When we think of an airport we usually think of a place that helps us get to our next destination whether it be a business trip or a personal trip. We don’t often think of how the airport has become more than just a place to us or rather the evolution of airports. Things have definitely changed both physically and emotionally, from the first airports, to the ever-present ones we have now.
If you’re a traveler then you must know what all the hustle and bustle is about, you board a plane, land, get off, get bags, and go on your merry way. We never really stop and think much of the airport itself when we’re trying to get from place to place. It can be surprising when hearing the numbers as to how many airports there are. In the US alone, it has been reported by the CIA that there are 13,513 (airports that exist to this day (keep in mind I’m excluding other countries who vary from a couple to several thousands). Now that’s a number! Of course, not all airports are the same. All vary in size, quality, and what they have available to offer passengers.
From past experiences I must say that airports contain so much! I remember quite detailed going through the airport near Washington, DC and it was a lot to take in. It reminds me of a mall, minus the many clothes and shoe stores. There’s a huge area to check in your bags and then the huge waiting area. Usually filled with so many people, the waiting area is the main part of the airport. It’s filled with uncomfortable chairs that squeak when you move around in them. The carpet is usually a dull color and if you stop and think about it the whole airport is a little dull. The aroma is of course alluring, you can’t help but to go and buy some of the food. There are always many options, which are usually fast food restaurants; it’s quite similar to the food court at a mall. A little ways from the food would be little shops. Candy, drinks, snacks, absolutely anything you can think of that you may have forgotten while packing, or just to spend your money on. You may even find clothing stores both fancy and casual. It seems that it couldn’t get any better than this, but in his article Airport cities: The evolution, John Kasarda states “… airports continue to transform from primarily air transport infrastructure to multimodal, multi-functional enterprises generating considerable commercial development within and well beyond their boundaries” (24). It is clear to the eye that airports have become more than just a pit stop to get to our destination. It has now become a moneymaking business rather than just a stop in the road which provides to the needs of passengers and will continue to do so as long as they keep traveling and spending.
Depending on where the airport is located it could be a fast paced area with many people; other places may be quiet and not have as many. But no matter the time you can always find people being present in the airport. Aside from all of the chaos we as humans, who have all kinds of emotions, have turned this airport into something more than just a place. Marc Auge states, “…a place can be defined as relational, historical, and concerned with identity…”(77). We can conclude that the airport can be defined as a place. It is relational because it connects people in different ways, whether it’s a welcome home hug, or a see you soon hug. It has become historical in a sense that the moments an individual has experienced there are historic for them, and has sure become a memory. It has also become concerned with identity, John T. Warren and Deanna L. Fasset state that an individuals identity is “…a product of the messages that it has encountered over past interactions” (67). Through those sad or maybe joyful memories we’ve mad, it has become a part of us and has shaped our identity as well. We are able to say that physically an airport is a place, but according to David Salter, “…airports are representative of supermodern “nonplaces” in which social relations are based on mobility rather than fixity” (ix). Although the quotes may seem contradicting, the explanation is the same. Airports have become a place or should I say non-place made up of social gatherings where people are able interact with workers, strangers, friends, or families. It has become a center for social relations.
Lastly, the airport has become a witness to our own memories. It has seen the excitement from the little children who are waiting to board the plane that’s taking them to Disney world. It has seen the happiness from those who are finally able to see their loved ones. It has heard the laughter that echoes off its walls from a reunited family. It has seen the welcome home kisses from an army wife to her husband. It has seen the slobbery kisses from a dog being reunited with his best friend. It has seen the tears shed after a last goodbye kiss. From my own personal experience it has seen the wave goodbye from a little sister to her big brother. And sure enough it has captured the love that has been radiated off of all these memories, which are now etched into the airport walls forever.
Auge, Mark. Non-places Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity. Trans. John Howe. London: Verso, 1995. Print.
Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency. CIA,
2011, Web. November 7, 2013.
Kasarda, John. “Airport Cities: The evolution.” Airport World. April- May 2013.
Salter, David. Politics at the Airport. Ed. Mark B. Salter. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print.
Warren, John T, and Fasset, Deanna L. Communication A Critical/Cultural Introdcution. California: SAGE, 2011. Print.