Here’s a tip: Don’t fall asleep at the airport and miss your flight.

travel neck pillowOn my trip last week, I witnessed something I had never seen before.

While waiting to board my flight, I noticed a group of young people who I assumed were students. I was proven right on the plane, when several of them sat in the row behind me, talking about the classes they were taking. Across from them was another row of students, but in this row the middle seat happened to be empty. I heard the students asking if anyone had seen the guy who was supposed to be sitting there. It turns out that he was currently sitting in the gate area, inside the airport, fast asleep. His fellow travelers had tried to wake him, and he awoke once to promise them he wouldn’t miss the flight, only to go back to sleep. He slept through friends calling his cell phone (which turned out to be in his pocket on silent), the final boarding announcements, and even his name being called repeatedly by the gate agent. Wow.

There is no doubt that travel can be exhausting. Lots of people have fallen asleep at the airport, including me, on numerous occasions. But I can’t imagine how awful it would feel to wake up and know that you missed your flight, and how humiliating it would be if you were traveling with a group when it happened. Of course, ideally you would get enough sleep the night before a flight so this isn’t an issue, but that’s not always possible. So for the times I am so tired I have to sleep at the airport, I make sure to set my alarm so I will hear it and wake up. If you are a super heavy sleeper, and you often sleep through alarms or noise, then I have to recommend that you do NOT go to sleep at the airport. Do everything you can to stay awake until you can sleep on the plane.

As for this particular young man, I heard his fellow students say that he stayed up late the night before. (Of course, it was a 10am flight, so not exactly pre-dawn. Whatever.) But once he finally did wake up, American worked with him to get him to his final destination, just long after everyone else did. Sheesh.

Readers, do you sleep at airports? Ever missed a flight because of it?


  1. i think you are overlooking the effects that a miller lite and popov vodka hangover can have on a 20-something.

  2. Came close to it myself one time in Tokyo after a whirlwind 24 hour trip but fortunately came out of a VERY deep sleep as they were boarding. I did have a friend miss his. My advice to all my friends if they sleep at the airport – try to do so near/behind the gate agent counter. Guaranteed not to miss the flight that way!

  3. Once, as a student, I arrived separately from two fellow student travelers only to find them both sleeping through the final boarding announcement. But, naturally, and unlike the people in your story, I woke my friends up…

  4. Luckily I have never slept past final boarding to miss my flight. I have woken up in the middle of the college class and thought that i may have overslept, my own class ended and another one had started before i woke up. However, even this never happened.

    I always set an alarm, audio and vibrate, on my cell phone for right before the first call for boarding. I don’t think i have ever seen a flight leave very early so setting it for when i think boarding will occur works for me.

  5. I’ve had a similar experience to Matt’s…. Whenever traveling in a group, it helps to make sure all your friends board the flight! I understand missing the flight if youre flying alone though.
    I’ve slept at airports in the past but luckily never missed a flight.

  6. Nah, I did not really sleep but arrived late for an eearly morning flight from FRA to JFK. (I was able to time it tightly because I was sleeping at the Sheraton in the airport.) I knew I was kind of late because SQ emplotee gate agents greeted me by name, they knew my name as the last missing passenger.

  7. On the rare occasion required I have found that explaining to the gate agent ‘I am sitting here in front of you and supposed to be on this flight but incredibly tired if you are calling my name would you please mind to come smack me’ can pay enormous dividends

  8. Note: a 10am flight for a college student is just about pre-dawn. And, See “miller lite and popov vodka”, above.

  9. My family all fell asleep at the Salt Lake City Airport but being the good mother I am and afraid that the 5 of us could miss the flight, I stayed awake. I was the Designated Awake Person.

  10. Happened to me on my way to Africa. I’d done the U.S to England flight and made my way to the gate for the next flight to Zambia. It was a very noisy gate area–tons of people chatting away–so I didn’t think it would be a problem to close my eyes. just. for. a. second.
    Next thing I knew the gate was nearly deserted.
    Thankfully the last stragglers were still boarding. Whew!

  11. Some people have to drive a couple hours to get to an airport so an 8 am flight means a 4 am wake up.

    I couldn’t imagine frequently flying like that, but I know people who do. I live 8 miles from my airport and leave just over an hour before a flight.

  12. Fell asleep today in final boarding waiting 5 hours (late) for an overseas flight. Plane was still at the gate but desk was difficult to work with to open the door. After 6 min wait they did. A good common sense decision as I was the only one left in the waiting area!! Unbelievable!!

  13. It happened to me last night. I thought I was the only one on the planet to go through this. Finally reached home after 24 hrs.

    And it was not Miller lite but lots of work load that only gave me 2 hrs of sleep a day before 🙁

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