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13 Things Everyone Can't Stand About Airports

Feb. 19, 2019
7 min read
13 Things Everyone Can't Stand About Airports
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What AvGeek doesn't love an airport? The anticipation, the thrill of an exciting new destination (or first-class product), the familiar turkey club wraps at every Hudson News, or a lounge that your airline status or your credit card got you into. For most of us, these are very good things. And, on occasion, airports even deliver anthropological or architectural interest at no extra charge. But let's be honest: they can also be extremely irritating.

For all their modern conveniences, innovations and newfangled cultural touch points (think: in-terminal art and concerts) there are an awful lot of annoyances at most major airports these days.

Most travelers have their own airport pet peeve. For some, it's paying for priority boarding only to find yourself in the fourth or fifth boarding group (OK, so that one's technically an airline issue, but it still happens in the airport). As for me, I do a little mirthless dance whenever I see guys brushing their teeth and shaving in a public airport bathroom ... convenient for them, maybe, but irksome for everyone else.

What gets you the most miffed at the airport? Here are 13 other common vexations.

1. The Lack of Water Fountains

Some airports are starting to add bottle filling stations, but often it seems impossible to find even a single regular water fountain in the terminal. Which is more than a bit irritating if you're thirsty for something other than a salted caramel mocha or a beer, and is probably just a vast conspiracy to get you to buy some of that overpriced airport gift shop bottled water.

2. Airport Shopping Indignities

Like the aforementioned Rolls-Royce-priced bottle of Poland Spring water at La Guardia to the $20 I spent on fish and chips at Heathrow not long ago, price gouging at airports ranks high on anyone's list of airport aggravations. But there's also that annoying (or cloying) airport gift shop merch, like Meghan Markle souvenir keychains in London.

Then there are the overly luxe airport gift shops. Does the international terminal at serially-unloved LAX really need a Fred Segal? That's not to say the original on Melrose isn't mythic, but heck, there are jeans in that shop that cost more than a month's rent in several countries. How about a cool airport version of Walmart or Target instead?

3. The Total Lack of Useful Seating

At some airports, the duty free shopping areas outshine the actual terminal — an annoyance compounded by the fact that without all those shops selling monster-sized Toblerones and enough varieties of vodka to sink a battleship, there might actually be more places to sit.

4. Airport Restrooms

There's probably a study out there proving that, when humans enter a public airport bathroom, approximately 85% of them temporarily develop horrible manners and forget every sanitary rule they've ever learned. (Would the two seconds it takes to flush really cause you to miss your flight?) There are so many rude airport bathroom users out there; fight back by not being one of them.

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5. The Lack of Humanity

Just because a touchscreen self-check-in post can do a job doesn't mean it will do it better than a real, living person. The reduction of human staff at airports may spell efficiency for some, but it can mean unanticipated annoyances and even delays, which kind of defeats the purpose of going robotic in the first place.

6. Plug Hogs

These are the good people who convert any well-trod terminal floor into their provisional office space. Judging by their behavior at airports, plug hogs seem to think that any given outlet was put there just for them, and instead of charging their phone for, say, 10 minutes, they keep it there for hours.

7. And Smartphone Zombies

The smartphone zombie is that person who decides to hold a vitally important meeting on their smartphone, yapping into it in while moving between gates as if they're in their own private airport. These are the people who walk in the very middle of the terminal texting or FaceTiming — slowly — and seem to take up twice as much room as necessary. They hold up the queue in security, at the check-in desk, at the jet bridge — you get the idea. True, this isn't an annoyance exclusive to airports, but it's just as frustrating here as it is on a New York City sidewalk.

8. The CNN Airport Network

CNN, can you hear me? People can get the news on their smartphones now, and you know what? It's a heck of a lot quieter than listening to all those talking heads blabber on from monitors sticking out from the ceiling. #FreeTheCeiling.

9. Sockless Chair Sleepers

This is happening all over, from Denver to Frankfurt and beyond. On the one hand, who can't sympathize? I recently landed at Athens International (ATH) around 11pm with a flight out the next morning at 4:30am. Lounges were closed and the layover wasn't long enough to justify getting a hotel room, but does that give a guy license to do a full-on sleepover on the airport floor or furniture?

In the terminal, taking up five seats in a row — shoes and socks off, feet fully naked — is what I'm talking about and I don't care how lovely your feet are: sticking them up in the air like that at an airport is just a nope. If you're going to sleep in the terminal, please, do us all a favor and at least keep your socks on.

10. Overcrowded Airport Lounges

Goodness knows there are several excellent airport lounges. But twice in the last six months I have found myself in at least relatively "fancy" lounges — one in Gatwick, the other an "Aspire" lounge at Larnaca International (LCA) — that were full of kids running around screaming, the food and beverage offerings were subpar to the point of sad and they were crowded beyond comfort. In both instances I preferred to spend more time in the terminal itself than these overcrowded "executive" lounges.

11. Awful Elevator — Er, Airport — Music

In the old days it was the piped-in Muzak. And for a while it seemed like every Hudson News in the country had a "Dawson's Creek"-inspired soundtrack on an endless, treacly loop. Would it be so wrong to want to hear Italian music in an Italian airport, British pop in a British airport or anything (for the sake of everyone's sanity) but Justin Bieber in Canada? At least some airports like LAX are adding diversions like periodic free concerts to some terminals, which can shake things up a bit acoustically.

12. Endless Corridors

There are some corridors that connect terminals (or parts of the same terminal) in airports such as London Heathrow (LHR) that are so long you could be forgiven for thinking you need a separate ticket just to haul yourself and your carry-on through them. What sadist fiend designs these things? Moving sidewalks, when they actually work, only compound the stress because invariably there will be passengers hogging the only lane. And there's just no satisfaction in muttering, "excuse me" from behind someone's overstuffed Samsonite repeatedly when what you really want to say is "Uh, your trolley suitcase has wheels for a reason."

13. Clogged Jet Bridges

OK, this might be more of an airline thing, too, but there has to be a better way of organizing stuff on the ground so that you're not stuck like a sardine in an elevated tube between the gate and the airplane, someone breathing on your neck while you spend too much time staring at some banal advertisement plastered inside the jet bridge.

I mean, who wouldn't rather spend more time in the terminal, waiting in line at Starbucks and checking out the gift shops?