Airports are worlds unto themselves. Some compare airports with cities, some write poems on them, some offer mockery of their always ongoing bustle. Yet, airports are places for chance encounters, places where the traveller makes the strangest and the most delightful discoveries. Of course, bad news, delays, cancellations, layovers exist—but one always finds a way to make time go faster. That is how everyone has an airport story or anecdote to recount. We wanted to know your most interesting ones—beautiful, quirky or humorous—from airports all over the world. Here are the ones that made it to our list:
In the summer of 2019, we took a family vacation to Italy. We flew to Milan with Kuwait Airways and had a stopover in the Kuwaiti capital. At the security checkpoint, they had a scanning chamber through which you needed to pass. My son and husband went through and then it was my turn. I walked past the scanner gateway and it buzzed. A kind lady told me to go through it again. I went again and it buzzed again, and again and again. I was scared and nervous, and eventually the lady asked me to walk with her to some room. I swear I prayed the s*** out to every god I’ve ever known. Long back, I had watched a TV show called Jailed Abroad, and during that walk to the room I was constantly reminded of it. She ran a thorough check on me and I was clean. We came out, I walked past the scanner once again, and this time it was okay.
-Priya Katiyar (@foodietraveller4u), Mumbai
I used to live in Italy during my master’s and as a part of our studies we needed to travel to Japan. So, we took our flight from Milan Malpensa Airport to Narita Airport Tokyo. Upon takeoff, the air attendant came up and offered beverages and my friend and I asked for a couple of beers. Pointing at me, my friend told the attendant, “He likes the cold ones.” I spent 10 days in Japan and some of the students stayed back for an extended trip while others were returning. The flight back home had many rows empty, so I took the liberty to upgrade myself to an entire row. After takeoff, as I nestled comfortably in the row, I could hear a can crack open and to my surprise I saw the same air attendant offering me the can of beer. She said with a smile, “We know that you love the cold ones, sir.” It was an amazing feeling. I couldn’t believe that despite flying frequently she remembered me and the cold ones.
-Raja Sharma Rymbai (@rajarymbai), Helsinki
In 2019, while returning from Bangalore, I ended up meeting an amazing person at Kempegowda International Airport, Bangalore. She’s a housekeeping staff member at the domestic departures ladies restroom, and what makes her special is that she wishes all visitors a happy journey. I’ve been to several airports but I’ve never seen a housekeeping personnel like her. I observed her for 15 minutes or so, as she wished every lady walking in and out, leaving a smile on their faces. I also wrote an appreciation mail for her to the Bangalore Airport Authority and they were delighted to recognise and reward their employee.
-Ramana Shah (@ramanshah), Mumbai
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I was flying back from Bhutan and was at Paro Airport. We had reached early and there was a long wait before takeoff. I used to be a smoker back then and was getting restless as the airport did not have a smoking room. I was chatting with the owner of a snacks stall inside the departure terminal and casually told him that I was craving for a smoke. Oh, that’s not a problem, he said. And then, he proceeded to walk me out of the terminal—across the security check, but in the opposite direction—into the restricted hangar area! “This fellow is with me,” he casually told the guards at the security check. And there, outside, with the majestic Himalayas in the backdrop, we watched the planes take off and land as we enjoyed a conversation over shared cigarettes. Fifteen minutes later, we went the same way. The security guys smiled and let us back in. No X-rays, no frisking. No sweat!
-Satadru Ojha (@satadru.ojha), Kolkata
In March 2022, I was flying from Bagdogra to Delhi with my friends. Bagdogra airport is a defence airport so there are many security checks around. That day, some maintenance on the runway was going on, and our flight was delayed indefinitely. The airport was crowded like a railway station where people were lying down wherever they could. We had a spat with the airlines to adjust us on another flight as we had a connecting flight to catch from Delhi. Moreover, the food stalls at the airport were out of food as the crowd was humongous and everyone was hungry or just wanted to pass the time. It took us over two hours to finally check in and after another two hours we boarded our flight, which had been waiting for clearance for five hours, and there was no air conditioning inside. People were fanning themselves with safety pamphlets. The flight attendants, though traumatised, wore a smile and attended to the travellers with full zeal. I felt suffocated and wanted to get some air, and for the first time ever, I deboarded a plane at the airport and waited for it to move like we do for trains or buses. Finally, we got our clearance from the ATC and we moved towards the runway before the plane finally took off.
-Rishabh Verma (@stationary_travler), Lucknow
In 2011, my friend and I flew for the first time. We were just 17 years old, had come from a small village and had seen airports only in movies before this. The excitement was so high that we reached Jaipur airport at 4.30 am, five hours before the flight. At the gate, we weren’t allowed to enter so early. It was a chilly morning in Jaipur and we were freezing. When I explained it to one of the guards, he suggested a restaurant nearby to eat something and return after an hour. The restaurant was expensive, so we ate the cheapest dish but it did provide a little relief from the cold. We returned after an hour, and the guard pointed us to our airline’s window and the waiting area for the check-ins. We also got shouted at for leaving our bags unattended as we headed for the toilet, which had touchless taps that took a long time for us to figure out.
Not having slept at all, we were sleepy but wouldn’t sleep for fear of missing the flight. We were constantly observing passengers and where they were going. After some time, a staff member came to the window, and I ran towards the window and waved our online tickets. A little surprised, she explained there was still time to open and asked us to wait. After the window opened, I again asked for the boarding passes. By then, by looking at us, she had realised that it was our first time at airport. She explained next steps in a very friendly manner. And asked us to wait till the announcement for security check. After some time the lady sent her colleague to talk to us. He was friendly and made our anxiety disappear. After the announcement of our flight, I looked at her to make sure of the direction we were supposed to head for, and she smiled and nodded.
-Vivekanand Chougale (@vivekanand204204), Pune
I was once waiting in the security check queue at Udaipur airport to fly to Bangalore. The airport has only a couple or so gates and people waiting began to get nervous as the queue was hardly moving. Everybody started to frantically gesture at the airport officials, shouting their departure time until actor Ashish Vidyarthi, who was one among those in the queue, spoke up. He asked everyone to calm down and said the officials would take care of the situation, knowing the delay in security. Eventually, we boarded the plane comfortably.
-Anirudh Rajagopal (@thesmittenwanderer), Bangalore
After a fun work trip to Dubai, I suddenly went under the weather on the night before my flight back home. As my head spun and my upper body developed debilitating cramps, I began growing more stressed out than ever that I had got COVID. Having slept all day before my evening flight, I decided to take it one step at a time. I forced myself to have oranges kept in my hotel room and drink enough water. Thankfully, the ride to the airport wasn’t long, and I was flying business class for the first time. I somehow dragged myself and my backpack to the plush lounge, drank two bottles of orange juice and slept for a good hour and a half without a care in the world. The flight was delayed, and the airport was unusually crowded, compounding my anxiety. I remember locking my cabin shut when I boarded the flight, and telling the airhostess to just give me a bottle of orange juice (yes, one more) and whatever they had for dessert. I still don’t understand if it was a miracle or my body’s internal endurance due to which when I woke up during our descent to Delhi, I was feeling completely fine. I tested negative for COVID the next day.
-Mihika Verma, Chandigarh
Exhausted from travelling five hours in a flight, I’m curled up in a chair at Changi Airport, Singapore as I wait for my connecting flight to Australia. Just as my eyes start to shut, I feel the urge to go to the restroom. Just as I’m going to enter the washroom, I see a beautiful lady, holding her lovely little daughter’s hand in one hand and with the other, clasping the cradle inside which her baby lies deep in a slumber, unaware of the hustle outside. I open the door for her as both of her hands are busy, let her in, and then walk in after her. As I come out of the washroom and walk towards my gate, I feel a soft nudge on the back and I turn. It’s the little girl I saw minutes earlier. In her melodious voice, and an innocence radiating through her face, she says, “Thank you for helping my mom,” smiles and leaves. I see her mother mouthing a thank-you from a distance. I smile back, overwhelmed. I believe this story murmurs hope as it is warmly a humane one, though with quotidian details.
-Harmeet Kaur (@travelwithanahat), Amritsar