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10 Ordinary Airports with Extraordinary Features

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

The sole purpose of airports is to facilitate passengers’ comings and goings, but each one listed here has gone the extra mile to make that space in between departing and arriving that much more enjoyable, engaging or interesting — they’ve become destinations in and of themselves.

1. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Leave it to a Californian airport to emphasize the importance of finding balance between the mind, body and soul. To prove it, they’ve installed purified water bottle-filling stations (body) and have become the first airport to also be an accredited art museum (mind). On top of that, they’ve built the first-ever airport yoga room (soul), complete with yoga matts and mirrored walls. Namaste. 

wellington airport hobbit installation featuring eagle and gandalf

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Marty Melville

2. Wellington International Airport, New Zealand (WLG)
Slightly less crunchy but equally as cool, Wellington Airport has built their own version of mind-body-soul connection: gigantic, Lord of the Rings-themed art installations. A terrifyingly large polystyrene Gollum swims through the food court celling in search of “fisheses, Precious”, while The Hobbit’s Smaug the Magnificent—and his piercing dragon eyes—judges checking-in passengers from behind a polyurethane-foam rock wall in the airport’s front hall. 

chicago airport farm animals
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3. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
This busy airport has decided to enlist the help of the animal kingdom to keep things running smoothly. Herds of goats, llamas, sheep and donkeys graze in areas around the airport where dense scrub brush has grown up, reducing the risk of birds nesting and bird-on-plane accidents. O’Hare also has the world’s first aeropontic airport garden and more than 75 beehives, which house over a million bees and produce more than 544 kg of honey per year, making it largest airport apiary in the world. 

PUP program LA airport

Photo Credit: Yardley

4. Los Angeles World Airports (LAX)
In other animal news, LAX is bringing animals — specifically dogs — inside the airport. Registered therapy dogs and their owners volunteer on a weekly schedule to roam departure lounges offering pets, hugs, doggy kisses and comfort to help with passenger anxiety and reduce general airport stress. Each “PUP” (Pets Unstressing Passengers) dog has its own collectors card with breed info and likes, so you can look at their silly, stress-reducing faces anytime during your journey. 

Seattle airport musicians

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5. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
While they’re not letting the dogs out, Seattle’s airport is utilizing another common method of relaxation: music. Enjoy live musical performances in different locations through the airport seven days a week with The Experience the City of Music Program (Seattle is the grunge music capital, after all). There are also music-themed art exhibits and music videos playing at baggage claims; the overhead music is also exclusively by Pacific Northwest artists. Rock on. (Image:

Changi Airport

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6. Changi International Airport, Singapore (SIN)
We dare you to look at a field of sunflowers and not feel better. That must be the feel-good impetuous behind the sunflower garden at Singapore’s international airport. Grown in the airport’s own nursery, wander beside garden beds bursting with these sunny, tall-stalked beauties and feel the jetlag melt away. Or, if flowers aren’t your thing, you could also visit the two-storey butterfly garden in the new Terminal 3 instead.

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7. Hamad International Airport, Doha
This brand-new airport gets a mention simply because of its scale; the land it sits on is two-thirds the size of the city it’s designed to service and has two of the longest commercial runways in the world. As such it can handle up to 93 million passengers, which will serve it well in 2022 when Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup. Also, before construction even began, they had to relocate 6.5 million cubic meters of waste from an old landfill, making it the largest environmental clean-up Doha has ever facilitated. 

Munich Airport
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8. Munich Airport, Germany (MUC)
If you’re ever stuck overnight at a European airport, cross your fingers it’s the Munich Airport. Kitted out with its own onsite brewery, enjoy a stein of beer and live music at the tavern-style beer garden, Airbräu. Afterwards, snuggle down into a spaceship-like sleeping pod equipped with USB docks, and wake up to a complimentary cup of coffee and the Financial Times before getting onto your connecting flight. Efficient and comfortable, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a German design. 

Minneapolis Airport
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9. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
While waiting for your flight out of Minnesota, why not take in a short, local film at a terminal screening room? Or you could also stop and watch a dance performance or a theatre production to pass the time. The airport’s MSP Arts and Culture Program promotes the Upper Midwest artistic community by showcasing their talents throughout the airport; everywhere you look, there is another stunning piece of commissioned artwork waiting to be appreciated. 

Winnipeg airport
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10. Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG)
An airport designed to let you feel the expansive nature of the Prairies, passengers can see straight through the building from check-in to the boarding gates. Designed by master architect César Pelli (of New York’s World Financial Center fame), this is Canada’s first LEED-certified airport, making it a pioneer in sustainable construction at this large scale. Well done, Winnipeg! 


Tune into CBC for amazing airport stories Fridays 8:30/9NT on Hello Goodbye.