A run-of-the-mill airport is as expected: shoes off, electronics out, walk through the detector, and keep your head down so as not to annoy the already aggravated security check officers.
Find your terminal, then meander to a bathroom that explains what happens when bad airport food mixes with an anxious stomach.
After grabbing a bag of overpriced chips and a water bottle, you find a chair, awaiting a cramped economy seat with a complimentary barf bag that can barely hold a drop of liquid—let alone the entirety of your stomach.
This anxiety-inducing routine misses its mark at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport in Sweden, leaving travelers questioning if they’re in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
The journey begins with a train ride, ensuring passengers easily find their way to the airport. The Arlanda Express has only three stops total, one at Stockholm Central Station, to pick up travelers flying home. The other two land commuters either at the first stop, Arlanda South, which is terminals 1, 2, 3, and 4, or at the second stop, Arlanda North, for terminal 5.
The shuffle up to the security checkpoint is short and simple, taking an escalator or elevator. Once it’s your turn to place your items on the belt, neither your electronics nor your shoes come off.
A rule even allows passengers weary of the body scan to opt out.
In the brief ten minutes that it took to get through, a security officer approaches a passenger in a floral gown, his stern face presumably waiting to yell at their simple mistake. However, once the individual was approached by the officer, he simply asked where she got her dress so that he could buy it for his wife.
The only moment the glamour of this airport fails is in the price of the express, leaving passengers $15 short for one way. Though, in hindsight, between an $80 taxi and a $15 train, most budget-friendly travelers will see the train as the more affordable option.
Yet, the food prices remain the same as they would be outside the airport, and the bathrooms give each trekker a personal room with a sink, toilet, and even space to change.
It’s easy to forget or ignore simple kindnesses in areas of mass transportation, but little accommodations can travel a long way. Whether someone is traveling to a birth, a reunion, a wedding, a business endeavor, a funeral, or a final goodbye, each traveler deserves a moment of calm.
Most of all—over the sneezing strangers, the businessmen taking phone calls, or the traveler dying to find an outlet to charge their phone—there is a gentleness to the airport. The person finds the outlet, the phone call ends, and the stranger returns to their book. No one is rushed; everyone has made their flight and simply waits.