Waiting around an airport is the worst part of flying (with sardine can–size economy seats a close second). If you’re like me, you head straight for the bar to kill time with a dose of liquid courage. But several airports around the world give flyers more entertaining—and certainly healthier—ways to amuse themselves, like playing video games, enjoying a round of golf, and even getting married. Who knew frequent flying could be fun?
Putt Around in Salt Lake City
Utah is all about golf. The state boasts no fewer than one hundred courses, according to the Salt Lake City International Airport Web site, including “world famous” alpine courses in the Wasatch Mountains. There are twenty-four golf courses in Salt Lake County alone, one of which, the Wingpointe Golf Course, featuring eighteen holes of natural terrain, abuts the airport. Wingpointe is open from sunup to sundown during the season, so it’s time to start measuring layovers by holes, rather than hours.
Get Hitched in Holland
Maybe fear of a plane crash leads to a desire for life-affirming acts, or maybe all the booze flowing in airport bars lowers inhibitions. Whatever the reason, airport weddings are a growing trend in Europe, reports Harriet Baskas, a travel writer for USA Today. In Amsterdam, the Schiphol Airport’s very own wedding planner works to accommodate an average of fifty couples each year who want to tie the knot there. In addition, five hundred couples exchanged vows at the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport in 2007, and England’s Manchester Airport even allows brides and grooms to get hitched inside a parked Concorde airplane.
Just Breathe in Tokyo
All that recirculated air in planes leaves flyers longing for fresh air. In Tokyo, they can get something even better: flavored oxygen. Tokyo Narita Airport features the Juko Oxygen Lounge, a minimalist space where guests serve themselves from tanks that pump exotic flavors of oxygen—eucalyptus-menthol and cinnamon are both popular—into their lungs. Customers can choose between a ten-minute session for 600 yen (US$6) and a twenty-minute session for 1,200 yen (US$12.50). Fans of flavored oxygen argue that it eases headaches, increases alertness, and reduces the effects of jet lag.
Say “Ah” in São Paulo
One of the worst things about long flights is the amount of time you waste shuffling around airports and sitting in airplane cabins. In São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport, however, you can multitask and cross that dental appointment off your to-do list while you wait to board your plane. Adrien Glover of Travel + Leisure writes that a small team of licensed dental professionals performs a range of services, from basic tooth cleaning and checkups to whitening, inside a “spotless” office and for a “fraction of the cost in the U.S.”
Travel to Another Dimension in Hong Kong
In the United States, 3-D movies are all the rage, but the Hong Kong Airport takes things one dimension further, boasting Asia’s largest 4-D movie screen. Wearing 3-D glasses and treated to in-theater special effects like wind, water, and fog, viewers can actually get inside the film. (I wonder if they’ve ever screened Con Air or Airplane! there.)
Get Your Video-Game Fix in Paris
Video-game addicts with time to kill at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport should hit the free Sony PlayStation kiosks in Terminal One; in 2007, the airport signed a contract with Sony to have eighty PlayStation2 consoles and fourteen PlayStation3 consoles installed in the Galerie Parisienne there. The gaming equipment is spread among three comfortable lounges, each of which can accommodate twenty-eight players at once. And since about ten million of the travelers passing through Charles de Gaulle are under twenty-five years of age, the lounges are usually full of teens and young adults fighting the mind-numbing boredom of waiting for their flights.
Frolic with Butterflies in Singapore
Flying gives many people butterflies in their stomach, but travelers passing through Singapore Changi International Airport can experience butterflies outside their bodies instead. Most airports have a meditation room somewhere on their grounds; Singapore’s airport helps travelers relax even more deeply with an “enclosed tropical oasis” where a whopping forty-seven species of butterflies native to Singapore and Malaysia roam freely and even perch on travelers’ shoulders. What a peaceful escape from hectic terminal life.
Friendly Skies, Indeed
To provide succor for weary flyers and to encourage more passengers to choose air travel, airports across the globe are banking on uniqueness and offering innovative amenities to their guests. Layovers and delayed flights no longer mean hours of chewing gum and flipping through tabloid magazines; now, travelers can break up the monotony with a few rounds of golf, a 4-D movie, or a relaxing stroll through a butterfly garden. Bon voyage!