The next time your flight is delayed, instead of shaking your fists at the responsible airline, use your extra-long layover to appreciate all that goes on behind-the-scenes at the airport. Here are 15 amazing facts to help you pass the time.
1. What’s the busiest airport in the world? Well, depends on what you mean by “busy.” If you’re going by most passengers per year, that title would go to Chicago’s O’Hare, which overtook Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson as the world’s busiest in 2014. O’Hare also boasts the most take-offs and landings. When it comes to international travelers, Dubai takes the cake. Meanwhile, Hong Kong International Airport handles the most cargo traffic annually.
2. You can find the world's tallest air traffic control tower at Thailand’s New Bangkok International Airport. At 434 feet, it’s as tall as a 40-story skyscraper.
3. King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, is massive. It sits on 192,000 acres of land—that’s bigger than the entire country of Bahrain.
4. Which is the smallest airport in the world? Look to the Caribbean island of Saba, whose Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport has the shortest commercial runway on Earth. At 1,299 feet long, it’s way too short for jets, and airlines must get special permission to fly there.
5. Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport specializes in accommodating travelers visiting Mecca, during which time it briefly becomes the world’s busiest airport by far. During pilgrimage, the Hajj Terminal can handle 80,000 passengers at a time.
6. Why do some airport codes end in ‘X’? 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, voila! Now you have LAX and PHX.
7. Have a layover in Hong Kong? Why not play some golf? The Hong Kong International Airport boasts a nine-hole USGA-approved course next to Terminal 2, and it is open to travelers.
8. Golf isn’t your thing? At both San Francisco International Airport and Chicago’s Midway Airport, you can get centered during a long delay in their yoga rooms. (Don’t worry, they supply the mats.)
9. Why not admire the work of some Dutch master artists during your layover? Schiphol Amsterdam Airport features an annex of the Rijksmuseum, one of the very best art museums in the world.
10. One of the weirdest airport amenities can be found in Sao Paulo/Guarulhos
International Airport in Brazil. Travelers can head to Terminal 2 to visit its in-house dentist, who offers cleaning, whitening, and other services.
11. Nashville International Airport just got a property-wide liquor license, meaning travelers can take their cocktails with them wherever they go. No more having to hurry your beer at the bar before boarding your flight, as you can now leisurely sip it at the gate.
12. The Colorado Springs Airport features a “pot amnesty box” for travelers to dump their unused stash, no questions asked.
13. Terminal 5 at New York’s JFK features a coat check, so if you are going somewhere warm, you can leave your cold-weather gear at the airport and pick it up when you get back. An app records your travel plans and takes a picture of both you and your coat to ensure it will be ready for you when you return.
14. Singapore’s Changi Airport boasts a nature trail and a butterfly garden with over 1000 butterflies.
15. For a different approach to nature, London’s Heathrow Airport uses cars equipped with loudspeakers that blast distress calls of different bird species to scare them away from the runways.