A Plea for an Airport Nap

Have you ever had extremely bad luck with a flight that left you stuck in an airport for hours and hours? Did it happen to fall during a time of day when normally you’d be at home sound asleep in your cozy bed? What did you do? My guess is you walked around in circles for hours because you just couldn’t find a comfy place to sit. Maybe you read every label on every item in Duty Free with no intention of buying, just for the sole purpose of entertaining yourself. I would also venture to guess that you tried laying in a variety of strange positions on those long lines of plastic they call “chairs” and tried to go to sleep. Alas, all attempts produced no results. If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Let’s take a closer look at airport furniture. Why are all of the chairs connected with armrests that make it impossible to lay down? You can’t even move them around to put your feet on one and your butt on the other. Option 2 is the floor, a popular choice for sleepy wanderers. And every once in awhile, Starbucks might have a semi-cushioned armchair where you can park it for a while. If it’s really your lucky day, it’ll be next to an outlet (which of course requires you to have the correct adaptor with you if you’re not in your home country). Don’t even think about getting up to use the bathroom though, or that bad boy is a goner. This is a real problem when you travel by yourself.

I’ve been traveling pretty frequently for 9 years now and I’ve always had the same question: who are the people that are designing airports and why in the world are they not making them cozier?

Earlier this week on my way home from Madrid, I woke up at 4:45am and started my route to the airport. I had an 8-hour layover in London on my way home to Boston, but I was planning to head into the city to see some friends for a quick reunion. I even purchased an expensive express train ticket from the London airport to the city center the night before to save time the next day. Getting to the airport in the middle of the night when the metro is closed is expensive so I walked 30 minutes to the Night Bus where I could pay 5 for a ride to the airport instead of a 30 taxi. I arrived at the bus stop at 5:29am, 6 minutes before the bus left. I got on, rode to the airport, went to the desk to check my bag, and saw the message that no traveler wants to see:

This 8:00 flight has been modified. Updated departure time is 11:45am.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I said the words out loud, to no one, in shock that I was awake at this hour and suddenly 6 hours early for my flight. Not to mention I would no longer be seeing my friends in London (or using that £30 train ticket I’m still in possession of), but I was exhausted and all I wanted was a bed. I begrudgingly went through security and walked around for as long as my body would let me before it begged me to sit down. Let me show you what I found:

It wouldn’t do. I had to lay down. I’d like to think that my days of laying on airport floors are behind me, so I settled for a semi-cushioned booth in the corner of a Burger King, conveniently located under the air vent blowing chilly air on my face. I pulled out my trusty travel pillow, covered my face with a scarf, and laid on top of my important possessions to try to get some shut eye. I’m sure I looked insane but I fell into a deep slumber for 2 hours.

This is just one example of the many unfavorable experiences I’ve had during countless hours waiting for flights. In these moments of intense travel discomfort, I find myself wondering if I should make it my life’s purpose to make airports more cozy for haggard, jet lagged travelers who just want to make it to their destination.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 2,586,582 people fly on international and domestic flights from the US alone, and according to the International Air Transport Association, over 8 million people worldwide are on airplanes every day. That’s a lot of people. Now imagine how many are crossing timezones, waiting during layovers, and becoming increasingly more grumpy the more sleep they lose.

If you’re reading this and you happen to be someone who’s passion is interior design in international terminals, call me. I’m interested in starting a business with you. Additionally, if you’ve ever met a cozy airport, I want to know where it is so I can make sure to book all my layovers through there.

Here are some ideas I have to make an airport terminal a happier place to be:

  1. It seems with all the technology of sleep number beds and lazy boy chairs, we can surely find some kind of couch-like surface that is acceptable for people to sleep on for a bit, right? Let’s put a bunch in all airports everywhere. Better yet, nap pods! You know, those egg-shaped pods that Google provides their employees for when they just need a quick siesta? Those are the perfect solution for an airport! We could even add a feature that lets you input your departure information so the pod will set an alarm for you, giving you adequate time to get to your gate. Genius!
  2. Why don’t we install vending machines that sell eye masks and earplugs for something like $0.50 each? That way, when everything around you is buzzing and people are stressing out, you can sleep like a little angel in your nap pod.
  3. Let’s figure out a way to find a comfortable temperature for these waiting areas. Typically airports have me sweating one minute and shivering the next. Not to mention that sometimes you travel from a cold place to a warm one, or vice versa, and there never seems to be a happy medium temperature-wise. I’m sure there are studies that show what the perfect temperature would be to make people happiest. Let’s go with that number and check it off the list.
  4. While we’re at it, let’s dim the lights a bit. It saves energy and it doesn’t make me feel like I’m sitting underneath a microscope.

Perhaps the lack of all of the above is a ploy to keep me awake so I’ll buy more overpriced airport food and more travel-sized everything that I don’t really need. But really, we’re all happier people when we feel cozy. And truthfully, traveling can be stressful. The least we can do is make these buildings slightly more enjoyable places to pass the time.