You have hours to kill, you can’t sleep, your book is boring, you don't want to shop and you’ve already drained your phone battery. What on earth is there left to do? Plenty, actually…
Watch a plane procedure
Keep an eye out for just-arrived planes. Watching their speedy turnaround routine can be fascinating.
It goes something like this: jet bridge attached, passengers off, luggage off, crew off, petrol pumped in, technical checks made, meal trolleys re-stocked, crew on, luggage on, passengers on, jet bridge detached.
And all at the most efficient speed, using peculiarly shaped vehicles and staff you’d otherwise never have noticed.
Lots of airports offer gyms or yoga areas. If not, you can also do a power walk—running will worry the security guards, so best not do that—around the terminal, or walk up and down some stairs repeatedly.
Even more basic options include squats and lunges beside your seat. As well as being good for you, the exercise might have the happy benefit of encouraging sleep.
Meditation is another healthy way to make time fly (no pun intended).
If there’s no quiet area, just try it at your seat. That distinctive airport hum is actually quite conducive to getting present and de-cluttering your tired mind.
Test your geography
Find the departure board and test your geography skills.
Do you know in which country every listed destination is situated? Even Ministro Pistarini? And which are capitals and which aren’t?
Monitor the runway
Identifying airlines by their planes’ logos or lettering is a useless, but oddly satisfying, skill.
Sharpen your performance by monitoring the runway and trying to guess each plane as soon as it lands. Red circle containing a white bird? Turkish Airlines, of course.
Find a good place to sit, and simply look around. Are that couple married, or eloping? Perhaps they’re jetting off on a secret, adulterous escape?
What clothes on show would you like to own? Might that sinister-looking bloke be a hit man? Who’s the most attractive person in the room (not counting yourself of course)?
Write or draw
Can you lay your hands on some paper, or buy a notebook? Describe somewhere you’ve been, either days earlier or previously. Why was it so great, or so terrible?
Alternatively, do some creative writing about someone around you (that hit man, perhaps) or pen a passionate letter to someone precious. There’s no better time.
If you’re no good at writing, why not sketch something—that perfect beach from your trip, or the airplane over there.
Set yourself a challenge
Write down ten things you must find in the next hour. They could include an A4 diary, two conversing men with beards, an ‘out of order’ sign and someone wearing red trousers. Make it hard, but not impossible.
This works even better in groups, as a competition. For added fun, add in different elements such as getting someone to say “thank you”, say, or sharing a high-five.