No One Wants to Hang Out at an Airport–So Stop Trying to Make It a Thing

PHOTO: Sorbis/Shutterstock

Only misery is allowed here, please.

Picture this. You’re at the airport, several hours before your trip. You browse a few of the shops, perhaps enjoy a craft beer at a brewery located in the terminal.

Now, picture this. You’re at the airport, doing those things…except you don’t have a flight to catch. You’re there…by choice.

As potentially nuts as that may sound, there’s a recent trend known as “terminal tourism,” where people just go to an airport because they choose to hang out at it for some reason. And many airports either have adopted programs that support this concept or are at least considering them, as there is a growing trend of airports beginning to allow non-ticketed people past security checkpoints so that they may dine at restaurants, shop, or just hang the heck out (whether or not they are meeting actual passengers there or not).

Airports That Encourage This

Pittsburgh International Airport was the very first of the airports to open its doors to non-passengers back in 2017, followed by Tampa adopting the practice several months ago. It’s under consideration at Seattle Tacoma International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as in Detroit and Austin.

Many view opening the airport areas to non-ticketed customers as a way of increasing revenue, which, clearly it would be as it allows more business—especially because the people currently spending time in the airport aren’t necessarily spending a bunch of money there; they’re waiting for a flight. But people coming to the airport to be at the airport? Now that’s a moneymaker.

One Airport That Does NOT Encourage This

Just a heads up: The literal best (international) airport does not want you to hang out there—and will arrest you if you try. A man was recently arrested at Changi Airport in Singapore for merely purchasing a ticket just to walk his wife (a ticketed passenger) to her gate. While this might seem harsh, it’s because transit areas, like the airport, are actually considered “protected places” under Singapore’s Infrastructure Protection Act, and no one without the intention of traveling is allowed in the gate area, or they are jailed for up to two years or fined up to $14,300.

Chiangi Airport is… very good.

Why so harsh, you might ask? Well, Changi Airport is known as one of the best airports in the world, and therefore a popular place to hang out—so popular that 33 people have been arresting for breaking this law in 2019 alone. With people wanting to just hang out in it, it makes it more crowded and therefore less accessible in general for people who are there because they’re using an airport for its actual purpose. You know, flying somewhere.

Why This Backfires for People Who Are Actually Trying to Use the Airport

Which brings us to the underlying issue with “terminal tourism,” in general. With more crowds at the airports, it’s going to be more annoying for actual passengers to get around. Airports are already a nightmare (some cities more than others, looking at you LAX, sorry!) in every aspect. First, there’s the traffic getting in and out, made up of people who (understandably) are usually in a hurry or stressed because they’ve got a flight to catch. Then, there’s the actual parking situation, which is always a whole thing, and if opened up to the public, would need to be expanded to accommodate the increased number of people. This is already a bad situation, and we’re not even inside the airport yet!

Who wants to go hang out at LAX? No one? Okay.

Airports should be prioritizing passengers over profit. Period.

So, let’s go inside, shall we? In addition to people who literally need to be there whether they want to or not, there would be even more people just meandering around everywhere as actual passengers lug their suitcases and bags around. They’ll be using the resources (example: outlets) and sitting in seats meant for weary travelers. And perhaps the most frightening of all, let’s not forget about airport security lines. As “terminal tourists” would still need to go through TSA security screenings, that means that there will be (yep!) longer lines at security. I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it. Fun!

Look, it’s very nice that people want to walk their loved ones to their gates. That’s very nice! But can you maybe just say goodbye at security, and leave the dreaded terminal areas for those of us walking around like zombies, trying to fill time before a delayed flight? The exception here, of course, is parents or guardians walking their children to gates—which is already a thing you can do, so we’re fine!

The bottom line is this: Airports should be prioritizing passengers over profit. Period. Traveling is already stressful. Terminal tourism makes it so much worse.