Airports can be a necessary evil of travel, like a vague, crowded stop on your way to where you really want to be. If they are intense for an experienced traveler like myself, then they must be overwhelming to people who are more sensitive to their environments. Delta has a new initiative to create special airport quiet spaces for autistic children. Here's the scoop:
Delta, in partnership with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and autism advocacy group The Arc, launched the Atlanta Airport's first multisensory room on April 12 to provide a calming, supportive environment for customers on the autism spectrum.
The room, located in a quiet space on F Concourse, contains a mini ball pit, bubbling water sculpture, a tactile activity panel and other items children can interact with to help calm and prepare them for their travel experience.
ATL airport is the busiest and, arguably, the worst airport in America, so the strategy is smart (It also helps that it is Delta's headquarters). It is also amazingly thoughtful, as traveling may be even more difficult for challenged kids.
On that note, there are many adults like myself who hate going through the overstimulation gauntlet to reach our desired location or come home ready to rest. The fact is that, whether it is an intentionally long layover or a delayed flight, we may be sitting in the airport for a while.
It would be great to use an urban space app like Breather in an actual airport. Until that happens, I recommend a couple survival tips for both introverts and privacy junkies:
Get thee to a lounge: I've talked about these quiet, snack-filled spaces within most major airports, but it is worth emphasizing again. The best part about airport lounges is that they have considerably less traffic than the rest of the airport, so there is a higher chance that you'll get a seat, have some elbow room and even have a whole section to yourself. If you are a frequent flyer, then skip paying the often-costly door cover and just get an annual pass either through an airline credit card or directly with the carrier.
Go to another terminal: Areas of the airport often get crowded in cycles, like the JFK British Airways wing will get extremely busy in the early evening since the London redeyes are scheduled. Have a long wait? Try walking to another part of the terminal and you could find whole quiet sections. Just keep an eye on the time or, better yet, get a scheduling app like TripIt to let you know when to head back and if there are any last-minute changes. lI you are in another terminal, then you won't hear anything on your gate's loudspeaker.