Sleeping in airports: Is it allowed? Some airports are banning people

In the past few weeks, guards have been patrolling London's Stansted Airport to implement its recent ban on passengers napping inside the terminal, as well as closing off the departures area completely on some evenings. Reactions have been mixed: some applauding the ban, others dismayed.

In a statement, officials explained: "There are a number of reasons for the periodic overnight closures to the departures area of the terminal building: construction work as part of our £600 million airport transformation programme, and to allow cleaning and other preparations for the next day's flight operations.

"This means we've been reminding passengers there are no dedicated sleeping facilities in the terminal and advising they can no longer sleep on the floor overnight, so passengers should not arrive sooner than their scheduled check-in time."

A spokesperson said that in the past the airport was seeing as many as 600 passengers staying overnight inside the terminal, some armed with "camp beds, sleeping bags and other portable sleeping aids" - presumably to avoid spending money on a hotel.

"Feedback shows passengers don't like arriving at the airport for an early flight to find lots of people blocking access and getting in the way of both staff and those travelling," they added.

"We don't want people sleeping on the floor or coming with sleeping equipment. There are numerous options available to avoid doing this, both at the airport and close by, with lots of hotels, B&Bs, Airbnb choices, plus 24-hour coach services."

He also added that sleeping upright in a chair poses no issue, and in the case of passengers stuck in the terminal following delayed or cancelled departure flights from that day, those who have not been accommodated in a hotel by their airline will be "managed separately outside of these restrictions".

Sounds reasonable enough, right? Not everyone thinks so, with some Twitter users branding the rule "mean", "absurd" and "plain silly".

How common is airport sleeping?

Anyone who spends a lot of time in airports will know that is indeed commonplace: especially at larger international hubs, with usually at least a few floor-snoozers on any given day (and more at night).


There's even a popular website dedicated to the art, Sleeping in Airports, which compiles detailed reports on terminals around the world based on reviews from travellers.

It states on its welcome page: "Airport sleeping is no longer just for the cheap young backpacker. Nowadays, early morning flights, long layovers, flight cancellations, snow storms and erupting volcanoes are just a few reasons why you'll see travellers from all walks of life stretched out on airport floors around the world."

Sleepers at Sydney Airport are warned about the curfew and the overnight closure of the domestic terminal. 

"Most benches have armrests, and the marble floor is cold for sleeping," the website states.

Melbourne Airport is considered difficult for sleeping and would-be nappers are particularly warned against the budget terminal T4, which, the website says, is noisy and locked down at midnight.

Of London Heathrow, the site's listing includes advice such as: "T2 has plenty of seating available, though not much privacy and the lights tend to stay brightly lit", and "in T3 it sounds like security will round up overnight travellers and take them to one area for the night".

In Dubai, it advises: "The terminal has plenty of benches that work as a place to lay down. Much of the gate seating has armrests every two seats, allowing for smaller sleepers to scrunch up in a two-seater."

Is it frowned upon by staff?

This varies according to where you go - and Stansted has made its position clear. Of the 800 other airports Sleeping in Airports lists, it has this to say: "Some airport officials are not totally supportive of the airport sleeping idea.

"Although you won't be kicked out of a large majority of the airports, you will be asked why you are there, why you are not in a hotel like a normal person and they will ask for proof that you are flying out the next day."

Other airports, on the other hand, actively assist passengers in getting some shut-eye when the chips are down. Last year, when snowstorms left copious numbers of travellers stranded, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol set up army-style cots for people to stretch out while they waited for their ordeal to be over.

Many US airports have been known to do the same; among them Miami, Boston Logan, Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare.

What about society at large?

The court of public opinion appears to be undecided on the matter. Personally, it doesn't bother me in the slightest when I notice people sleeping soundly on an airport terminal floor, as long as they're tucked out of other people's way. Ditto those stretched out and asleep on seats at the gate, but only if there are plenty of free seats available for others.

I recall once resorting to a floor-snooze myself back when I was a student backpacker and stranded for ten hours in a Bangkok airport. I distinctly remember not being able to afford a sandwich, let alone a hotel room.

The Telegraph, London

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