Sleeping at airports

The first time I slept at an airport I was around 12. We – my mother, my two oldest brothers and I – had been island hopping in Greece for a few weeks and our plane from Athens was leaving in the morning on our last day. Instead of using money on accommodation in the city, get up really, really early, pay a lot for a taxi, and maybe get stuck in the morning traffic, my mom decided that we should spend the night at the airport.

The night was pretty long, uneventful and boring, the airside of the new and shining airport (it was shortly after Greece became a part of the European Union and got some fresh money sprouted into its economy) had armrests on all the benches, and the floor was hard, so I didn’t get much sleep (even though I could fall asleep pretty much everywhere at the time). It had never really occurred to me that that was something you could do, even though our way of travelling was pretty unconventional for a family at the time, especially by Norwegian standards.

Christchurch airport

Ten years – and one other airport sleeping experience in Belgium – later, I had a plane to catch at 5.30 in the morning from Christchurch, and spending the night at the airport seemed like a great idea (at least a lot better than leaving a hostel around 3.30 in the morning, while staying in a dorm with the most squeaky bunk beds ever – you couldn’t even move your finger without the bed waking up the whole room –  like some Canadian girls decided to do my first night in Christchurch. It goes without saying that I didn’t sleep very well that night (another girl left around 6, and the last one didn’t leave until 8, but she liked to get up really early and make lots of noises, that really didn’t help either.  Luckily I remembered that I had earplugs the next night) Christchurch airport wouldn’t agree about that though. It started out all good. While brushing my teeth my second last night in New Zealand I got into a mumbling conversation with a German (surprise, surprise) girl at the hostel in Kaikoura. Not only were she and her friend heading back to Christchurch airport – by car – the day after, they were going to catch the same flight as me as well. So I got a free ride to the airport, and someone to spend the night with.

When we arrived at the airport we found a really nice spot at the food court, with sofas where we could hang out, and maybe even catch some sleep when that time would come. I had read about a designated “sleeping area” where people could sleep on the carpeted floor at www.sleepingatairports.com, but couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to sleep there when you had all these amazing beds at the food court. When we were kicked out from there at around 8, because the departure terminal closed, we did understand.

We moved reluctantly over to the arrivals terminal and to the nicely fenced off sleeping area, not too far away from the forever opening and closing doors. There were already a bunch of people there, but still we managed to occupy a bench without armrests. During my little discovery walk through the small landside area – in hope of finding a slightly more sheltered place to lie down – everyone who already found that nice little spot were woken and sent to the other side of the fence, so much for that plan. We finally went to sleep, but were soon woken because we weren’t allowed to lie down on the bench. Half an hour later we were woken up again, this time because we weren’t allowed to lie down in front of the bench (we had a little plan of reoccupy that bench for sleeping later on). We slept a little bit more, even though it was starting to get pretty cold close to the doors. So as soon as the check-ins opened up, we got through there, and fell asleep on a nice bench in front of the terminal, luckily there was no one bothering us there.

Bangkok Airport

Two nights later I had a lot better experience at the airport in Bangkok. I arrived after midnight and didn’t feel like travelling into the night all by myself (and also being a cheapskate not bothering to pay accommodation for only half a night). After claiming my backpack and going through customs I found a suitable bench not already occupied, tucked my bags under the bench and went to sleep. No one waking me up or telling me to go somewhere else, and the bench was quite nice. Around four am there was something else that would wake me up though. It suddenly sounded like there was a lot of cheering, like a huge crowd at a concert or something like that. I dismissed it as “normal” airport sounds; maybe the train had started running again or something like that, and tried to go to sleep again. The cheering continued, intensifying and quieting down in intervals, and at last I got so intrigued that I brought all my belongings with me and went for a walk.

When I got to the top floor where the departure hall is situated, I was met by a sea of young Thai girls (and a few boys) crying, talking in cell phones, looking through their pictures on their cameras and just being pretty excited. Seems like it was cheering after all. I tried to ask someone which celebrity was the cause of all this commotion, but they didn’t quite understand me, and I didn’t quite understand them, some name was dropped, but it had no chance of sticking, and till this day I still don’t know who it was.

P.S. If you ever plan to spend a night at Bangkok airport I can recommend the benches down below at the train station, it’s so much quieter down there. I wish I knew that before I found a bench one floor up, where you still could hear all the annoying airport announcements (though if I hadn’t I would have completely missed out on the celebrity thingy – not that I really got to see any of it though, but still…).