Are you thinking of catching a late night or an early morning flight for your trip? If yes, there is a crucial question you need to ask before you start planning: “do airports ever close?”
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. Most airports close for several hours during the night, mainly between midnight and 4 A.M. However, they do not completely shut down.
The operational side of the airport runs around the clock. Overnight is the best time for the maintenance crew to clean and perform checks on the planes.
Cargo flights can also work during these hours if the noise restriction measures are not so stringent. This, in return, reduces competition for space and time during the day with commercial planes.
That said, most airports close at night because of the absence of a flight curfew. During this time, no commercial flights are allowed in or out. This is because some cities have rules against flights at certain night hours.
In Los Angeles, for example, there is a partial curfew at the Van Nuys Airport (VNY) on stage 2 airplanes (older model aircraft). This is what it says on its website:
Per Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 36-3, prohibits Stage 2 aircraft from departing between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. (medical emergency and military flights are exempt). Stage 3 aircraft (newer or modified jet-engine aircraft that produce less noise) are not affected by the curfew until 11 p.m.
The other reason airports close at night is because there’s very little demand for night travel. As a result, the terminal building remains closed until opening time.
Also, you cannot access other sections such as customs, ticketing counters, and security check-ins until the airport opens.
Are Airports Less Busy at Night?
Yes, they are. This is because there are fewer people traveling at night than during the day.
Although it’s likely cheaper, for most people, the fatigue and lack of sleep associated with night travel is not worth the trouble. Besides, the commercial travel restriction due to flight curfew reduces airport activities at night.
What Should You Do if You Miss Your Flight at Night?
Whether it is your fault or the airline’s, missing your flight can be traumatizing, especially if it happens at night. But to get through the night, you must keep your head clear. Don’t panic!
Despite what you might think, not all is lost. You can take several recourses, the first being trying to salvage your trip.
Call your airline to see if you can get a seat on the next available flight. Depending on your reason for missing the flight, the airline might let you on the next one for free.
Once you have that sorted out, figure out your eating and sleeping arrangement. Look for hotels near the airport to spend the night. But remember that your transportation options will be limited if it’s late at night.
Alternatively, you can opt to spend your night at the airport. Then, pay to use the lounge facilities to clean up as you wait for your flight in the morning.
Remember that almost everything at the airport closes at midnight, so grab some food and drink before then.
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Can you Sleep in an Airport?
Occasionally, an individual will have to spend the night at an airport for one reason or another. In most airports, as long as you are not disturbing anyone, this is okay.
Some even offer sleeping pods and lounge areas with comfortable reclining seats you can sleep on.
However, there are some airports where you can’t sleep because they shut down all their operations at night.
Others simply don’t permit this habit. This is because other individuals who find themselves homeless may take advantage of this and camp at the airport.
Here is what Sleeping in Airports has to say about sleeping at LaGuardia Airport:
“Despite flights coming and going at all hours, you won’t find many travelers spending the night here. A serious and well-known issue are the homeless people who seek shelter here nightly.
If you have to spend the night, you’ll likely have to show your air ticket as proof that you’re sleeping there for a good reason.
Is it Safe to Sleep in an Airport?
Sleeping in an airport is generally safe. While there’s no need to feel threatened, you’ll want to be cautious. Some of your items, including cash, laptop, phone, etc, can get stolen if you’re not careful.
To be safe, look for areas that are well covered by security cameras. Hide your valuables. You can even pay an overnight staff to watch you and your belongings while you sleep.
Alternatively, get acquainted with other travelers spending the night at the airport. There’s always safety in numbers. And if you’re traveling with a buddy, consider taking shifts to watch out for each other.
If you don’t feel safe sleeping, then you’d rather not. Take a cup of coffee to keep you alert or go for long walks around the airport. You can also try striking up a conversation with someone to pass time.
When you have a late-night or early morning flight, it’s best to check in with your airport to know when they close and open. You don’t want to board too early and end up spending the night at the airport.
However, if you find yourself stranded there, there are a couple of sleeping options available. These include airport hotels, lounges, and sleeping pods. You can also sleep on the airport benches if they allow it, but be careful with your belongings.