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When there's a big snowstorm or a plane has mechanical problems, airports often turn into uncomfortable holding pens, with people scrunched in chairs, lying on floors, filling up restaurants and otherwise trying to find something to do.
That's actually good news for one company. Minute Suites is building tiny airport retreats across the country. The suites are already operating in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Next up are Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
This idea — creating a respite for trapped travelers who don't want to leave the airport and repeat the hassle of going back through security again — actually began overseas. Some of those companies even include showers in their suites. Minute Suites co-founder Daniel Solomon says that may come later, but what most people want is a nap on the daybeds.
The suites are staffed by college students studying hospitality. Travelers using the rooms can snooze, work on their laptops or watch a movie.
Of course, not everyone thinks a tiny private room at the airport is where he'd like to spend his time. The setup is too claustrophobic, says traveler Bernie Kampf. "At least from what I've seen, it's like having an MRI done," he says. "It's like a tube."
It costs about $30 for the first hour of use, then a traveler is billed in 15-minute increments. An overnight stay is $120.
Paying by the hour raised the eyebrows of some Chicago aldermen, who had to approve the Minute Suites deal. Think "afternoon delight," or a "no-tell motel." But Chicago officials say only ticketed passengers can get to the rooms and there's plenty of security, too.
Minute Suites is likely to encounter plenty of demand in Chicago. Travel and Leisure magazine, using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, ranked O'Hare International the No. 6 most delayed U.S. airport in 2012. Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia International weighed in at Nos. 10 and 13, respectively.