How Not to Get Lost at the Airport

After months of historically low levels of air travel, people have started flying again. Almost 863,000 people passed through their airport checkpoints on August 16, the highest number since March 17, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) . There is still a lot of unknown regarding the future of commercial airlines and the specifics of COVID. 19 on planes, but at this point it’s safe to say no one wants to spend extra time at the airport. (Although this is definitely true during non-pandemic periods as well.) Since airports can be difficult to navigate, here are some tips to help you stay on track.

Why are airports so confusing?

Unfortunately, airports can be confusing even for seasoned travelers. And, according to Dr. Janet Bednarek , aviation historian at the University of Dayton, that’s because they weren’t designed to accommodate that many passengers. “Often, even the best projects have either been suppressed by much higher-than-expected passenger growth or, more recently, security protocols have changed, she told USA Today . To remedy this, airports are trying to compensate for design and capacity issues by posting signs all over the place.

While these signs should help in theory, in practice it can be difficult to tell which direction they are pointing. (Does this diagonal arrow pointing up and to the left mean to turn left at an upcoming fork in the hallway, or to take the escalator ahead?) On top of that, airports are sensory overload for us when we try to navigate terminals. full of screaming kids, rival Cinnabon and Panda Express scents, and signs pointing in all directions – all while trying to board a flight or leave an airport.

Usually this kind of unintuitive design is frustrating and can make us lose patience. Throw in a pandemic – when everyone is trying to get into and out of the airport as quickly as possible without touching anything – and things can get ugly. While we wait for much needed airport improvements, here are three strategies to help you stay on track , courtesy of Christopher Elliot of USA Today .

Check the airport floor plans in advance.

If you are trying to get around an unfamiliar place, you are using a map. Most airports provide maps with terminal floor plans on their websites, so take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with them before getting to the airport. You don’t need to remember this (although taking a screenshot is handy, so you don’t have to constantly open the website), but knowing whether you need to do left or right after going through a security check can help. In addition, you will be familiar with your meal options in advance and will be able to make a plan for using the toilet.

Use TripIt apps or airlines

The TripIt app, which provides interactive airport maps for 90 airports around the world, has been popular with frequent flyers for many years. In addition to maps, it also shows you the fastest route to your gate or exit, including an estimate of how long it will take. Some airline apps have similar features, which are especially useful if you have a small connection before your connecting flight. Since it already has all the information about your flight, you don’t even need to enter any information.

Do not rush

While we all want to get through the airport as quickly as possible, get there early enough to give yourself time to get to the exit without running through the terminal struggling to keep your roller bag upright. Flying (especially right now) is quite a stressful process, without any time limits.


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