The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

Expat lifeInstaStories
27 May 2019
9 mins read
Written by Team Instarem

Here’s a story that anyone with wanderlust in their soul will identify with: 

21st March 2019: 

With great excitement, you meet with your regular travel agent to book a 2-week foreign holiday (24th May 2019 to 8th June 2019) for you and your family to the US. Your starting point will be Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and your first destination will be New York City (NYC), USA. 

You give the agent one important instruction: “Get the cheapest air tickets possible!” 

22nd May 2019: 

You’re all set to embark on your trip. The tickets and e-visas are in your travel pouch. 

The kids are excited and already whining “when will we get there?!” 

23rd May 2019 evening: 

Your onward journey from Kuala Lumpur to New York City includes 3 stops: Singapore, Tokyo and Los Angeles. 

You shrug and tell yourself, “It’s only 3 stops. We’ll manage. At least the tickets were cheap!” 

24th May: 

Your 7.35 AM flight takes off from Kuala Lumpur International airport and you reach Singapore and then Tokyo with a short layover at each airport. 

And after what seems like days – but is really only about 10 hours – you and your family arrive at Los Angeles International airport, USA. This is the penultimate leg of your journey and you’re excited about finally getting to NYC. 

You suddenly realise that your flight to New York’s Newark airport is not until 9.20 PM – 8 hours from now. 

Has something like this ever happened to you – ‘stuck’ in a transit airport and wondering how to kill time until your next flight? 

The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

Then you’re in the right place! 

In this article, we give you plenty of useful information about the world’s best transit airports as well as some great ideas on how to pass time during a layover. Now you have all the information you need to make your next trip fun rather than agonisingly boring! 

The World’s Busiest & Best Airports In 2018/2019 

An April 2019 article by International Airport Review analysed 2018 air traffic numbers and found that the world’s 5 busiest airports in terms of passengers carried in were: 

  1. Atlanta, USA 
  2. Beijing, China 
  3. Dubai, UAE 
  4. Los Angeles, USA 
  5. Tokyo, Japan 

Of course, the world’s busiest airports are not necessarily the best transit airports. 

In 2019, following a ‘World Airport Survey’, a list of the world’s top 10 transit airports was drawn up. 

The prize for the best transit airport in the world went to Incheon International Airport (South Korea). No wonder, because this transit hub offers a plethora of unique features such as free hospitality, a golf course, a cultural museum, an artificial ice rink and even indoor gardens. And, the staff service levels here are world-class. The airport even arranges free transit tours where you can explore the city of Seoul and soak in its culture, cuisine and warm hospitality. 

Unsurprisingly, the next best transit airport on the list was Singapore’s Changi Airport, an airport that frequently makes it to the top of the World’s Best Airports list. Get up close and personal with thousands of butterfly species at its Butterfly Garden, soak in the peace offered by the orchid garden and koi pond or grab a free massage to relax your sore and aching muscles. In April 2019, the airport added another feather to its cap when it opened the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (the ‘Jewel Rain Vortex’) right inside the airport! 

  1. Hong Kong International Airport (Hong Kong) 
  2. Tokyo Haneda Airport (Japan) 
  3. Hamad International Airport Doha (Qatar) 
  4. Munich International Airport (Germany) 
  5. Tokyo Narita Airport (Japan) 
  6. Frankfurt Airport (Germany) 
  7. Zurich Airport (Switzerland) 
  8. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Netherlands) 

Stuck At A Transit Airport? Here Are 5 Fun Ways To Pass Time! 

What do you normally do during a layover at a transit airport? 

  • Drive others in the waiting area crazy with your incessant pacing and grumbling? 
  • Catch up on sleep? Shop till you drop? Eat till you’re ready to burst? 
  • Hog the free Wi-Fi to stalk your friends and relatives on social media? 

What if you don’t have to do any of these run-of-the-mill, things ever again? 

Long layovers don’t have to be boring or frustrating. Here are 5 creative and fun things you can do to pass the time while you wait without spending a lot of money. What’s even better is that many of these activities are completely free! 

1. Learn About A New Culture – Take A Free City Tour

The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

Seoul’s Incheon Airport is not the only one offering free city tours to transit passengers. Narita International Airport in Japan and Singapore’s Changi Airport can also take you on an interesting sight-seeing tour while you wait for your next flight. Make sure you have plenty of layover time (at least 3-8 hours) to make the most of the opportunity. Last, but not least, make sure you have a visa that allows you to leave the airport! 

Zurich International Airport rents out equipment such as inline skates, bicycles and Nordic walking poles so you can get out and explore the beautiful city on your own. 

Why drown in boredom when you have the chance to soak up an unfamiliar city’s culture or sample its food at no extra cost to your wallet? 

2. Have Fun – Take Advantage Of Airport Activities Or Games

The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

Many international airports offer free activities that can help transit passengers pass time in a fun and productive way. Several activities are great for children as well. You will no longer feel like tearing out your hair with their incessant “when will we get there?”! 

  • Relax and say bye-bye to stress at San Francisco International’s (USA) Yoga Room 
  • Keep your kids entertained for hours with the creatively-designed (and supervised) play area at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai (India) 
  • Take indoor surfing lessons at the one-of-a-kind stationary ‘wave pool’ at Munich Airport (Germany) 
  • Have fun while you learn to skate at the Ice Forest, an artificial skating rink at Incheon Airport (South Korea) 
  • Enjoy a free movie in a 1920s Hollywood-inspired mini cinema at Portland International Airport (USA) 
  • If museums are your fuel, then Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (Netherlands) will definitely please you with its curated mini art museum that features famous works, including some from the great Vincent Van Gogh 
3. Unwind – Enjoy Some ‘Furry Me-Time’ With Airport Therapy Animals

The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

Plenty of airports – particularly in North America – are embracing ‘therapy animals’ such as dogs, cats and even horses and pigs to help stressed-out passengers relax during layovers or before long flights. 

These include: 

  • Los Angeles International Airport (USA) 
  • Edmonton International Airport (Canada) 
  • Vancouver International Airport (Canada) 
  • Denver International Airport (USA) 
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai (India) 

If you happen to be in any of these airports during transit – hug, pet and cuddle with a four-legged ‘therapist’ (dogs are the most common). They usually wear brightly-coloured vests saying something like ‘Pet Me’ so you can’t miss them. You will never forget the valuable emotional support they provide or the experience of receiving unconditional love from your new furry friend! 

4. Get Some Exercise Or Go Play! 

The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

Some airports offer playing facilities to frequent flyer club members and even transit passengers. For example, Hong Kong International Airport has a Skycity Nine Eagles golf course where you can practice your shots and even show off your skills to other players. If you prefer to stay indoors at this airport, you can also practise your swing at GreenLive Air, a ‘virtual’ golf course with both nine and eighteen-hole courses. 

The Bodystreet Fitness Studio at Munich Airport offers a 20-minute EMS (electro-muscular stimulation) workout which is great for stretching your muscles before your next flight. 

Take a dip in a swimming pool or get your body moving at a fitness centre at Singapore’s Changi Airport, Dubai International Airport or Doha’s Hamad International Airport. If you prefer to be pampered during your next layover, visit the Via Lounge and Spa at the Helsinki Airport in Finland. 

5. Say Hello To Mother Nature & Take A Chill Pill

The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

An airport is probably the last place you would associate with the peace and calm of greenery, but plenty of airports around the world will prove you wrong. 

Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport is located amid a rainforest. So if you have some time to kill, get yourself to the middle of the airport’s Satellite Building and soak in the beauty of nature. Your blood pressure will come down and your stress will melt away. 

You could also stop by to marvel at exotic marine wildlife at Vancouver International Airport. The presence of such a thriving marine ecosystem in the middle of a bustling airport is therapeutic for the soul.

Some of the best airport gardens in the world are undoubtedly at Changi International Airport in Singapore. The airport boasts of a cactus garden, a sunflower garden and an orchid garden – a fresh air haven if you’ve been cooped up in a stifling aeroplane for hours. 

More Ideas To Kill Time At A Transit Airport

The Airport Agony: Transit Flights & Tiresome Waits? 5 Ways To Break FREE!

Here are some other things you can do to pass time before boarding your next flight: 

  • People-watch: Airports are great places to observe humanity in all its glory with including emotion (partings and reunions being guaranteed tear-jerkers!. Besides, there are plenty of photo opportunities all around you so click away! 
  • Explore the airport: Frequent flyers often complain that after a few hundred trips, all airports start to look the same. But there are still plenty of opportunities to walk around, explore and learn something new at every airport and there’s a great bonus too – free exercise! 
  • Meditate or pray: If the airport has a meditation lounge or chapel, sit there to enjoy some quiet time and relax. 
  • Window shop: If you don’t want to spend money or increase your luggage, window shopping is a great way to relieve stress and boredom. You’ll be amazed at some of the things sold in airport shops all over the world. 

So, that was our list of ideas; if you have an idea that we don’t know about, tell us in the comments below. Or just share your favourite way to kill time at an airport.  

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