I have spent a great deal of time in airports. This includes a 96-hour layover due to an electrical fire in Delta’s terminal in Seattle, or was it Minneapolis? I am not sure, but I got sent to Atlanta and then finally on route to my final destination, which was Mexico.
But I think I was in Los Angeles, too, for a quick layover; it was the roughest trip I have ever had–and that was just the airports!
At this time, the news came out about a man who was living in an airport in Chicago, Illinois for three months. And then I read about an Iranian man in 1943 who was found living in an airport terminal for 18 whole years in Paris, France. So that brings me to this question–how long can you stay in an airport before they ask you to leave?
How Long Does the Airports Allow
On a recent flight, I read that you can stay at an airport for 24 hours or something like that, but I believe that was airport specific. That’s because I know you can stay in some airports overnight. The airport, Schiphol, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, offers a place to take a hot shower, as well as the option to stay in two onsite accommodations–the YOTELAIR Amsterdam Schiphol and the Mercure Hotel Schiphol Terminal.
About YOTELAIR, “YOTELAIR is the perfect solution whether you are on a layover or need to stay overnight at Schiphol. It’s located after security in the main terminal, and accessible to everyone even if you do not have a visa to enter the Netherlands and within easy access of all gates. YOTELAIR’s cleverly designed cabins are inspired by the luxury of first class travel with everything you need.
There is a 24-hour reception desk, refreshing monsoon rain showers, unlimited free hot drinks at Mission Control, and free WiFi.”
These are hotels in the airport, which allow for an overnight stay. In fact, you could stay in these hotels in the airport while visiting Amsterdam in lieu of accommodation in the city. I visited Amsterdam and the beaches of the Netherlands for two weeks on a solo adventure pre-corona in 2014.
When doing so, I was only able to use the computers with wifi and the pay telephones in the airport lounge at Schiphol. As a result, I found myself traveling back to Schiphol Airport while in Noordwick and then again in Amsterdam, for King’s Day, mind you, to communicate with family back home. I didn’t stay overnight, but I spent time eating lunch while checking my emails for work and calling home to speak with loved ones.
They offer so many facilities and services at largescale international airports that it is important to consider them as part of your travel plans. You can save time and money, and in my case, I also saved my sanity!
Having to Stay in Airports Overnight
Along with staying in an airport for a holiday while in a big city, I’ve noticed that some passengers end up stuck in airports due to customs issues. They might not have legal documentation or a travel visa permitting them to come or go from the airport. This is a huge issue, as noted in the introduction, that has forced people to live in airports.
Which brings up the big question here–how long is too long to stay in an airport?
I have yet to find any airport that states you have to leave within a certain time, but I do know from experience that small town regional airports in the US do not stay open 24 hours a day. Therefore, you are required to leave their lounges and facilities when the airports close. The Sioux Falls Regional Airport in South Dakota, where I flew out of many times on route to Minneapolis and abroad, does this.
They offer passengers the option of staying out front in the neighboring AeroStay Hotel that is semi-attached to the small airport. There are 75 rooms in the hotel to accommodate layovers and other flight issues holding guests up from taking off. This brings up the next point. I can assume that most regional and smaller airports close up shop and passengers are required to leave.
Therefore, in smaller airports, the maximum time permitted for passengers to stay would be 18 to 20 hours, or however long the airport is open to the public.
As for a large international airport, considering that they have international passengers with customs concerns and visa requirements, it appears there is no limitation on how long these people can stay in an airport. Eighteen years is a very long time to be stuck in an airport; that is a lifetime for many people. Then you have the more recent issue of passengers stuck for a few months during a pandemic.
That’s already one of the most stressful situations to be in. But have you ever spent any time in an airport?
I feel that airports are intentionally cold and not welcoming to decrease the comfort level, and therefore time spent on them by passengers. You also need to stay alert when traveling, and airports are set up for this. The airport lounges are always large and spacious, but the seating is not the best for sleeping.
When I was forced to sleep overnight in airports due to the Delta electrical fire, everyone around me including myself slept on the floor. The lights stayed on the entire time, and you could hear announcements every 10 minutes. It was very much like staying in a prison or the emergency wing of a hospital.
I personally would hate the idea of having to live in an airport. If I had to stay in an airport for any amount of time when traveling, I would be the first person booking a nearby or onsite hotel.
Staying in Airports
Bottom line here, I don’t think an airport will ask you to leave unless they close the airport to the public. If they don’t ask you to leave, then you can stay there indefinitely unless you raise suspicion. However, staying in an airport is not the most sanitary way to live.
And you are more than likely going to attract negative attention at some point, mainly due to your lack of living conditions.