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Schiphol airport

Airport diversity: 12 types of travelers you meet at airports

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Day: Wednesday

Time: 3.30pm

Place: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

I enjoyed 20 minutes of spare time in the main entrance hall of this airport. I decided to watch the departing and arriving travelers that passed my spot. You have some crazy, funny, serious, boring and exciting people at an international airport like this. Acting like a real travel flâneur I was trying to learn about airport diversity. Do you recognize these traveler types?

  1. Unstressed Early Birds…..Relaxed, having ample time to check-in, shop, eat, drink, look around and board (probably because they arrived at least 3 hours before departure).
  2. One small step for man, one giant leap for the Unexperienced Travelers – their eyes restlessly moving from left to right. “Why can’t I find my way around here? Why is it so busy? OMG, wished I had never booked this trip….I want to go home! “
  3. These people do make you smile, so let’s call them like that: Smileys! Happy people who just welcomed their loved ones.  Hands or arms entangled. Haven’t seen each other for weeks, months or even years. They smile. Life is wonderful…
  4. Closely linked to the Smileys are the Parking Lot Radicals. These are generally non-smiling people who have also just welcomed family or friends but more because they had to, not because they like it that much. Even if there has been any kind of magical moment after that first reunion, it’s gone quickly because of these Parking Lot Radicals. They are efficient, wanting to get home. No more time for coffee, they quickly guide the group towards the parking lot. They do show some kind of stress that further disturbs the moment:  “Where is my parking ticket? How expensive will that one hour of parking be? Hope we can still avoid the traffic jams? For sure next time it’s my brother’s turn to pick someone up at the airport!”
  5. Hurrying narcissist: My favorite! You can smell their discontent from a mile away! They consider the airport their territory (if you would offer them a tree to pee against and mark it, they would do so!  “Out of my way, I know exactly how this all works, I’m a frequent flyer. Sigh….Come on, hurry up. Do you never fly or something? Yes, you also have to take off your belt at security and come on, prepare and already take the laptop out of your bag to get this waiting line moving! Gosh…”
  6. Masters of Business:  They could be Hurrying Narcissists, but the difference lies in them comparing business and tourist travel. They don’t focus on themselves that much. “I wish all tourists could be banned from weekdays…business travel is more important. Let’s get to the Business Lounge quickly to avoid all this tourist crap.”
  7. The Anxious Ones (or: Scary of the Unknown) : “OMG, Amsterdam….this is SO scary…..is that man staring at me in an odd way? He does look strange. Please don’t scam me….and I hope nobody steals my bags…”
  8. Regretful Enthusiasts:  “Why did I bring so much luggage. I wish I had listened to my…..”
  9. Follow-the-Leader-Group Travelers: These groups that gather for the last time around the luggage belt: “Thank you for all your funny jokes! Thank you for making this holiday unforgettable. Thank you…thank you….OK, see you at the reunion!” (if there ever will be one…)
  10. Laid Back Teens: “Oh man, we are going to have SO MUCH fun in Amsterdam! Don’t share too many pictures on Facebook as my parents are watching!”
  11. Wannabe Smugglers: “No I have nothing to declare…do I? Do I have to declare my new camera? What about that stone souvenir? Am I sweating? Hope they don’t ask ME to open my bag.”
  12. Savvy Ones: A group for whom an airport is the twilight zone between daily routines and the great escape. Airports unmask them, where they (consciously) lose grip on daily life and a dream starts. The Savvy Ones also cannot understand why that many people at airports are not smiling but instead show us their gloomy face. Come on Angry Birds, business or pleasure, you are going places!

OK, 12 types of travelers discovered in 20 minutes. Airport diversity is serious business. Which type do you miss?

Schiphol airport

And yes, if you still long for more, please check out this post: 7 types of travellers you see in the airport.

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emma@greenglobaltravel July 19, 2012 - 14:55

Trying to figure out which one I am… I like to think I’m a Savvy One!!

Emiel van den Boomen July 19, 2012 - 15:48

We can shake hands Emma! Thanks.

Cheryl March 25, 2012 - 11:03

This is really funny! And some real entertainment for you while watching the people walk past you at the airport. The next time I’m at the airport, I feel like I’ll be watching out for these kinds of people. Lol. Well, that’d be some “productive” way to while away the time during stopovers, right? Thanks for the idea, Emiel! 🙂

As I was scanning through this list, I can actually think of at least one person I know who fits the description of each of these travelers you’ve described here. As for me, I think I’m either the unstressed early bird or the laid back teen (and no, you can’t argue that I’m no longer a teen). 

Emiel van den Boomen March 25, 2012 - 13:15

Thank you Cheryl! No, I won’t argue you are no longer a teen LOL. It’s funny that so many people act in a kind of the same way (although many others are totally unique of course!). Good luck with creating your own list next time you are at an airport (and so share that list please!).

Cheryl March 26, 2012 - 08:53

Good! Now, that whole teen thing won’t come as an argument topic between us… ever. I’m glad about that. Lol. 

And hopefully, I can create a list like this when I’m at some airport in the future. 🙂 Maybe, I’ll find more “queer” types of travelers, who knows? 

Paige March 22, 2012 - 20:06

I must say that I love the word “flâneur”!

Emiel van den Boomen March 21, 2012 - 20:44

Thanks1 I think we are about the same type 🙂 I always try to be as early as possible, just to have ample time to experience that savvy feeling..And we can add another travel type: Tearful, when will I see you again…but I’m happy for you that the boyfriend became your husband. 

Michi March 21, 2012 - 14:54

Heheh, this post made me giggle. My favorite are the Smileys. Seeing people reunite always makes me smile (sometimes I secretly tear up, I’m such a sap). When I’m on the receiving end of a Smiley’s affections at the airport, a huge smile spreads across my face and I become a Smiley, too. 🙂 
When traveling, I’m definitely the Unstressed Early Bird. You can usually find me walking up and down the airport, browsing the shops, having a snack, reading a book, or making one last phone call to someone I love before I leave.

Emiel van den Boomen March 21, 2012 - 20:53

You giggle and you smile :), thanks for lovely comment. We have this TV show here in Holland, it’s called “Hello Goodbye”. This guy is approaching random people at Amsterdam Airport and ask them who they are waiting for or why someone is leaving. The most emotional, inspiring and unbelievable stories are being told. That TV show is a big hit! You will cry for sure…

Michi April 7, 2012 - 22:15

The show sounds like it would be a big hit with me and a handy bottle of wine.  🙂 I’ve looked it up on YouTube. Is it in Dutch or in English?

Emiel van den Boomen April 9, 2012 - 22:17

It is in Dutch only Michi but I can imagine that other countries would buy the concept as well!

Justin Mussler March 21, 2012 - 11:28

I love regretful enthusiasts.  I think one could make a career of helping them out at the airport. 

And, “I’m a frequent flyer!” – Nice!

I love watching people at the airport or anywhere else. 

Great Post Emiel!


Emiel van den Boomen March 21, 2012 - 20:50

Thanks Justin. Indeed, people can be watched with pleasure and awe anywhere! 

ClarkVand March 20, 2012 - 17:41

Such a funny post!  Love this and I can see myself in many of these types at different times in my life.  When I am traveling for business I almost always arrive at the airport just in time and I scan the lines to try to figure out which people I think are going to be the most savvy in terms of getting through security.

When I am traveling for leisure and with the family I actually enjoy getting to the airport early and being one of those people who can eat, drink, and look around.  Maybe not 3 hours of eating, drinking, and looking around though!

I can’t say I’ve ever been the parking lot radical, but I’ve been picked up at airports by a few of them!  So stressful!  LOL

Love #12.  That’s who we aspire to be everyday, right?

Emiel van den Boomen March 21, 2012 - 19:21

#12 is what we aspire indeed. That describes exactly the feeling I get when I arrive at Amsterdam airport..every time again. 
“Scanners” is also a very good description LOL  I can see them scanning lines and people already…
Thanks for your comment Clark.


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