9 Things You Won’t See at the Airport Anymore


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Air travel was once a grand experience — one that required months of planning, conversations with a travel agency, and dressing up for the occasion. Suffice it to say that air travel has lost much of its grandeur. Nowadays, you can book a flight the day before, grab your fanny pack, headphones, and smartphone, and off you go up in the air. This shift means airports have also lost much of their charm and the extra amenities that used to come free of charge.

Here are 9 things that you no longer see at airports. 

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1. Paper Tickets

Remember the days of anxiously guarding a paper ticket, as misplacing one could unravel your travel plans. Although paper boarding tickets are still available at almost every airport check-in, you don’t see them as much, if at all, because the rise of online check-in and digital boarding passes has replaced this stress-inducing and not-so-eco-friendly option.

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2. Coin-Operated Payphones

There was a time when dropping coins into a payphone was your last resort before boarding a flight or the go-to move for a “Hey, I’ve landed” call. Those coin-operated lifelines were everywhere in airports, waiting for your quarter until smartphones came along. Now that you can let your loved ones know you’ve arrived safely the minute the airplane touches down, those clunky payphones have vanished from airports, leaving behind nothing but memories of searching for loose change at the bottom of a travel bag.

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3. Smoking Areas

Back in the day, airports were dotted with smoky refuges where the nicotine-dependent crowd could puff away in peace, surrounded by a foggy haze. But as the world became aware of the not-so-great effects of smoking, these hazy hangouts started to vanish like smoke in the wind, replaced by cleaner air and fewer bleary-eyed travelers. Yet, if you travel far enough across the globe, you might still find a smoking lounge in some international airports.

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4. Collectible Luggage Tags

Airlines used to provide colorful and distinctive luggage tags, turning every journey into an opportunity to collect a memento. Digital tags and self-service kiosks have largely ended this tradition, making luggage handling more efficient but less personal.

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5. Observation Decks

Before security tightened up post-9/11, families and aviation enthusiasts could easily wile away hours at the airport, noses pressed against the glass of observation decks, marveling as behemoth planes took offs and landed. It was a simple, utterly fascinating joy, accessible and free, turning almost anyone into an instant aviation geek. Today, finding such a spot is a rare treat, as tighter security measures have made this hobby less accessible, dimming the lights on what was once a shared, communal experience.

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6. The Tarmac Stroll

Part of the flying experience used to involve walking directly on the airport tarmac to board your plane. Today, the majority of passengers board their flights via jet bridges, those enclosed gangways that stretch from the terminal directly to the aircraft door. Delta Airlines installed the first jetway-covered corridors at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport in May 1961.

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7. Free Baggage Carts

While in the rest of the world, baggage carts usually belong to the individual airport and are provided to passengers for free, this has not been the case in the U.S. since the late 1960s, when the service was outsourced to a company called Smarte Carte, changing the business model.

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8. Coin-Operated TV Chairs

Back in the day, if you found yourself stuck at an airport with a delayed flight and weren’t in the mood for reading, turning to television was a popular way to kill time. Airports often had a special section filled with “TV chairs —”known as Tele-A-Chair — which were essentially seats equipped with personal, coin-operated televisions. For a mere 25 cents, travelers could enjoy 30 minutes of local programming, offering a brief escape from the frustrations of travel delays. Today, with our smartphones acting as portable TVs, those coin-operated TV chairs have become a thing of the past at airports.

Image Credit: Robert Ashworth / Wikimedia Commons.

9. Farewell Gates

Before 9/11 loved ones could accompany travelers right to the boarding gate, sharing final laughs, hugs, and tears. Today, tight security means goodbyes are said much earlier, relegating tearful farewells to the drop-off zone.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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