When you spend enough time on the road, you learn some interesting things. We’ve covered the profound self discoveries of traveling alone, tapped into what motivates us most to travel, and profiled an incredible fellow traveler or two on this site. But we’ve left out one key post we know you’re all on pins and needles, waiting in anticipation for us to at last write about it: Random airport trivia. We’re talking some of the most head scratching, occasionally useless, but perfectly random trivia a traveler could find on your most beloved (or despised airport).
Chicago O’Hare Airport
My curiosity about the unusual in and around airports first perked in Chicago at O’Hare International Airport. Chicago O’Hare can boast many things- the great Santa Claus fire of 1999 (my dad was in the airport that day), public transportation from airport to city, and then there used to be this: Chicago had an active cemetery so close to the airport you could look out your window at times for take off and landing and be looking directly at a cemetery.
That’s right my friends, the 5th busiest airport in the world had a graveyard next door until the city decided it needed to expand runways. The battle took years to resolve and was obviously quite heated and emotion filled.
Denver International Airport
DIA is many things to many people. In its infancy it was the place bags went to die. It’s distance from Denver makes you wonder if it might be just as easy to drive to your destination. It’s also big, as in you could fit ALL of LAX, DFW, O’Hare, and Atlanta onto the massive 53 square mile DIA property! But it’s also host to art, lots of it. It’s one of the first airports to incorporate public art in its space. And it’s home to one of our favorite photo galleries, anywhere! If you’ve got time to kill, check out some of the wonderful work by Thomas Mangelsen located on level 5 of the main terminal.
I mean, first of all, any airport that has the word sunport built into it just seems like the kind of place you should go. And I can’t lie, I’ve got a bias in this one, since the Sunport was my home airport growing up. Aside from nonexistent security lines and some decent New Mexican cuisine in the airport, the sunport also has a quiet, rarely used observation deck between it’s two terminals that is free for all passengers. Challenge me if you like, but my hometown bias says there is perhaps no better airport to watch the sunrise.
Escape the cattle, all 52 passengers in the airport, and escape to the peace and silence of the observation deck.
It amazes me how some of the most hardcore Angelinos don’t know this one simple, time saving, traffic avoiding secret: There are shortcuts to various LAX terminals. Want to get to terminal 7? When you arrive on the departures level, stay in the far left lane and take the first turn. Before you know it you’ve skipped terminals 2-6 and are right in front of United. There’s also a shortcut to terminal 5, with another rarely used reality: Take the shortcut to five, pull over right away, and you’re also mere feet from American Airlines terminal four. Any time you can avoid driving by Tom Bradley International Terminal, life is just a little better. Finally, the airport has two levels, and just because someone is arriving doesn’t mean you HAVE to pick them up on the arrivals level. When I arrive later in the evening, I’ll always ask to be picked up on the departures level, where the traffic is a fraction of what is going on down below in the arrivals area.
CNN did a profile of America’s busiest airport called ATL24: 24 hours in the busiest airport in America. It’s an airline nerd’s dream come true, full of fascinating photos, videos, and stories. We’ll get out of the way of a very good story here and just simply say: check it out.
Most savy travelers know that Singapore Airlines is the gold standard of airlines. The service is impeccable, the food tasty, and the business and first class cabins a constant industry leader. So why would we expect their home airport to be any different? Next time you’re on a connecting flight in Singapore, take a free tour of the city if your connection is at least 4 hours. Go for a swim at one of the airport pools or take a hike through their rooftop cactus garden or butterfly garden. Photos below.
COPA seems to be taking over Central and South American flight routes. The reason is simple: Panama City is the perfect distance for 737 sized aircrafts to fly to from almost anywhere in North or South America. So many people travel through Panama, and often with long layovers. Our advice? Intentionally plan out a long layover. The airport is only fifteen miles from the city. You can either wander a fascinating Central American city or if you’ve got a few bucks and really want to do the quintessential tourist activity: Visit the canal. You can find various tour options on TripAdvisor.
I’ll never forget the feeling when I got off the plane in La Paz. Perhaps it’s because I’m an asthmatic and while everyone else took in stunning views I was fumbling around for my inhaler. At 13,325 feet above see level, the views weren’t the only thing that were breathtaking. While China boasts four separate commercial airports at higher altitudes, La Paz, as far as we can tell, wins the technical title of highest international commercial airport in the world.
When I lived in Quito, I worked and lived in the flight path. I was used to teaching class where I would pause mid-sentence, wait several seconds for the roar of the jet engines to subside, before resuming my lecture. And if I thought La Paz was a crazy airport, the old airport (since retired) in Quito was perhaps the most crazy of all. But don’t take my word for it, take it from the UK’s Daily Mail, who once asked “Is this the scariest airport in the world?”
Bonus: Where to Get Pisco Sour for Free in South American Airports
The most recent earthquake I experienced came while in a shower in the basement of Benitez International Airport in Santiago- long story. But as the earthquake ended and I realized it wasn’t a big one, I proceeded to the main seating area of the LAN Neruda lounge. If like me, you love a good Pisco Sour, bypass the free wine and beer and find the nearest LAN employee. It’s not commonly known but you can order free Pisco Sour’s in the Neruda and Mistral lounges, our two favorite lounges in the Americas.
And while Lima doesn’t have a lounge that can come close to competing with what Santiago offers, they aren’t willing to lose out on the pisco battle. For you see, there’s a great debate of which country owns the right to boast creating the pisco sour, and so you can also request a Pisco Sour from the bar at both the Sumaq and VIP Club Lounges in Lima International Airport.
And that’s a wrap! If you’ve got some cool airport trivia, let us know!
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