A Few Words on … the airport bar

Photo via jayRez on Flickr

“The Wright Brothers would kick us all right in the $#%@ right now if they knew.” – Louis C.K.

Flying sucks.

But, as The Ones Who Invented Flight, it is our inalienable right to alter and forcefully evolve what that experience means and what relationship we have with it, imparting true American virtues of impatience, greed and contempt for anyone outside friends or family we’re traveling with.

As The Ones Who Invented Flight it is our unfortunate reality to have willingly bastardized this marvel of modern transportation into something we need, we love and then decry its virtues in order to make ourselves feel better about unforeseen circumstances that “ruin” our days. This guy gets it.

It is fitting then, that one of the best things about flying didn’t originate with us, The Ones Who Invented Flight. Thank god for the airport bar.

As a means of travel, flying is incredibly efficient and amazing. We can traverse the globe as we please. As a means of travel, flying has also been able to showcase the worst parts of us as The Ones Who Invented Flight. We complain, we push and we complain and push and passive-aggressively sigh heavy breaths until the purpose of flying comes forth – we’re just in it just to get ours.

What “ours” is could be many things, but what it is most certainly is an effort to obtain what we want at the expense of others. This is why we want the best parking at the airport, why we feel the need to form lines before we actually form a line to board the airplane and why we curse under our breath at airline employees who haven’t called our boarding group number. We lament the fact we haven’t gotten from A to B in the fastest way possible for us.

But most important, among all this insanity, we find a timeless oasis to put all of these things aside. Because for as much as the airport shows us how rampant American impatience and greed can be, it also shows us how simple it is to find common ground and swap a story or two over beer.

The airport bar is an oasis because (percentage-wise) only a select few choose to indulge. Prices are high, but the men and women who saunter up to the bar take part in the true American act of “taking a load off.” Springsteen would be proud, wouldn’t he? Blue collar raising a glass with each other, and even sometimes, executives. We drink American beers – sometimes locally made – and we share stories of where we’re from, where we’re going and why we can’t wait to get there.

At the airport bar, solo travelers find companions who may share some common ground in the need to get away from it all for a moment or two. Because at the airport bar, what makes us lousy, selfish savages Out There, whittles away to general decency In Here.

The airport bar is an oasis because it gives us strength through imbibing (responsibly) to put up with the crap. The airport bar is an oasis because when we are without friends, it reminds us of the kindness of strangers among a sea of callousness.

The airport bar is an oasis because in the midst of coming and going all over the world, what it is, in the end, is a little piece of home.

*Note: This rant love letter was inspired by lots of travel in recent months.
+Bryan Roth.

109 Comments

Filed under A Few Words

109 responses to “A Few Words on … the airport bar

  1. My last flight resulted in my having to give up a day of my long weekend (American Airlines pilot issues) because my return flight got cancelled and the only other flight available left at 6:00 AM instead of 8:00 PM. I wish I had headed to the bar. I always think of other travelers as “stranger-friends” because we are just an introduction away (or seat assignment) from being best buddies for a little while.

    • I’ve come to look at what bars are available and what beers are on tap almost immediately as I step into a terminal area. Given how fickle airlines are with delays, it’s always worth a game plan.

      … and as you point out, the company can be very welcome when you’re stuck and traveling alone.

      Thanks so much for checking out the post and sharing your two cents!

  2. In all my travels I have only sat in an airport bar once. I prefer the food court to really people watch.

    • In all honesty, I’d probably have to agree with you. Any dining area would be perfect for people watching, while I’ve found the airport bar ideal for quiet contemplation or just chatting with a person or two. You should definitely give it a shot next time you’ve got a long enough layover – it’s a great way to find a calm moment amongst the calamity of the airport.

      Thanks a bunch for checking out the post and sharing some thoughts – cheers!

  3. JUDE ONU

    Pls i ned ur hlpe

  4. I believe you’ve convinced me, and I’m going to have to spend some time in the bar next time I’m at an airport while waiting for the time to queue up in one more line.

    • As another poster pointed out – you never know when you might have that next great conversation with a stranger. Give it a shot and see what happens. Worst case scenario, you get to enjoy a good beer.

      Cheers!

  5. They are helpful on layovers too, when you get a minute to check out local brews. I tend to favor the wine bars now but for the same reasons. Escape!

    • That’s my favorite reason for checking out an airport bar – hoping to find something new to try. I love finding local/regional brews I’d never find at home.

      Thanks for visiting! Hope to have you back.

      Cheers!

  6. I don’t fly very often, but I travel around the country for work: pubs are such a comfort in strange cities.

    • Absolutely. Whether at the airport or whatever city/town I find myself in, I always turn to my smartphone to find a bar or brewpub nearby. It’s a great way to get a feel for where you’re at and enjoy local flavor, literally.

      Cheers!

  7. Indeed. I frequently say “Bars are my church,” and in that regard, airport bars are my chapel. It’s really what I look forward to through the commute and TSA line.

    • When there’s so much crap to put up with at the airport, it’s always good to have something to look forward to, aside from actually having an on-time flight, of course.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Cheers!

  8. We Brits dont get to fly all too much, but when we do, as long as we travel British Airways there is always that added bonus of free booze, even in coach. Which certainly makes the trials and tribulations of flying that little bit more bearable. Great post! :)

  9. Pingback: A Few Words on … the airport bar | r.s.d.ecoding

  10. Oh yes, Mr. See you at the bar and BTW mine’s a G and T.

  11. I have had some great conversations at airport bars, restaurants and food courts. It’s like being part of a tribe, being a frequent business traveler. The tribe that will be the fastest at getting an advantage over *you* ;-) Just kidding on that last part.

    • It’s especially nice because I often feel that most people just want to put their heads down and ignore the people and world around them until they get to their destination. I can certainly understand for the weary traveler, but a little human interaction among the chaos can be a delightful thing.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog.

      Cheers!

  12. I travel a lot and one of my favorite airport bars is in Oakland, CA. I love their wine flights! You should try it out.

  13. Becks Heard

    I always hit the airport bar, I’ve met some great characters this way! Best Airport bar I’ve been too is at Copenhagen airport.

    • Thanks for the tip! When I travel alone I’ve found that my favorite place to strike up random conversations has been the bar. There’s just something timelessly social about the occasion.

      Thanks for checking out the post!

      Cheers!

  14. So True – my vacation always begins with a cocktail at the airport bar.

  15. As someone who doesn’t drink before I fly I’ve always thought they put the airport bar in the wrong place.

    When flying from home in Sydney to the US I have a flight of at least 12 hours and then have to negotiate the baggage claim, immigration and then customs. It’s after all that I can hear the siren call of a good bourbon, though to be honest I don’t think I’d do much sitting in quiet contemplation. One or two quick shots and be off to find a cab.

    • I definitely think part of the fun of the airport bar is finding a good way to spend layover time when you’d otherwise be stuck amongst the fray of travelers. I typically don’t indulge unless I’ve got more than 45 minutes, so I can sit and relax while sipping away. Otherwise, I’m the same as everyone else – I just want to get where I’m going. Especially if I’m in a rush between flights or leaving the airport to get home.

      Thanks for checking out my post. Cheers!

  16. fun. good attitood (dood). the lassst time i phlew we wuzz (azz one should never be whilst flying) inna hurry, and the flight wuzz deelaid. so… i bought something really strange: …. rogue brewery (in oregon, we were in the P, OR airport) usually is really good. but … they made something whimsical and STOOPYD TOURISTS can’t resist: Voodoo Donut Bacon & Maple Pancake beer. i bought (and swilled down) a big bottle.
    ooh… but it set the mood to imbibe in more normal things the rest of the flights home. thanx for the inspiration!

  17. The airport bar might very well be my one true, unrequited love.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  18. I love those bars. Help ease tension!

    • Absolutely. I always feel so wound up when I’m traveling since there’s so much to worry about between your luggage and delays and dealing with the masses of people. Saddling up for a cold pint helps a lot.

      Cheers!

      • Right? A little vodka here, some whiskey there and why not throw in a few shots of rum?

        The only bad experiences I’ve had at airports have been when:
        a) There is no mini bar
        b) the mini bar is closed

  19. I especially liked drinking while traveling when I was in the military.
    Not sure why that was…
    Is it expected?

  20. Living in Philadelphia and with family in North Dakota, the obnoxiously long lay over is a frequent occurrence for myself as well. I have been saved from hours of annoyance by many an airport bar . Thanks for sharing. Cheers to many more beers at airports oases! :)

  21. Funny, I just posted on twitter yesterday (as I enjoyed a deliciously cold beer at the airport) why do the beers always taste better at the airport!? Travel, change, excitement and anticipation. I love it! Cheers!

  22. I’m a light weight but I do enjoy a good brew. International flights usually have free drinks on board so I’ve been lucky lately. But it is definitely where you have to head after you check in or the coffee shop….depending on the time of day for me.

  23. Damn, if an airport bar brings out the best in certain people, than it truly reveals who I am-A cheap bastard.

    • Hey – no shame in picking a cheap beer at the airport bar. It’s all about finding a place to escape and relax. I suppose you could do that with a Bud Light too… (I write with a smirk)

      Thanks for checking out the post. Happy travels (with good beer)!

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  25. Loved this post: though I admit to almost missing 3 different flights due to drinking and having a laugh with new airport-friends! I like the good-byes, though.. they range from the obligatory business card hand off to the “crap, I gotta catch my flight! (chug) nice meeting you, bye!”

    • This!

      It sounds like you get the fun of the airport bar – and its importance to help break up the monotony of traveling. Well put.

      Thanks for checking out my post – cheers!

  26. I have never sat at an airport bar. I’ve eaten in restaurants and of course gone to Cinnabon. Hmmm. Now I feel like the bar needs to be my next stop.

    • Sounds like you’ve got a plan. Plus, you’ll feel so much better after being at an airport bar than after you leave Cinnabon.

      Thanks for checking out the post – cheers!

  27. This is a beautifully written, witty piece. As a flight attendant, it made me laugh out loud. Thanks for sharing your wonderful humor and keen observations of humanity!! :)

  28. Well argued. I’ve got a thing for airport breakfast places (well, restaurants, in an airport eateries can’t afford to specialise, but I appreciate a nice breakfast menu right after they tell you your flight will be 2 hours late :-)

    • I’m with you – I’ll gladly take any new/original airport option over the run-of-the-mill restaurants. There’s a good amount of fun in experiencing something new, especially on the fly when you’re coming and going through the airport.

      Cheers!

  29. Airport bar is an oasis for people who drink but for (non-drinking population) it’s the Duty Free. I go crazy. High on perfumes and makeup, I have to be dragged to my boarding gate in last moments by people accompanying me. I do not get to make any friends because I am too busy lusting after a particular item of a particular brand that I otherwise wouldn’t even look into. At airport, it’s tax free which I understand as ‘Freeeeeee’. I spend my (boring) flights high on cosmetics.
    This comment is inspired by weird Airport behavior over seven years.

    • … and I approve this comment.

      It’s an excellent tip. I have to admit I’ve never actually bought anything from the duty free, but I was very tempted on a recent trip to Costa Rica. There were lots of booze options to be had, but I didn’t think it’d be worthwhile to lug a bunch of bottles around when I already had a giant suitcase filled with clothes and souvenirs.

      However, I think I’ll take this as a wake up call to stop in the duty free shop next time to give it a go.

      Thanks for coming by. Cheers!

  30. Let alone the airport’s bar itself, I love visiting as many bars as possible whilst traveling.
    A drink is a drink anywhere, but a drink with ambience becomes a memorable one.

    • YES.

      There is so much that goes into enjoying a drink rather than simply drinking it. What that drink is, how it’s poured, how it’s served and perhaps most important where it’s served. The atmosphere of the location and company can be so important.

      Thanks for checking out my post. Cheers!

  31. I travel a lot and although I refuse to ever order room service because of the delirious pricing, I always make time for a quick trip to the airport bar for a $10 jameson and coke or $8 pint of whatevers local on tap. If, for some god forsaken reason I couldn’t make it, those generic 3oz travel bottles from Target make really good travel champions when filled with boozy goodness and stuffed in a ziplock! Happy trails!

    • That is an excellent travel tip. Everyone take note of this!

      It’s a good point on the pricing. While the airport bar still offer something that’s more expensive than usual, at least it’s not overly outrageous like $12 for a couple scrambled eggs.

      Thanks for coming by the blog – cheers!

      • That would be $12 scrambled eggs with a 20% delivery tip and a $3 delivery charge or something similarly outrageous. The same menu is available at the hotel bar or restaurant. Order it to go there and save yourself the fees and out-of-hand tipping percentages while also enjoying a drink :)

  32. I’ll never say I drink becasue of others, but I’ll fight that war until I’ve died because of it. I think If I started drinking because of the same reasons our government allow us to be governeed by our own ignorance is when I’ll jump off any local bridge.

  33. I knew I’d like this post when I saw the shout out to Louis C.K. Guy is a genious.

  34. thetalkinghangover

    a stiff whisky is a must before flying. there is something very unnatural about airports. airport bars are interesting if busy when you’re drunk tho yes..

    • Yes – there’s a mix of timelessness of the bar and the hyperactive modernity of airports. Maybe that’s why it’s so nice to slow down and relax for a bit with a beer or stiff drink.

      Cheers!

  35. A sea of callousness describes the crazy Christmas shopping experience I just got back from. I think I will sneak into one of these airport bars and enjoy this oasis you describe.

    • Yes! And of course this “oasis” of the airport bar could be wherever you please – at the airport, down the street or in your living room with friends. No matter where you are, it’s all about getting away from the craziness.

      Thanks for stopping by – cheers!

  36. You’re so right! One of my personal favorites is in the Memphis airport … while it’s certainly not fancy, it’s got a great ambiance, and the open layout is great for meeting people.

  37. A few years ago I was flying from Columbus, Ohio to Seattle and the plane I was on was forced to turn around because one of the engines caught fire. The airline gave everyone $30 food vouchers that I promptly used to buy multiple beers at the bar in the airport Max & Erma’s. Airport bars are great because they’re one of the only places where people don’t look twice at someone who’s pounding beers at 10 AM.

  38. kibbled

    Airport bars must be, thankfully, more pleasant places than those in the UK and many parts of Europe.
    Drinking to excess is unfortunately a trait amongst some travellers, and not to steady the nerves!
    This makes the airport bar, for me, a place best avoided.

    • Well, pleasant is all subjective, for sure. Some fliers could certainly use a drink or two to loosen them up here in the US. That’s why I think the minority – often the good ones – pony up at the bar to escape it all.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. Cheers!

  39. M.Elizabeth Evans

    Nice post! Thanks.

  40. First port of call for me: the airport bar. people wtching, people meeting, great variety of drinks from around the world. I had Vodka and Caviar in Moscow, Fajitas and tequilla in mexico city. Boy, I love that terminal madness.

    • Sounds like we’re on the same page! Part of what I love is what you mention – the ability to have something local/regional, even if you’ve just got a layover.

      Thanks for coming by – cheers!

  41. Best stick with your American beer. If you dip into our stronger Canadian beer it might be a whole different flight experience! Great post.

  42. Reblogged this on Top Digital Marketing Schools and commented:
    Hope everyone has safe travels as the holidays near. Take a look at how different each regions marketing is as you vacation. Remember if a flights delayed.. Don’t panic just go to the airport bar and expand that career network;).

  43. i kill most of my time before boarding in duty free shops. may be because i’m a girl who hates paying taxes on my favourite cosmetic and perfume brands. i guess you’ve given me a new perspective of spending more time in an airport bar. sometimes i drink a cup of coffee at starbucks or segafredo in the airport at meet nice strangers, but never been really sitting down in a bar and zip a cocktail. do you think that you can get the same experience as you described in your post if you’re at an airport cafe instead, not a bar?

    • To me, coffee shops offer the option of “grab and go” while the airport bar obviously requires you to stay. That difference alone separates the two, I think. Maybe it’s simply the mindset of the to-go cup vs. the fact you have to sit, put down your luggage and sip away at the bar.

      That’s not to say you couldn’t have a pleasant experience at a cafe, but they offer different contexts, for sure. Either way – do what you enjoy the most!

      Thanks for coming by and asking. Cheers!

  44. This is so true. I remember being stuck in San Antonio because my flight was delayed for 3hrs and the bar seemed like a good place to let some steam off. It makes the wait so much better.

  45. Oh, man. I love the airport bar because it’s a great place to meet my friends that are flying through my town. There’s a bar before security so I can meet them for a drink and a meal before I get back to Suburbia and they go on to Europe or back to the West Coast.

    • The airport bar – not just for meeting strangers and fellow travelers!

      Thanks for checking out the blog. Poke around a bit and let me know what you think.

      Cheers!

      • I have, and I’m enthralled. My husband is a bit of a microbrew aficionado himself, so this is all good information for me when it comes to presents and beer runs!

  46. I travel alot for work and it is always in economy and the space is tight, air is usually too hot or too cold and running to catch a connection is common place. I do think back to when i was a kid and i always thought of flying as such a privilege. Oh how times have changed.

    • Sometimes it’s nice to take a short break and enjoy the little things … like a cold drink in between all that craziness. Flying is such a hassle, which is why – when applicable – I love to take advantage of the bar.

      Thanks for checking out the blog. Cheers!

  47. Indeed the airport bar is a nice place, especially after (or in between) flights. However they are quite expensive sometimes. The same goes for alcohol prices on airplanes. What usually works perfectly is getting a bottle at the tax free shop, have it sealed and open it after the checking of your luggage. It saves you a lot of money! :D
    For more handy advice’s on how to get drunk, what to do when you are or how to lose your hangover check:
    http://lordsofthedrinks.wordpress.com/

    • An excellent tip! One saving grace at the airport bar is the prices are at least comparable to what you’d have to pay at bars in big cities like NYC or LA. So, at least you don’t have to feel TOO bad about it. Just mark it down as “travel expenses.”

      Cheers!

  48. Pingback: I’m Having a Party and You’re Invited: “The Session” for April 2013 | This Is Why I'm Drunk

  49. Pingback: Can You Go ‘Home’ Again (to Beer)? | This Is Why I'm Drunk

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