The Matador Guide to Airports
Air travel is magic. Nearly three million people fly every day on some 45,000 flights in the United States alone, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Of course, between delays, long snaking lines, expensive flights and airport food, frustrated fellow travelers, and airport security, it often doesn’t feel all that magical.
The key to starting your trip off on a good note is knowing all the ways to make the most of what an airport has to offer. Every one is different, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t near universal tips and tricks for everything from navigating security checkpoints to finding your checked bag.
The Case for Arriving Last Minute
Going to the airport is kind of like going to the dentist. The sterile corridors, bright iridescent lights, tedious waiting around, and uncomfortable procedures aren’t exactly inviting, and, at worst, can even be painful. With the exception of some state-of-the-art new terminals, most airports are terrible environments to hang out at. Not to mention check-in lines and the frisking at security. Your reward for all of this? Waiting another couple hours in the most uncomfortable seat known to man, alongside hundreds of other disgruntled soon-to-be-passengers who just endured the same process. Sure, having lounge access makes the waiting a bit easier, but it’s the equivalent of getting a root canal in a dentist’s chair that massages you. So why spend more time in the airport than you have to? Check in online, get TSA Precheck, and show up at the last possible minute. The short-lived “will I I make my flight?” anxiety is well-worth avoiding the hours of waiting in the airport. — Eben Diskin
The Case for Arriving Early
Airports can be bastions of calm productivity – and you don’t even need lounge access in order to experience this. All it takes is a willingness to arrive a few hours ahead of time, get through security, and reframe your outlook on the entire situation. In terms of places to pass extra time, airports offer so much more than the hectic confines of a busy concourse. First, many modern airports have great WiFi now, making them excellent places to post up on your laptop and burn through emails and last-minute tasks before boarding. Second, most airports larger than the smallest of regional hubs have at least decent food, with major airports nowadays offering locally inspired cuisine on par with the hippest of food halls. Then there’s the people watching. And that’s just the start — Tim Wenger.
Traveling With Baggage
The decision to check a bag is highly circumstantial. Some items (skis, large instruments, special liquors or wines from your travels) simply can’t be carried on, while some occasions require a lot more packing (month-long trips, almost anywhere with a baby, etc.). There’s an art to finding the best airline in terms of checked-bag fees, carry-on bag fees and size limits, and wait times to get your bag tagged and sent off. There’s even more of an art on the airlines’ side to get your bag from point A to point B through any number of connections.
How Airlines Move Your Checked Bag Through Connections
Prepare to appreciate all of the unseen work it takes.
I Fly 200 Times a Year. Here’s Why I Always Check a Bag.
It might be time to consider joining team checked bag for every flight.
Everything You Need To Know About Flying While Pregnant
Get the inside scoop onboarding a plane while expecting. Here’s everything you need to know about flying while pregnant, according to an OBGYN.
Everything You Need To Know Before Flying With Breast Milk
Breast pumping while traveling can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time. Being successful goes beyond just knowing the TSA regulations and breast milk storage. A holistic approach to traveling with breast milk that considers your comfort and stress level is essential.
Getting Through Security
Airport security is one of the biggest obstacles to making it to your gate on time. Lines are long and only seem to be getting longer. Even expedited programs like CLEAR and TSA PreCheck can involve waiting in a long line now depending on the airport. What’s worse, the vast majority of airports lack a reliable way to check how long it takes to get through the security line. That leaves travelers with the choice to risk it and hope for the best, or spend far too long trying to entertain themselves post-security after an unexpectedly short wait. With the right approach, however, security lines can be an afterthought.
All of the Food You Can’t Take Through Airport Security
You probably already know about the no-liquids rule, but there are some surprises here.
39 Major US Airports, Ranked by How Long It Takes To Get Through Airport Security
There’s a long wait, and then there’s a wait at Miami International.
9 Tips To Get Through Airport Security Faster Than Everyone Else, Straight From Frequent Fliers
Practice makes perfect.
Former TSA Officer Gives Tips and Tricks for Airport Security
No one knows airport security better than the TSA.
Sign Up For TSA PreCheck
If you’re ready to make the jump to TSA PreCheck, or you just need to renew, the first hurdle pops up before you fill out a single document: finding an available time at an enrollment center. There are two primary options.
- More than 580 enrollment centers
- $78 fee
- $70 for online renewal, $78 for in-person renewal
- 10 locations
- $85 fee
- $70 for both online and in-person renewal
Sustainability Breakdown: The True Carbon Footprint of Trains Versus Planes on Popular Routes
Train travel offers scenic views and a more pleasant overall experience than flying. For starters, there’s no need to stand in a long security line only to have your toothpaste taken simply because the tube won’t fit inside the eye of a needle. Notably, train travel is also significantly better for the environment than air travel. Many popular flight routes around the world have corresponding train routes for a more sustainable approach to travel.
France Is Shifting From Short Flights To Trains. Here’s How They Stack Up.
France plans to raise taxes on flights and reallocate funds to its railways. The news comes following a ban on short-haul domestic flights with train alternatives of 2.5 hours or less that came into effect in early 2023. Both measures aim to reignite public interest in train travel in an effort to combat climate change.
Flying Could Be a Net-Zero Emissions Activity as Soon as 2050
That big trip you’re planning to take in the future could end up being much better for the planet than it would have been a few years ago — or even would be today. SITA works with airlines to enact efficient operating systems to address carbon emissions in the aviation industry and achieve net-zero by 2050, and Matador spoke with vice president of strategy, product, and marketing Yann Cabaret to learn how.
At the Airport
Travelers are generally divided into two distinct camps: Those who always arrive hours early and those who just make it in time. But even the latter group isn’t immune to spending some quality time in the airport if their flight is delayed. Thankfully, the days of airports being black holes of boredom are largely over. In Rome Fiumicino Airport, sculpture installations allow for a self-guided art tour, while the newest terminal in the Denver International airport has an outdoor viewing deck to watch planes take off and land. And lounges and good bars can be found just about anywhere. Being entertained these days just depends on knowing what to do and where to go.
How To Successfully Play the Standby Game for Cheap Last-Minute Flights
Whether you’re hoping to get an earlier flight or just looking for a last minute getaway, the right approach to stand-by can help.
This Program Allows You To Relax in Over 1,300 Airport Lounges Around the World
You don’t have to pay the lounge access fee every single time with Priority Pass.
Airport Lounges Aren’t Just for Rich Business Travelers. Get in Cheap With These Tricks.
The key to an enjoyable airport experience starts right here.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep in Airports, According to Experts
Airports aren’t always the most conducive to sleeping, but there are some strategies that can help.
Avoid Those Hidden Fees
The cost you see when booking a flight isn’t always what you’re going to end up paying. Despite a government push to make pricing more transparent — in the airline industry and beyond — hidden fees are still something travelers need to keep an eye out for. There are some very fee-happy airlines out there.
A report from money-saving platform NetVoucherCodes ranked US and international airlines based on additional fees for carry-ons, checked bags, boarding order, insurance, WiFi, and seat selection (which is the most common). In all, 89 percent of airlines charge a hidden fee, and 100 percent of US airlines do.
Highest hidden fees as percent of base price, US airlines:
- Spirit Airlines: 736 percent
- Frontier: 376 percent
- Sun Country: 201 percent
- Delta: 158 percent
- JetBlue: 147 percent
Highest hidden fees as percent of base price, international airlines:
- Volaris (Mexico): 626 percent
- Etihad (UAE): 401 percent
- Ryanair (Ireland): 344 percent
- Wizz Air (Hungary): 273 percent
- EasyJet (UK): 170 percent
Taking Off and the Gear That Will Get You Through It
All of the fuss around airports is toward one goal: boarding that plane and heading off to your destination. If only it were so simple for your everyday commercial flight (a private jet or charter is a whole other story). Thankfully, there is affordable gear out there that can make the flight more relaxing, even if you’re stuck in the middle seat in the back of the plane. From airplane foot hammocks to expert suggestions to avoid jet lag when you land, these products and tips will help get you there as refreshed as possible.
Unpopular Opinion: Boarding a Plane First Is Actually Bad
Why crowd in a line just to sit down in the plane for longer?
How To Get Over Jet Lag, According To Science and Experts
It’s not completely avoidable, but there are ways to overcome jet lag faster.
Eben Diskin, Alex Bresler, Tim Wenger, Katie Scott Aiton, Morgane Croissant, Nickolaus Hines, Suzie Dundas, Olivia Harden, Kelly Magyarics, Katie Jackson
Debbie Gonzalez Canada