How to Kill Time at the Airport

Dom Herrera, 29.01.20
Alternative Travel Tips

Flight delayed? Long layover? For many, the thought of being stuck in an airport with nothing to do is a worst-case scenario — especially if you’re already suffering from post-travel blues.

But, at Alternative Airlines, we know that waiting at the airport doesn’t have to be boring. And if you follow our clever time-killing tips, we believe we can turn hours of boredom into something quite fun.

Things to do at the airport when your flight is delayed

Head to a restaurant or bar

One tip that never fails is to head to a restaurant or bar for some food or drinks. Unless you’re flying from a really small airport with hardly any facilities — in general — airports can be pretty good for their selection of places to eat, drink and hang out.

Rotterdam Airport bar/restaraunt

People watch

You’ll be amazed at how quickly time can go when you people watch. And there’s no place better for it than the airport, where plenty of people pass through each day.

Frequent flyer and President of FE&E, L.Burke, told us “I like watching people (at the airport) — just watching to see their mannerisms and how they interact with the environment around them. Many airports in Africa and South America are not so organized and there is a lot of pushing and shoving. Some react well and some cannot wait to be home.”

You might also find it fun to make up stories for each person in your head — where is that person travelling to? Are they going to see their family? Friends? Rekindling a holiday romance? Undercover agent on a secret mission? It’s your game, so have fun with it!

Talk to people

Rather than watching people and making up a story in your head, why not actually talk to people and learn their real story instead? Airports are one of the best places for socialising with strangers as they’re full of different people from all over the world.

We know what you’re thinking — starting a conversation with a complete stranger for no reason other than to talk? You’re crazy! But, if they’re sitting at a cafe or a bar, the chances are that they’re looking for a way to kill time too. What’s the worst that can happen?

Check out the airport art

Kill time at the airport by immersing yourself in the culture of the country that you’re flying from. Whether it’s the stunning paintings and prints that are found on the walls throughout the terminal buildings at Salt Lake City (SLC) or the fancy collections and installations that London Heathrow (LHR) and Copenhagen (CPH) boast, more and more airports are jumping on the airport art gallery trend.

Airport art at Washington airport

See what other facilities the airport has

If art isn’t your thing, it’s definitely worth checking out what else the airport that you’re flying from has to offer.

Some airports go above and beyond when it comes to entertaining its passengers — Vancouver International (YVR) has a 30,000-gallon aquarium, Incheon International Airport (ICN) a cinema and Singapore Changi (SIN) has a rooftop pool and a gigantic adult slide!

Go shopping

If all else fails, browse the shops around the airport while you wait for your flight. Go clothes shopping, buy a magazine to read, grab a snack or buy a souvenir for a loved one. Plus, if you’re flying internationally, you can benefit from the great prices at duty-free!

While smaller airports might have less choice than the bigger ones, you should be able to find at least a couple of shops to browse while you’re waiting for your flight at any airport.

Have a read of our blog on the most fantastic airports for shopping.

Sort out your travel photos

We all love a holiday photo and a delayed flight is the perfect excuse to spend some time deciding which photos have Instagram potential and which should be deleted and never seen again.

Planespot

If you love aircraft as much as we do, you might want to spend some time gazing out at the runway and watching the planes take-off and land. If the airport is big, don’t be afraid to ask a member of airport staff where you can get the best view of the planes from.

Person plane spotting

Things to do at the airport when you have a layover/stopover

Book a lounge

Peace and quiet, free food and drink and ultra-comfortable seats. Booking an airport lounge is the ultimate way to kick back and relax while killing time at the airport. Airport lounges offer everything you need, from charging points to free WIFI, as well as some fancier things that you probably don’t need, like spa treatments and shoe-shining services.

If you have a layover and are planning to stay at an airport lounge, you can pre-book your lounge online on the airport website and save money.

Check out our blog on the best airport lounges in the world to see what the most luxurious lounges have to offer.

Explore the city outside of the airport

If you have a layover or stopover that gives you enough time to leave the airport and explore the city — jump on the chance to do so.

A stopover is essentially a bonus holiday and the perfect way to see a new city without having to pay for separate flight tickets to that destination. Or, if your stopover is in a city that you’ve already visited before, use it to re-discover your love for that city. A stopover in a city that you’ve been to before is great because you’ll have already figured out the best places to go in that the city and won’t waste any of the limited time that you have.

Want to plan the perfect stopover? Take a look at our blog.

Karachi

Catch up with an old friend

Use the time that you have to kill at the airport to catch up with a friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Lifestyle blogger Taima Ramsey explains “catching up with an old friend when you have time to kill is a double win. That friend feels great for you reaching out to them. And with all that catching up, gossip etc you will be surprised how quickly the time goes.”

We suggest telling your friend you’re planning to call beforehand, though. You don’t want to catch them at a time when they’re busy and be left desperately searching through your contacts with no friends.

Sleep

Did you know that a number of airports have sleeping pods that you can use to take a quick nap in while you wait for your flight? For example, Munich Airport (MUC) has napcabs that are fitted with a bed, free internet and a working area — the perfect place to chill out or catch some z’s.

Not every airport has sleeping pods but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a rest before your flight. It does help if you come prepared with a travel pillow and a blanket but using your bag as a and a jumper or jacket is fine too. Find a nice spot, set your alarm and shut your eyes.

Tip: If you have valuables on you, you might want to use the airport lockers to store them. And, if you’re not comfortable going to sleep with no one to watch your baggage, many airports have baggage storage where you can safely store it.

Person sleeping on airport seats

Brush up on the language of where you’re travelling to

Bring a translation book or use your phone to learn some key phrases in the language of the destination that you’re travelling to.

Travel and language blogger Michele Flora told us “You don't need to be fluent to reap the benefits. Learning a choice phrases go a long way to break the ice with locals and open you up to more opportunities and experiences.”

Binge-watch your favourite Netflix show

Nothing passes the time quite like binging a good TV show. While many airports have free WIFI, quality and speed aren’t always guaranteed and you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you can’t connect and have nothing to watch (trust us). That’s why it’s best to pre-download the episodes to your laptop or mobile before you head to the airport.

Person at airport on laptop

Take a tour of the airport

Ever wanted to get a behind the scenes look into how an airport is run and the processes?

Believe it or not, some airports, such as Zurich Airport (ZRH), offer guided airport tours. These tours take you through some of the most important areas of the airport, including the check-in desks, the baggage sorting system and show you some fantastic views of the runway and the aircraft.

Airport tours can be pre-booked online on the airport website.