a large airport with luggage carts and people

If you’re not already familiar, there’s a travel geek hashtag: #paxex. It’s an abbreviation for passenger experience. Needless to say- it’s because a very popular hash tag, because there’s just so much that could (and really should) improve about the passenger experience. We’ve synthesized down a few of our greatest airport hates, and how to improve them. Please note, some humor was involved in making this post, and will be needed to enjoy it.

a sign with arrows and directionsThe 50 Gate Seats for 250 Passengers

A slow clap for the mathletes who put these things together. At most airports, most flights have at least 100 passengers on them- yet we design airports to offer gates with seating for 50 tops? Come on now, not everyone knows that there are lounges even economy passengers can access. Surely in future iterations we can think a little less outside the box here.

Fix: Do some math when you build airports, you A$$HOLES.

The People Who Stand In The Middle Of Moving Walkways…

Moving walkways quite literally create life in the fast lane. While some see these marvels as an opportunity to skip out on exercise, the rest of us see them as a means of walking faster. If you want to stand, no problem- just get out of the way by keeping to the right and not having your bags take up whatever space you do not.

Fix: Hire rent-a-cops to fine people who block those of us in a hurry from passing on the left.

The Queues Purely Because Of Understaffing…

The excitement of arriving at the airport for check in, or the joyous feeling of landing at your destination is immediately squashed by seeing just two lights on. We live in a world where Google can predict within mere minutes how long it will take to drive hundreds of miles through traffic, yet airlines and immigration authorities can’t predict when they’ll need all hands on deck to deal with passenger influx. Damnit!

Fix: Increased investment in smart analytics of passenger flow to adequately staff desks.

The Security Divas In Six Layers Of Nonsense…

If it’s your first EVER time traveling through an airport we can maybe let you off. Other than that- damn you. Please sort out your: overcoat, gold cufflinks, jewelry, lace up boots, deeply buried laptop bag and all the other thing that drive a wedge between us and our flights. Just a little foresight about what you’ll need to take out and or what might set off an alarm goes a long way.

Fix: Airlines should include speedy security tips at each juncture of the check in process.

The Boarding Area Crowd, The Chaos, The Humanity…

This has to be one of everyone’s least favorite moments, and it’s just senseless. There’s a boarding system for a reason and if you passed elementary school math, you should be able to figure out which zone you belong in. Unless you’re flying one of like… three European budget carriers, there’s zero benefit to standing up for boarding when business class is called if you’re not in business class. Haters to the left, everyone else, please sit and wait for your zone.

Fix: Place tattoo agents at gate to tattoo correct boarding group for those who forget.

a sign with an arrow pointing to an airport

The Low, Airless Ceilings. Who Designed This Place?

Thousands of agitated people flying daily, and you thought: I bet low ceilings and uninspired styrofoam ceiling tiles will help.  Waiting for hours in these airless, cramped buildings does not help alleviate the growing divide between passenger and airline, it just makes it worse. Who ever thought that the airplane could feel better than the airport? Something must be done.

Fix: Avoid wretched old airports at any cost. Gut terminals and think from scratch.

The Food! You Call This Food?!

Where are all the good restaurants? We’re not saying we don’t love a greasy burger every now and again, but surely someone figured out that grease on grease on grease does not make for greasy smooth flights? There’s got to be something better than Starbucks and Applebees for the airport. And lounge food, we’re looking at you too…

Fix: Copy top European airports and make terminals into deluxe shopping malls.

The False Boarding Calls, Stop Messing With Us!

Ok, ok- we get it, the sooner everyone is on board the sooner we can leave. But stop messing with us, getting us to spit out our mediocre airport food to do a mad dash to the gate that says “boarding” only to see the entire extras casting line for Game Of Thrones standing aimlessly. Get the zones sorted, stop with the false alarms and everyone will keep calm and carry on.

Fix: Print different boarding times for zones to stagger boarding and quell headache.

The Customer Service Desks, Who Needs Desks?

Years ago, much to many people’s surprise, Apple and IBM came out with software that was designed to change the passenger experience. Using wifi, cloud technology and good ole’ things called iPads, airlines could become more like Apple Stores. Gone with the lines and desks, in with the fleet of helpful roaming agents all over the terminal ready to help. When already?!

Fix: Invest in the passenger software technologies and infrastructures to make a difference.

The Dreaded Terminal Transfer…

Admittedly, this isn’t always a thing- but at too many airports it is. At countless major airports around the world, if your connection leaves from a different terminal, you need to hire a sherpa to take you up a mountain, before zip lining through the rainforest to reach the next terminal. Even then- you have to re clear security. Surely someone can design a safe, free flowing airside environment to improve the countless airports where breaking into the Louvre would seem easier.

Fix: We don’t know. Just fix it.

What drives you crazy? Other than the TSA of course…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. “Surely someone can design a safe, free flowing airside environment to improve the countless airports where breaking into the Louvre would seem easier.”
    Amen. The ultimate wildcard when travelling.

  2. add bus gates to the list ( common in s.e. asia) go from the plane to a buss to a terminal.

    moving walkways have different procedures in different countries, same as drive on the right or left

  3. I think, in the U.S. specifically, DFW’s D terminal is underrated in terms of all these points mentioned. It’s actually a really pleasant place to be, as far as airports go.
    High ceilings, nice design, good restaurants and lounges, tons of space at gates and between them. And one of the easiest airside connection systems in the SkyLink.
    Really pleasant experience.

  4. Traveling with friends who check bags through, only to find that my carry on is unacceptable for overhead size compartment (usually happens in the front of the plane where there are slider doors) then having everyone wait while my bag has to be retrieved plane side while we could be Running for our connection!
    Happened twice the last trip, so I checked my carry on through on the way home$$
    but enjoyed the stroll to the next flight so worth it.

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