There’s a growing trend called “Airport Culture” — members of Generation Z who spend time at airports for fun. No, they’re not traveling. It’s another version of hanging out at the mall.
We’re talking about killing time landside, before passport control, and pre-security. Not relaxing in fancy airport club lounges. Not planespotting from an airside Chili’s while sipping a drink. Maybe zipping back and forth on tram connecting terminals.
(And you thought you were an airport rat!)
Writer-podcaster Chloe Combi came up with the “Airport Culture” label while researching Gen Z for an episode of the You Don’t Know Me podcast.
In a piece for Vice (warning: there’s some language some may find offensive), she writes:
…one destination…came up so frequently and in such colourful detail, particularly for teenagers from poorer backgrounds, that it began to seem like an undiscovered subculture. It’s what I came to christen “Airport Culture”.
Going to the airport for fun or to while-away time has become a noticeably popular activity. Interrogate it a little further, and it becomes obvious why. An airport is a free, diverse and safe space that offers the roaming possibilities of streets and parks, with the added benefit of lots of security, meaning nothing bad is likely to happen to you there.
Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Plus, many airports are inexpensive destinations — thanks to public transit.
A 17-year-old named Isabel (her airport of choice is Heathrow) told Ms. Combi:
Most of my friends can’t afford pubs, clubs or festivals, and you just get hassled so badly in the park or walking around the street. Most house parties are [$#*!], but at the airport everyone is really friendly and often chatty because they’re either waiting for someone or to go somewhere. If anything bad happens, there are security there. But no one comes to an airport to cause trouble, you know? Except maybe terrorists. But you don’t get that thing of being aggressively pursued in airports by boys, like you do around town.
Ah, yes. Drugs and trolley races.
You have to admit that airports are amazing for people-watching. Terminals with international departures and arrivals are especially captivating. During the course of an hour or two, you can probably see people heading to or arriving from each of the six populated continents. (And maybe the stray person visiting Antartica, who knows?)
As David Trottier pointed out in his book The Screenwriter’s Bible, airports are also an idea fount for fiction writers. Countless unique (and often emotional) real-life stories are carried out each day at every airport.
So while at first you might think, Gee, that’s a weird hobby, it’s actually perfect for some people.
I can sort of identify.
When I was a kid, I loved going to The Barnstormer restaurant at Hector International Airport in Fargo. The place was landside, had fantastic bacon-cheeseburgers and fries, and was in one of my favorite places: an airport. Plus, this was (very) pre-9/11, so I traipsed in and out of gate areas to planespot and jealously watch passengers board Northwest flights to Minneapolis.
If airports offered more landside “destinations” — like restaurants and bars with good views of the ramps — I’d absolutely be interested in taking my daughter there for meals or meeting friends for a beverage.
Do You Participate in Airport Culture?
Even when you’re not traveling, do you visit airports for the sole purpose of hanging out in them? Park in the short-term ramp and walk around the baggage claim area or airlines’ check-in desks?
Please leave your thoughts, experiences, or other relevant comments below!
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