A lot goes on behind the scenes at an airport, so next time you're stuck in one it might be worth it to explore a little (or, if you're too lazy, just read this article). There are millions of interesting airport facts out there that will help you pass the time, especially when your flight has been delayed and you've already hit up Cinnabon at least once (don't embarrass yourself). Don't worry, these facts aren't boring! Not everyone really cares to know what the busiest airport in the world is (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International) or where world's tallest air traffic control tower is located (Thailand’s New Bangkok International Airport). Some airport facts are just...cool.
Here are 10 facts about airports that will keep you from falling asleep at the gate.
10. Why Some Airport Codes End In ‘X’
Mental Floss has a pretty good collection of airport facts, but if you're anything like me, you've often wondered why certain airport abbreviations end in X. Trust me, it's not just LAX, there are a lot more. For example, the airport code for Sioux City, Iowa, is SUX! Why would anyone do Sioux City like that? It's not personal, I promise. Before the standardization of three-letter codes, some airports were just short, two-letter abbreviations of their cities. To update them, Xs were simply thrown on the end and now we have LAX (Los Angeles), PHX (Phoenix), and SUX (amazing).
9. Play Golf During Your Layover
I've heard of certain airports having yoga rooms and quiet pods to enjoy during your layover, but this is the first I've heard about a round of golf. Yep, that's a nine-hole USGA-approved golf course at the Hong Kong International Airport, and it's open to travelers (obviously, it's right next to Terminal 2). Don't worry, if golf isn't your thing then just head over to the airport's IMAX theater (the largest in Hong Kong), which seats 350 and plays both regular and 3D films. Hong Kong International Airport FTW!
8. Singapore Airport's Butterfly Garden
No, that's not a scene from Avatar, that's just the nature trail and butterfly garden (boasting over 1000 tropical butterflies) at Singapore’s Changi Airport. I can't with Asia, it's just too amazing. According to their website, this is the world's first butterfly garden in an airport (duh) and is filled with flowering plants, lush greenery, and a 6-meter grotto-waterfall. What the what?! Not only that, but there are also educational corners and individual enclosures that let you witness the breeding and feeding of the butterflies at close range. Amazing.
7. Colorado Springs Airport's "Pot Amnesty Box"
Due to the fact that the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in the state of Colorado, the Colorado Springs Airport features a “pot amnesty box” for travelers to dump their unused stash, no questions asked. This is the last chance to get rid of marijuana, which is illegal on commercial flights, before going through security. So what exactly are people dropping inside these things?! A local news station found wrapped joints, marijuana concentrate, edible dummies and an ounce of hash hidden inside a bag of Blue Diamond almonds.
6. Schiphol Amsterdam Airport's Art Museum
I'm telling you, this list is really making me consider traveling just for the airports. Schiphol Amsterdam Airport features an annex of the Rijksmuseum, one of the very best art museums in the world, where you can admire the work of Dutch master artists during your layover. Even better? Travelers can view the paintings at any time, day or night, free of charge. The Rijksmuseum collection includes works by Jan van Goyen, Willem van de Velde the Younger, Abraham Mignon and Michiel van Mierevelt (that means nothing to me, but I'm sure it's impressive AF).
5. San Francisco's Airport Therapy Pig
Do you have a fear of flying and suffer from travel anxiety? Well, San Francisco International Airport has got just the pig for you! Meet LiLou, the nation's first airport therapy pig, who wears costumes and performs tricks to help travelers calm down before boarding their flights. LiLou is so "fly" (pun intended) that she even has her own Instagram account! LiLou's services aren't just limited to the airport, however. As part of the Animal Assisted Therapy program with San Francisco's SPCA, she also volunteers at hospitals, retirement homes, schools, and other facilities. Awww.
4. Amsterdam's Housefly Test
Have you ever heard of the "housefly test?" As a way of reducing "spillage" in the men's bathrooms at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, a realistic looking housefly was painted inside the men urinals so that men will aim at the fly and try to wash it down the drain. Did it work?
Apparently men just like something to aim at. Although this "test" started in Amsterdam, we are starting to see them in airports all over the world.
3. Sao Paulo's In-house Airport Dentist
One of the weirdest airport amenities can be found in Sao Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport in Brazil, where travelers can visit an in-house dentist in Terminal 2. I know, I thought I'd seen it all, but apparently not. Honestly, this might be worth it, particularly if you don't have dental insurance back home. This dental office, which is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., will clean, whiten and take X-rays of your teeth for a fraction of the U.S. price ($40-$60).
2. Toronto's Angry Birds
So how does an airport reduce the risk of airplane bird strikes? At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport they use trained birds of prey to scare away, eliminate, or eat other birds in order to reduce the risk of bird strikes. Among these are falcons, hawks, and a bald eagle named Ivan. As “employees” of Falcon Environmental Services, their sole job is to keep other birds away from jet engines BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY! I guess the birds in Canada aren't as friendly as their human counterparts?!
1. Lost Airport Balloons
Okay, this one is just too pure. Once or twice a week, employees Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport collect lost balloons from the arrivals hall and take them to children’s hospitals and children's centers around the country. A heartwarming video shows airport employees using double-sided tape and helium-filled balloons of their own to patiently guide the lost balloons down to the ground (the airport also uses a crane when needed). The project of saving balloons and giving them to children has been in effect since the IAA opened Terminal 3 in November 2004.