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Using, spending, wasting and killing time in airports

Bodil Stilling Blichfeldt (Aalborg Universitet, Aalborg, Denmark)
Aurimas Pumputis (Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)
Kiya Ebba (Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 7 August 2017



Travelers are both surrounded by and perform places, thus making places ambiguous sites that “come alive” when travelers use them and engage in various performances. A place many travelers pass through is the airport. Airports are places where travelers’ performances are restricted in many ways and waiting is a key element of the airport experience. This paper contributes with knowledge on what airport terminals “are”, not as designs or material objects but as places enacted by travelers. In doing so, the paper aims to emphasize on both how travelers “see” airports and how they use them.


The study uses different qualitative methods and notions of time and waiting. Sources of data are small-scale netnography, focus group interviews, observations done at airports and qualitative interviews.


The study shows that airport terminals are heterogeneously enacted environments that are heavily inscribed with the mundane act of waiting and travelers use a series of different strategies to “use”, “spend” and “kill” time. Furthermore, whereas more affluent travelers spend waiting time using airports’ commercial offerings (shopping, restaurants, bars, etc.), less affluent travelers do not have the same options.

Research limitations/implications

The research points to airport terminals as not only “places of movement and mobility” but also “places of waiting” inscribed with boredom and travelers actively fight boredom by spending, using and killing time in a variety of ways. Furthermore, the study points to significant differences between affluent travelers and other travelers and differences between people travelling alone and in groups. Therefore, a call is made for research focusing on less affluent travelers, people traveling in groups and on waiting and waiting time.

Practical implications

The study suggests that airports are more than consumerscapes and places of movement, hereby questioning the current focus on commercial revenues.

Social implications

The study points to airport space as space “inhabited” not only by travelers willingly taking on the roles as consumers but also by travelers that kill, spend and use waiting time in other ways, hereby questioning the idea that airports are places for the “elite”.


Travelers associate airports with boredom and inscribe them with waiting. However, travelers “fight” boredom and waiting with performances and acts designed to use, spend, pass and “kill” time. Hereby, travelers not only accept but also construct the seemingly mundane act of waiting as restricted, negotiated and confined, but nevertheless meaningful performances.



Blichfeldt, B.S., Pumputis, A. and Ebba, K. (2017), "Using, spending, wasting and killing time in airports", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 392-405.



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