As the 21st century marches forward, airport architecture moves in progressively more ambitious directions, from the massive terminals on display at Asian airports like Beijing Capital and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, to unique amenities less-modern airports like Charlotte Douglas (rocking chairs) and Las Vegas (slot machines) offer travelers to help pass the time.
One thing I've noticed during my recent travels is that my favorites are neither the largest and most modern, nor the most amenity rich. They're open-air airports, where I can feel a breeze through my hair as I wait for my flight, where I feel much more connected than I would with even the strongest WiFi connection.
Here are a few of my favorites.
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Trat Airport, Thailand
Trat Airport is a dream to use, even if you disregard the fact that it links you to the paradise islands of an archipelago of the same name with just a 40-minute flight from Bangkok. Privately owned by Bangkok Airways, the exclusive operator of flights to Trat as of March 2015, Trat Airport's open design allows you to enjoy the fresh air of southeastern Thailand, whether you're checking in, enjoying complimentary access to the departure lounge "Asia's Boutique Airline" makes available to all its passengers or even going through what would otherwise be a tedious airport security procedure.
02 of 04
San Cristóbal Airport, Ecuador
"We're walking," my tour guide answered when I asked her how we would be getting to the airport on San Cristóbal, in the Galapagos Islands, for our flight back to Guayaquil. Of course, it isn't surprising to find such an airy, open, eco-friendly terminal in the paradisical Galapagos, although I was disappointed not to see any tortoises, iguanas or blue-footed boobies waiting for flights.
(Although I guess, to be fair, blue-footed boobies wouldn't need to fly on airplanes, what with them being birds and all).
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Ketapang Airport, Indonesia
Ketapang Airports is one of the primary gateways to Indonesian Borneo, which is also known as "Kalimantan," so it's not entirely surprising that you can wait for your flight under the shade of a tree you might find in one of the nearby rainforests. But be warned: flying into or out of Ketapang is a bittersweet experience.
As you make your way toward Gunung Palung or one of the other Indonesian national parks famous for orangutan treks, you see how much of the jungle has been destroyed and replaced with palm oil plantations, which on the other hand does make the delightful experience of waiting for your flight under a towering tree all the more blissful.
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Los Angeles International Airport, United States
Many of you who've flown through LAX recently probably think I'm crazy right now. For all its cultural ubiquity and its impressive array of nonstop service, the only thing "open air" for most people transiting through Los Angeles is the long walk between its terminals, only a few of which have airside connections.
Indeed, none of these terminals are completely open air. Rather, one portion of the newly-renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal allows you to smell the aroma of fresh jet fuel as you enjoy a premium cocktail: The Star Alliance Lounge.
Not everyone can take advantage of this lounge – you need to be traveling first or business class on a Star Alliance airline like United, ANA or Air New Zealand, or hold Star Alliance Gold status – but if this group does include you, then trust me: You have no idea what you're missing!