Awhile back, I wrote about how great it would be if airports weren’t such boring, generic places. The idea was that if airports had things like movie theaters and gyms, they’d be more enjoyable than they are in their current form — which usually is limited to overpriced, mediocre restaurants and duty free shops.

Not long after writing that post, I flew out of Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and was reminded that it actually has a few things in the vein of what I was talking about. While there’s not a movie theater, there is a PlayStation arcade:


Both times I’ve been to this terminal (this year and in 2013), these consuls were well used, though not overly crowded.

The terminal also has a piano that is free to use:


Both the piano and video games struck me as a perfect addition to an airport. One of the weaknesses of a movie theater, I think, is that requires a fairly significant time commitment. I’ve often had an hour, or even 90 minutes in an airport. But a full two hours or more is rare. And you’d probably need three hours or more to make it from a gate, buy a ticket, watch previews and a movie, and then get back to another flight.

Video games and pianos, on the other hand, offer a far more flexible option; you can play for 20 minutes, or two hours.

While examples of really innovative things at airports are few and far between, I have seen buskers at two airports over the last year:

Portland, Oregon:

Salt Lake City, Utah:

Musicians don’t necessarily offer interactive experiences that allow travelers to relax or exercise (like, say, nap pods and gyms might), but they do brighten the experience and in both cases improved my time at the airport.

Hopefully these examples are a lesson for other airports. Before writing this post I talked to Laura, who for her job visits different cities everyday, and she mentioned a few other examples of airports trying harder to be more interesting. Still, most airports have a long way to go.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


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