Pre-Flight Stress: How Airports Can Make You Lose It

Pre-flight stress and the expected reality of a travel day. Not all airports are created equal. Sure, some of them are scary looking while others are award winners such as Munich, Hong Kong Airport, Hamad International Airport, and Singapore, but they all can cause you a fair amount of pre-flight stress.

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Whatever technology or self-service function the airport may have to make the journey better, we still must do the walk through the winding terminal to get to our gate. In essence, this is no yellow brick road but rather a box of chocolate: ‘you never know what you’re going to get.’

Here are five touch points we think can make you lose it and cause pre-flight stress:


pre-flight stress. how airports can make you lose it.

1. Check-in. 

Sometimes we just want to check ourselves in, and there’s a glitch with the self-serve kiosk beyond annoying.

Worst-case scenarios: Paying for overweight baggage, getting bumped to another flight, and getting a lousy seat assigned.

2. Customs.

The national government decides what security procedures are required, not the airport. The customs lines can be obscenely long, and without being able to use your phone during the wait, it can become even more daunting (not to mention, boring).

Worst-case scenarios: Going to secondary customs and losing your flight, being interrogated a multitude of times on the same question, not being allowed to pass border control.

3. Security.

 and  note in their article about airport security that the biggest issue is that “the TSA is a regulatory agency and a security agency. They essentially make their own rules.”

Who wants to be in line for half an hour, take off their shoes, be searched, take out their laptop, take off their belt, watch, and phone? No one does. My most significant scare at this point is that being shoeless can be a more significant hazard than we think.

Worst-case scenarios: An inappropriate pat-down, personal items confiscated and thrown away,  going through further pat-downs in a designated area.

Sometimes your gate is so far away that you feel like you may get lost – or that you might not make it there lugging with you your carry-on and personal bag.

Worst case scenario: You walk 10 minutes in the opposite direction of your gate, there are no places to sit when you finally get to your gate, all the workstations are taken, and all charging stations are occupied. 

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5. Canceled or delayed flights.

Who loves surprises? You won’t like this one: Surprise! Your flight is canceled. A delay can be just as bad or worse because it could mean having to wait around the airport for hours on end until the trip can be rescheduled. This can be the point where you may just want to lose it – don’t.

Worst-case scenarios: Your flight is canceled until tomorrow, the airport staff is unresponsive to your questions, your flight is delayed for seven hours, and you’re not allowed to leave the airport.

There are many ways the airport can help with pre-flight stress. For example, some airports have airport therapy dog programs, wellness services, spas, and napping rooms to help you zen.

We recommend these articles 

5 Expert Tips On How to Stay Calm At Congested Airports from Psychologist Dr. Rachel Goldman

Quiet Rooms at Airports: Here’s Where to Find Room to Think On A Travel Day

12 of the Top Airport Wellness Experiences Around the World

UPDATED September 17, 2018

Cristina Alcivar

Founder and Editor of Vane Airport Magazine. Passionate about everything well-being, love travel, the ocean, and the sun.


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