Stress-busting airport amenities
San Francisco airport's yoga room provides weary travellers a place to relax or practice yoga poses once they have cleared security. (Getty Images)
Airport relaxation rooms might seem like frivolous amenities. But for harried travellers, quiet spaces offer a chance to unwind between flights, meetings and appointments – without needing premier access or a lounge pass.
In fact, relaxation spaces can make air travel more enjoyable in a time when some people feel the hassles outweigh the benefits. “Relaxation and comfortable travel shouldn’t be an elite privilege,” said Tara Russell, a life and sabbatical coach at Three Month Visa, who leads clients through the process of taking time off to pursue long-term travel. “Relaxation spaces civilise travel in a time when security measures have made the experience more time-consuming, and for some travellers, more stressful. Airports are starting to understand that relaxed travellers are happy travellers.”
Russell’s home airport of San Francisco International is home to some of the nation’s first stress-busting amenities, including the international terminal’s Berman Reflection Room. The hushed, chapel-like lounge offers world-weary travellers a soothing spot away from the hectic hubbub of security checkpoints and chaotic arrivals hall (though sleeping is forbidden, lest fellow travellers cringe at the sound of snoring). Polite signage keeps visitors from chatting or letting rambunctious kids play. The sanctuary even offers an impressive view of takeoffs and landings, making it a not-so-secret favourite among aviation geeks and plane spotters.
Restful airport hideaways are nothing new, but the recent spread of reflection rooms and relaxation lounges around the world shows that demand is higher than ever. For example, Boston Logan International opened the non-denominational Our Lady of the Airways chapel in 1951, but today there are hundreds of interfaith airport chapels and prayer rooms in terminals around the world, and more than 100 chaplains tasked with offering comfort and guidance to the peripatetic masses. There are even subtle cultural differences at various airports around the globe. In Doha International Airport, prayer rooms are divided by gender to cater to the high percentage of Muslim travellers passing through Qatar.
San Francisco pioneered another airport wellness amenity last year when it unveiled the country’s first airport yoga room in Terminal 2. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport soon followed suit with a yoga-specific space in its Terminal D. And don’t stress about extra hand luggage: in each facility yoga mats are on loan, so even non-yogis are welcome to try out the free Zen amenity.
For those still seeking a premium or paid option, a host of independent options are offering an alternative to airline-specific lounges. Munich’s Napcabs are 4sqm capsules suited for work as well as sleep, and there are similar schemes around the globe. In Dubai, they’re endearingly known as Snooze Pods; in Delhi, the hourly pods are called Sam’s Snooze at My Place; and Russia’s Sheremetyevo Airport has a wooden cubicle simply known as Sleepbox. Minute Suites are perhaps the most recognised in the US, offering hourly rates for tiny work- or sleep-ready suites in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth airports, with plans to open pods in Minneapolis-St Paul within the year.
Russell is quick to add that even if a sleeper suite or lounge pass isn’t in your travel budget, relaxing airport amenities are good for everyone’s health and wellbeing: “even if you don’t use a relaxation lounge, you get a second tier benefit by being around more contented travellers.”