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10/06/2009 – Top 5 Best Airports To Sleep In
Any regular reader of Flying With Fish will probably know by now that I am cheap and prefer to skip hotels when I have less than a 9 hour wait for flight. Done with work at 10:00pm and my flight home is at 6:30am? I’m happy to find a corner and just wait for my plane.
So for the intrepid travellers, cheap photographers, tourists on a tight budget…and others who don’t mind finding a corner and taking their R&R in the airport, the following is my list of the Top 5 Airports To Sleep In
#5 : London / Heathrow International Airport (LHR)
– Many airport sleepers seem to despise London Heathrow Airport, in fact SleepingInAirports.com rates LHR as the 2nd worst airport in the world to sleep in. Having spent many nights sleeping at LHR I’d have to disagree.
I’ll admit, I have never slept in Terminal 4 or Terminal 5, but for me Terminal 3 and Terminal 2, outside of security, do just fine. Terminal 3’s spaces are scarce, but if you know where to look you can find some very comfortable hidden corners, benches, padded floors and quite spaces. The majority of the places to sleep in Terminal 3 are upstairs and are hard to describe the locations of…so you need to look for them. In Terminal 2 I have often found myself sleeping in the departures area right near the T-Mobile charging station. This area has some breaks in the irritating metal piping all around the walls of Heathrow (there to discourage the homeless from sleeping in the airport) where you can place your head down, while using the metal piping to lock up your bags for security.
Heathrow has a few 24 hour hangouts to grab some food and drink, plenty of electrical outlets and fairly consistent WiFi throughout the terminals. The prayer rooms are also good locations to contemplate your place in the universe while catching up on some shut-eye before your flight
#4 : Seoul / Incheon International Airport (ICN)
– Sleeping at Incheon International Airport outside security isn’t all that great, but inside security there are numerous places to safely and comfortable lay your head down and sleep. Almost every time I have come through I arrive and depart at odd hours.
As much as I have found the lounges provided by Korean Air and Asiana to be excellent, I have also wandered off to find options for those who may not have lounge access. For starters in the transit area the seats are very well padded, kept impeccably clean and there are no armrests! No arm rests is fantastic as it allows passengers to lay down, stretch out and be comfortable during a long layover at ICN. Most airports use seats with arm rests to discourage travellers from laying down, while ICN clearly understands it is primarily a ‘long-haul’ airport and that its passengers have already been cramped and sitting upright for a long time before arriving at ICN.
For passenger seeking some culture before a nap, ICN offers a very interesting Cultural Experience museum; as well as a tree garden to unwind and an observation deck to watch the world-go-bye.
Unlike many airports, ICN is clearly a 24-hour airport offering passengers multiple choices in dining that never close!
As for sleep…I have found so many clean and comfortable places to sleep, recline, unwind that there is a clearly a reason ICN is constantly rates as one of the best airports in the world.
…oh yea when you lay down for a nap, be prepared for security to smile at you and suggest a more comfortable place to nap and recommend using one of the airports shower facilities ( at many airports they just give you a nasty look and suggest you move along)
#3 : Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
– Hong Kong International Airport is great to sleep in during long ‘airside’ transits and pretty darn good for those who end up sleeping ‘landside’ (outside security).
When staying at HKG overnight, on the ‘land side’ (pre-security) Terminal 1 can be cold and uncomfortable, which is why I sleep in Terminal 2. Terminal 2 has a number of large light-boards displaying airport maps. These large light-boards are angled and generally against two walls creating a tall crawl space beneath them. I like sleeping in these spaces because there is always an electrical outlet to plug your laptop and phone in, wifi is free and strong throughout Terminal 2…and the 3-sided crawl spaces allow a traveller to place their bags safely at their head while they lay down and sleep without fear of their being able to steal their bags!
For those sleeping at HKG in the passenger terminal there are long lounge chairs in various areas of the airport that are great for sleeping. These lounge chairs are comfortable even for tall passengers! Inside the passenger terminal there are many small places to find a corner and create your own quiet space. With free wifi and electrical outlets readily available I have found HKG to be a great place to work, be entertained and nap all in one spot.
#2 : San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
– Over the past few years I have slept at San Francisco International Airport more than any other airport. Since 2006 I have probably logged a month of my life sleeping at SFO and I am constantly finding new places to nap.
The top of my list of comfortable, and unique, places to nap at SFO while spending the night is one often overlooked by even the most experienced ‘airport sleepers.’ SFO’s AirTrain has a long flat platform at the front and rear of each car at the windows. These areas, intended to be seats, make an excellent place to lie down and sleep for a while at night. I tend to ride the Red Line at night when kicking back and killing time as the Red Line simply goes in circles over and over again. Between Midnight and 5:00am the trains tend to be completely empty, they are patrolled, have security cameras and are not frequented by the homeless, making them a great place to relax and watch the world go by…over and over and over again.
For those seeking a non-moving location, suggest a walk through the Terminal A and Terminal G to check out the art exhibits, then a quick walk over to the connector between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 for a nap. In this connector there is an access hallway across from the SmartCarts that leads to an unused door (at least it is unused at night). This small side-corridor is protected on three sides allowing for security for your personal items, while also allowing for a comfortable, private and secure location to plug your electronics in to charge while you nap. Corridor is occupied in Terminal 1? Check out the corridor between the rear-exit of Lori’s Diner and the restrooms/pay-phones. The gap between the exhibit showcase and the door is protected from light and most noise and has a few electrical outlets as well.
There are so many places to sleep in SFO that are comfortable that I could probably dedicate a series of entries to it….
#1: Amsterdam / Schiphol International Airport (AMS)
– Schiphol Int’l Airport is not only clean, bright and safe but you can also sleep ‘post immigrations’ provided you have a boarding pass for a flight in less than 16 hours (my record is handing them a boarding pass for a flight 16hrs later).
In the post-Immigrations area at AMS the airport has multiple areas that offer passengers long comfortable sleep loungers. Some of these loungers are in darkened areas, others face out onto the ramp. On more than one occasion I have found airport staff walking through the lounge areas handing out blankets to passengers overnighting the airport. For those looking for more seclusion, AMS offers many long (faux) leather couches with ample room to stretch out and sleep, as well as lockers to secure your personal items.
While overnighting in Amsterdam (4 nights in the past year) I have encountered some of the friendliest security personnel anywhere.
Don’t feel like roughing it? AMS also offers two ‘airside’ hotels, including the Yotel, with rooms that rent per hour (minimum 4hrs) with rates as low as €40!
…so there you have it Flying With Fish’s top five airports to sleep in during a long layover or for when you’re just to cheap to spring for a hotel room (like me).
What are your favourites?
Below is a photo of me sleeping at Amsterdam’s Schiphol International Airport