5 Reasons to Grab a Drink at An Airport Bar

Air, Bar Reviews, Solo Travel — By on July 5, 2010 at 10:00 am

Sometimes it feels like we Lost Girls LIVE in airports–between flying home for holidays, heading off to school, jumping the oceans to hit up new countries, or working press trips, coming and going from terminal A to terminal B has become a part of our lives. But, airport hopping gets old fast, so we’re always looking for fresh ideas to spice up a journey. Who knows, maybe a great sandwich, a hot cup of coffee, or even a beer can make the long airport hours zip by. On a recent trip, Lost Girl Emily Luger checked out an airport bar to see what the hype was over these often-crowded kiosks…

By Emily Luger

Recently, I heard a story that a friend of a friend met the actress Rachel McAdams at an airport bar at JFK. Less recently, I heard a story that a friend of a friend met her boyfriend at an airport bar at LaGuardia. Fascinated by these seemingly nonsensical experiences and a firm believer in scientific method (and in romantic “how we met” stories), I decided to check out this phenomenon for myself. So, with an upcoming flight on my calendar and an itch for adventure under my skin, I hatched a plan: Operation Airport Bar.

Fast forward a few days, and I found myself at Slip Mahoney’s Bar & Grill, LaGuardia. Consciously having checked into my flight a bit early, I walked in and sat deliberately at the bar – near a couple of men watching soccer and a few women conducting a business meeting.

Anyway, it only took about half of my pint of Blue Moon and half of an hour of observation for me to have the paradigm seemingly figured out: People have out-of-the-normal-life experiences at airport bars because spending time at an airport bar feels similarly to spending time on the road. The big road. The “I’m not just on business for the day,” road.

Naturally, I’m interested.

I mean, where else can you sit down and arbitrarily talk to someone who a) most likely does not live where you live, b) most likely you will never see again (unless you are my friend’s friend in paragraph one), and c) probably won’t get completely skeezed out that you’re a stranger and you’re talking to them. Starting to sound more like a hostel or train station now, isn’t it?

For example, on this particular afternoon, I sat next to a man. Let’s call him Josh. Josh is 20-year New York City resident who teaches at-risk High School students in Hells Kitchen and is hoping to retire in Wilmington, North Carolina (his destination for that particular weekend). Josh and I struck up a conversation after he asked why I had my laptop at the bar (decidedly uncool). I countered by asking why he was playing soccer on his phone. To each his own, I guess. But I digress.

The point is – Airport bars are excellent venues for five reasons:

1. The Dress Rehearsal Reason: If you are getting ready to go on a big trip, an airport bar can serve as a training ground for how to talk to fellow travelers – a sort-of dress rehearsal for the big show. (And believe me, when you’re on the road, you’re going to want to feel comfortable having random conversations with strangers.  This is the whole point of hitting the road. Why? Because you learn from them.)

2. The Spending Time Reason: As a practical matter, an airport bar allows for a much more comfortable layover or pre-flight buffer than the terminal. Literally, the chairs are more comfortable. And bars have TVs. And for the right price, wireless Internet.

3. The Refreshment Reason: If you’re scared of flying, a nip of whiskey might do just the trick to calm your nerves. If you’re tired from an early morning wake-up, an airport bar will have a soda to perk you up. If you’re hungry, fuel up with suitable snacks or a meal at an airport bar.

4. The Social Reason: In our busy lives, it’s easy to get caught in a social rut. Same friends, same conversations, same perspectives. Sit back and listen in an airport bar – you might learn something about what other people do, talk about, or are interested in. (Keeping in mind, of course, that there is a certain homogeneity to the kinds of people who go to bars in airports. Read: business men, cruisers, spring breakers, professionals, people who can afford to fly.)

5. The Romantic Reason: Apparently, an airport bar can, indeed, serve as a place to meet someone with whom there might be a spark (see Lost Girl Amanda Pressner’s article on “The Best and Worst Airports to Find a Date“). But heed the warning: this can also mean playing with fire. There’s a reason why so many people commit adultery when they’re on the road: they get to start from scratch. Blank slate. Single. We all saw Academy Award contender Up in the Air, and we all know that didn’t end well. So…no judgment, but be cautious. And honest. At least about the stuff that matters.

So there you have it. I came, I saw, I drank and I wrote about it. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I made it home safely. And I thought about Josh when I read that the weather report called for clear skies in Wilmington last weekend.

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  • Matt says:

    I travel on a pretty strict budget most of the time, yet despite this I always make room in my budget for a couple beers at the airport bar. As you say, they’re an excellent way to meet fellow travelers – often ones who are on the road, yet for completely different reasons than you may be.

  • Great article! You nailed it, there is nothing better than drinking at an airport bar while traveling. Some of the best stories we’ve ever heard have been airport bar stories. It’s amazing how easy it is to talk to someone that you’ve never met before and have a great conversation. It’s also the best way to take the edge off before heading up to 35,000 feet. As we like to say: The very concept of flying is surreal, and with the advent of the airport bar, flying can quickly become a spiritual experience. Cheers!

  • I just read this article on my last flight on US Airways and I could not help but reach out and tell you that I have recently undertaken a project to increase joy in airports by encouraging individuals to recall and share with me the stories of strangers they have met at airports and in airplanes who somehow made a difference in their lives.
    Reading your article made me realize that an airport bar is another wonderful place to meet people, who can end up making an impact on you. I have met people in airports who have transformed my perspective in less than an hour of meeting them.

  • E. Consolo says:

    I just wanted to write to Emily Luger because in her article about airport bars, she said, “a firm believer in scientific method (and in romantic “how we met” stories). Because she said that I feel that I have an unheard of ‘how we met’ stories, and I wanted her to hear it……..and……. maybe write it. Can I possibly have her write to me.

    Thank you for any cooperation in this matter.

    E. Consolo

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