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12/19/2012 04:27 EST | Updated 02/18/2013 05:12 EST
CHICAGO - Getting stranded at a U.S. airport once meant enduring hours of boredom in a kind of travel purgatory with nothing to eat but fast food. These days, it can seem more like passing through the gates of Shangri-la to find spas, yoga studios, luxury shopping and restaurant menus crafted by celebrity chefs in terminals with a calming, sleek design.

Stung by airline bankruptcies and mergers, more U.S. airports are hunting for alternative revenue streams by hiring top design firms to transform once chaotic and dreary way stations into places of Zen-like tranquility and luxury where people actually want to get stuck — and spend money. As the holiday travel season is in full gear, airports are putting what one designer calls "terminal bliss" on display in hopes of drawing in higher passenger numbers and revenue.

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