Carry On: Cool new airport programs are granting non-travellers access to post-security amenities

Find out why all the cool kids are hanging out at airports, and how to take World Sleep Day lying down

A departing flight isn’t your only ticket to airside dining and attractions these days. Whether you want to hang out with family or friends before they depart, wait for an arriving passenger or experience elevated airport shopping and dining, a whole flight of new programs make the post-security airside territory available to non-passengers.

Typically requiring advance online application with government-issued ID, requests for these programs are day- and time-specific, demand TSA approval and, yep, you’ll still have to wait in a security screening line. (A few, like the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport Destination Pass, are only available on-site at Departures-area kiosks.) Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s Visitor Pass was the first of its kind on the West Coast and airports all over the U.S. have followed, like the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport Guest Pass, which is a ticket to great celebrity-chef restaurants from Emeril Lagasse and others. Our favourite: a free Wingmate pass to Philadelphia International Airport gives you access to its award-winning art collection.

Illustration of a woman walking with rolling luggage

The Longest Mile

No, you’re not imagining it: airport walks have gotten longer. Shopping and dining take up terminal space that once was moving walkways, and safety rules plus larger jets mean more spacing between gates. According to a Kuru Footwear study, the longest walks are at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, with stretches as long as 3.5 kilometres (no wonder there’s a train). Washington Dulles International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston both have hikes of about 2.5 kilometres. Phoenix Sky Harbor makes a virtue of the walk with its indoor Fitness Trail framed by views of nature and city landmarks.

Jet Setter

Skagit general manager Paul Cannings.

Long known for its “Heavenly” bed, Westin Hotels has a serious claim on good sleep. So it makes sense that the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver celebrates World Sleep Day every year with a consistently snooze-worthy program.

Year-round sleep amenities here include everything from a lavender balm to a relaxing hot tub and cedar-barrel saunas. The chain even gets creative with its annual World Sleep Day enhancements, which have ranged from meditation classes and sleep-friendly food and cocktails to stunts like a selfie-spot hotel bed on the seawall or drifting in the hotel’s outdoor pool.

“Being well rested is core to all we do,” says general manager Paul Cannings. He notes that Westin’s sleep and fitness programs go hand in hand: getting some exercise (whether it’s a run or a Peloton + Westin workout) helps ensure a good night’s rest. “Making sure you move well in the day also aids in the sleep aspect of your stay.”

Canning’s own tips include sleeping with window coverings open while travelling “to rise with the sun” and acclimatize to a new destination. He ascribes to adjusting to your new time zone by going to bed at the local time on arrival, plus drinking plenty of water and eating lightly, “at least for the first few days.”