Content for a captive audience: understanding the mindsets of the airport traveller

Air travel, particularly in the United States, gets a pretty bad rap. Whether it’s the scandal with United Airlines, the horrendously long lines for security, the indignation of waiting in line to get practically undressed for a TSA agent, or the food… there’s a lot to complain about at the airport. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have said our airports are “like from a Third-World country” – it’s not even a bipartisan issue. Clearly, there is a lot to be done here.

However, we should also celebrate the good things about air travel; in the last 100 years we have amassed a rich cultural folklore around this subject. There’s the one involving catching people at the airport (having bought “whatever the cheapest ticket is!”) to proclaim your undying love for someone right before they board their flight (the logistics of this cliché have always bothered me, but I digress.) Or more unrealistically, the one about being seated next to someone incomprehensibly charming (and not outstandingly annoying) on a plane.

Clichés aside, there is something inherently magic about travel, as Louis alluded to. This isn’t just limited to planes—train travel, road trips, long bicycle rides, boat rides—maybe as humans we are still befuddled by the idea of moving faster than our little feet can take us (6 mph on a bad day.) Provided you’ve made it to the airport and got through security with time to spare, the airport is a fascinating space of transition— rather than movement. You’re about to embark on the magic of air travel.

At their best, airports are a unique place where cultural norms and personal routines are shirked for the time being: not dissimilar to the suspension of rituals on vacation. Everyone is there for the same reason – to get somewhere. With this in mind, we took to Twitter to find out what these positive airport experiences are, specifically wanting to know what people say in the moment in 280 characters or less. The results are quite interesting and heartening, download the full whitepaper to see what we found out. 

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