Actually, Airports Are Awesome

05 AUG 2015
by: Adam | posted in: Globetrotting, Project Expedition | comments: 0
Lead Up

Hmm, that’s a really early flight, I’ll have to wake up at like 3:30, oh well. Add to cart. Credit cards details - why can I never remember my three-digit security code? Click to confirm purchase. You’ve been planning this trip for a month, so when that purchase button is finally clicked and those travel plans become real it elicits a joy that you just want to share with everyone. I’m going somewhere! It’s going to be awesome! As the trip approaches you think about what you want to do, what you want to wear, what you want to eat, and what you want to buy as the excitement from clicking that button lingers. Finally, the day arrives, how do you feel? Awful. You’re anxious and stressed because you’ll be dealing with airports and airlines all day when you really just want to reach your destination and airports and airlines are awful. Or are they? I can’t tell you to enjoy airports, that’d be annoyingly positive of me and no one likes that, but I can explain how I manage to enjoy the actual traveling process. Warning, annoying positivity may follow.

Getting there

Depending on where you are going, you may spend as much as 1-2 days in airports and airplanes. If you’re planning out every day of your trip, why would you not plan those days out as well? Be prepared. Find a book you really like, not just one you feel like you should read. Load up your laptop up with movies or tv shows, this is an opportunity for guilt-free binging. And most importantly, give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and get through security. Instead of hating every single motorist in front of you, the trip to the airport will be stress-free. Since you won’t need to worry about if you’ll make it on time, you can use that brain power to think of more important things, like whether or not you left that hallway light on.

Waiting in Line

The airport is probably the best place to people watch. Place a bunch of powerless, stressed humans from all walks of life in an enclosed area on their way to what they hope is their personal paradise and what you get on display is the best and worst of humanity. Check in is where the world-class people watching begins. It’s also when you discover who’s going to be accompanying you in a metal box 32k feet in the air. As you wait in line you can start scouting who you do or do not want to be sitting near you. Who’s traveling for the first time? Who’s completely lost? Are you that person? If you’re traveling with someone, start placing bets on how much your bag weighs. Loser pays the exorbitant excess baggage fee!


Well, um, I guess everyone has a job to do.. sorry, this part is actually awful. There’s no selling this as a worthy experience, and I have no recommendations on how to make this better (if you do, leave a comment!). I do feel like this process has gotten quicker in the past few years as people have gotten used to the new security measures, so that’s cool. By getting there early you’re also more able to go with the flow and not feel too hassled. That’s all I got. Good luck.


As you sit at the gate all the parts that require anything from you are over. It’s all out of your hands. If you’re traveling alone, the last real obstacle is how you’re going to use with the bathroom and carry all of your stuff with you. Now you can relax, sit in a slightly uncomfortable seat and watch the grandest human intersection of our time. Everyone around you is going somewhere important. They’re flying to a wedding they aren’t quite sure they’re happy about. They’re going to an unfamiliar country to hopefully close a deal they’ve been laboring on for months. Their elderly mother is in the hospital, perhaps for the last time. Revel in the humanity. Just be careful not to stare. Or, as an alternative, you can just take a nap.


So they announced there’ll be a delay, great, more time to people watch! In reality, this is upsetting. You were already arriving at 1 am, now it’ll be like 2:30 am and you’ll want to sleep in and you won’t be able to get up early see the sunrise on the Eiffel tower. Or you can look at it this way: The logistics of airports are extraordinary. We’ll use Logan Airport in Boston as an example. It’s the 18th busiest airport in the US, far from the top. 31.6 Million passengers passed through Logan in 2014, about 86.6k people a day. On average there were roughly 996 aircraft operations a day, so about 40 an hour. In order for it to flow smoothly, a plane has to take off or land every every 90 seconds. After it lands each plane has to review the last flight, go through rigorous safety checks, load delicious! food, load your baggage (fingers crossed), plan the next flight route and more, and still manage to hit a time slot of mere minutes. Then you throw in adverse weather or any other passenger related potential slowdowns as obstacles, and suddenly it’s very easy to be off by a few minutes. The amount of logistics that goes into all of it is incredible. Given all that I’m more amazed when my flight is on time than when it’s delayed. For a plane to be taking off every minute, and to be totally safe for the duration of the flight, takes efficiency and flexibility. Oh yeah, and they have to coordinate your plane’s take-off, flying route, and landing with the thousands of planes already in the air coming from thousands of different places over the airport and country. Seriously, look at this live flight tracking map - it’s crazy up there. So as you wait another 30 minutes to board, take a moment to appreciate how far airports have come in the last 100 years. Or, take a nap.

Take off

You’re looking down at the city you’re leaving behind, finally on your way. You’ve already sized up your neighbor and maybe exchanged a few pleasantries. Now you can explore the finest quality entertainment this country has to offer via the airplane’s entertainment options. You can read. You can drink. You can get to know your neighbor better, but I would hold off on actually engaging that neighbor until later in the flight. Everyone needs time to collect themselves and settle in. Also, not everyone knows how to gracefully let a conversation end when it comes to be that time. Or, you can always just take a nap - those pleasantries exchanged earlier will make it okay to use your neighbor’s shoulder, I swear.


You made it! Your adventure has begun! The bathrooms are over there!


Just to wrap up, I think the keys to enjoying the traveling process and not just the trip are really straightforward. It all starts with giving yourself plenty of time. By removing that stress, you'll be much more okay with your lack of control which will enable you to just sit back and take in what's happening around you. And napping is always an option.

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