Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports were recently shut down after the regional Air Route Center in Aurora, IIl., was badly damaged by fire after a contract air traffic controller allegedly tried to kill himself. As a result, thousands of passengers found themselves stranded in the airport after their flights were cancelled and Federal Aviation Administration officials scrambled to make repairs.
Not everyone can afford to pay to stay in a hotel, so in that case, the airport becomes their hotel.
I happened to be in Chicago for a convention during the shut-down, but managed to get out. But as I was leaving Chicago Midway Airport, I stumbled upon a room next to Gates A4A and A4B that was filled with cots, blankets and pillow for stranded passengers.
Other airports offer free or low-cost options for those stuck without a lot of money. And the popular website The Guide to Sleeping In Airports offers stranded travelers tips on the best resting spots in airports around the world.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is seen as a leader in helping stranded passengers. During weather and other delays, the airport initiates an emergency plan that includes offering cots, pillows and blankets for anyone who asks, and requiring concessions to stay open later to accommodate stranded travelers.
My original hometown airport -- San Francisco International -- is among those whose seating consists mostly of ones padded armrests, but it also has some benches in its terminals that allow travelers to stretch out for a snooze.
And those in the know are aware of the airport’s Berman Reflection Room, located in the International Terminal, is a great place to catch some zzzzzs, but only until 11:00 p.m. And other airport churches are always a good option.
While Denver International Airport mostly has chairs with armrests which aren’t conducive for sleeping, there is a business center on the Mezzanine Level of Terminal B that has cubicles where folks can get their sleep on.
The world’s busiest airport -- Hartsfield-Jackson International -- has those coveted non-armrest seating areas in Concourse A and Concourse F, the International Terminal. And my current hometown airport, Baltimore-Washington, has seats with no armrests in its terminals and open gate space areas that are conducive to getting some sleep.
But of course, it’s no surprise that Singapore’s Changi Airport has the best free options for stranded travelers. The airport offers free rest areas that have specially designed leather snooze chairs that come with head and leg rests in all three of its terminals. And if you need a shower, you can visit the Rainforest Lounge, which charges about $8, which includes toiletries and a warm drink.