According to new findings from life assistance company CPP, four in ten (42%) people say airports make them feel stressed and 23% find the prospect of getting on to their flight as stressful, if not more so, than moving house. The problem has become so bad that one in ten (9%) of us are now avoiding flying altogether as a result.
But it’s no surprise that Britons are worried about making it to the gate on time – over 2.9 million travellers have missed a flight in the past, while one in five of us having had to run to the gate with minutes to spare.
Studies have shown that the airport experience is having significant physiological effects on a traveller’s anxiety levels – one previous experiment using Heathrow airport saw holidaymakers’ heart-rates rise to a level equivalent to doing intense exercise. This was supported by CPP’s research, which revealed that holidaymakers, who had visited more than one airport, cited Heathrow as the most stressful, followed by Gatwick and Manchester.
According to Psychologist David Moxon, airports are inherently stressful places. Moxon comments, “Humans are wired to experience stress in situations where many feel out of control – and airports, where you have to follow instructions that are likely change at the last minute, and procedures that are unpredictable, lead many to react with a stress response. There is also what is known as an accumulation effect, resulting from other anxieties that we may be harbouring.
If you head to the airport having worried about waking up on time, or what you’ve left behind at work, the airport itself will seem more stressful as a result.”
Travellers have however come up with ways to make airport more pleasant – popular suggestions include less queuing, and cheaper and nicer food and more seats. 40% of travellers say a quiet environment would help reduce their stress levels, with 35% recommending access to an airport lounge to calm their airport anxiety.
Joanne Gibbons, from CPP says, “It’s a real shame that holidaymakers are experiencing such high levels of stress during what should be the beginning of a period of rest and relaxation. But rather than turning away from airports altogether we’d urge families to have a strategy for staying calm prior to boarding – by checking in online, minimising the amount of luggage they check-in and taking advantage of airport lounge opportunities.”
CPP’s tips for avoiding airport stress:
1. Choose your airport carefully. Bigger airports tend to be busier and more stressful so consider flying to a smaller, local airport to reduce transfer times and hassle.
2. Do as much as you can online beforehand. If you can, why not check in online before you arrive at the airport? This will reduce the amount of time spent queuing when you arrive – just remember to print off your boarding pass.
3. Minimise parking time. Airport car-parks are big so a good idea is to drop off all your passengers at check in leaving only one person to park the car.
4. Check in minimal luggage. With airlines increasingly charging for checked-in luggage, you can avoid queues and save cash by taking carry-on luggage where possible, especially for short breaks. This means you can go straight through to security and save time on the other side.
5. Opt for fast-track security. Some larger airports now allow passengers to pay for the opportunity to fast-track through the security gates. This can speed up the airport process and give you more time relaxing on the other side.
6. Take advantage of airport lounges worldwide. Airport lounges are a great way to relax and get that holiday feeling before boarding the plane – you’ll be guaranteed a seat and get complimentary snacks. CPP’s Airport Angel AirText service will even text you when your flight is boarding to ensure you get there on time.
7. Have a boarding strategy. If you have pre-booked seats it may be worth boarding last, meaning you can spend longer in the lounge and less time queuing at the gate. If you haven’t got pre-booked seats, think about getting priority boarding or leaving a little more time at gate to get to the front of the queue.