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When I travel, I do so with intent, not to make my friends jealous with selfies. In most cases, I travel specifically to visit my family. With these points in mind, it’s clear that I belong to the Obligation Meeter tribe, a fact that was further highlighted last year when I travelled home to Baltimore, Maryland from Madrid, Spain.
Not many international flights are direct to Baltimore – Washington International Airport, so I needed to catch a connecting flight at New York’s JFK. Simple enough, but there was a catch. Upon arrival, my connecting flight was some 10.5 hours later the next morning. Now, at most international airports this wouldn’t have been such a big deal. I could simply wait out the layover at an airline lounge.
I, of course, was blissfully naïve; first, all of the airline lounges, bars, restaurants, and any other traces of civilization, besides a Dunkin’ Donuts cart, are located after security; second, you cannot check-in to the domestic terminal more than four hours prior to access these places.
OK – no problem, the trusty JFK airport staff should be able impart some wisdom. “There ain’t nothing in this airport before security, not even seats.” Well, that’s not good. But I can cope with the help of the Internet. A quick Google revealed Sleepinginairports.net .
Interesting, let’s see what they say about JFK; “JFK is a confusing behemoth with notoriously seating-deprived terminals. The airport doesn't even have an on-site hotel or napping rooms for those travelers who are actually willing to spend money to sleep.” Hmm, not encouraging. So, I decided to have a look around myself. Nothingness. JFK is a Kafkaesque nightmare, seemingly designed for the sole purpose of making layover travelers uncomfortable.
Dejected, I fashioned a makeshift bed in one of the few areas available and took to the internet to voice my angst. Then suddenly, I received a Facebook message from a friend, who saw through the power of social media that I was in New York at the airport. By a stroke of luck, my friend lived just minutes from JFK and offered to pick me up for dinner and for the duration of my layover.
By 2030 I would expect travel experiences like this to be a distant memory. Airlines should be able to automatically provide intelligent advice about what to do during layovers based upon my preferences. And most importantly, infrastructure should also be modern with the comfort of travelers in mind.
Of course, we don’t want to make the layover experience too comfortable; we wouldn’t want people to miss out on character building experiences like this!