shows that having immediate access to a hotel without having to get in a car or on a shuttle is of great importance to a lot of business travelers," notes Kevin Cox, senior executive vice-president at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which has hopes of building a 300-room upscale hotel that will sit on top of a new international terminal currently under construction.