The Real Reason Most U.S. Airports Have Chapels

We bet you never knew that these popular U.S. airports have houses of worship.


Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport interfaith chapelErik S Lesser/EPA/REX/ShutterstockFrom notoriously delicious, indulgent food options to expansive playgrounds and beautiful swimming pools, many airports are filled with features and amenities that have nothing to do with boarding a plane. But there’s one feature that more than half of major U.S. airports have, but that most travelers don’t know about—chapels.

Yes, there are actual chapels in airports—and believe it or not, they’ve been around for quite some time. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve been to one or more of the airports that have one. Since Our Lady of the Airways opened in 1951 at Boston’s Logan International Airport, the rest of the major airports around the nation started catching on.

Surprisingly, the first airport chapels weren’t intended for their fliers. Rather, the areas of prayer and worship were established by Catholic leaders for the airport staff, Smithsonian reports. This way, parishioners could still attend mass. Four years later, Idlewild (now known as John F. Kennedy Airport in New York) constructed the second Catholic airport chapel, Our Lady of the Skies, and later added a Protestant chapel and a synagogue. Airports in Atlanta and Dallas were the next to welcome their share of Protestant chapels. By the turn of the 21st century, however, more and more single-faith chapels began to convert into interfaith chapels. Plus, here’s another interesting airport tidbit you’ve never thought about—the real reason airports are carpeted.

Today, more than half of the “large hubs” (airports that cater to 1 percent or more of the nation’s annual passenger boardings) in the United States now offer one or more chapels for their busy fliers and staff, the Pew Research Center found. The majority of large hubs offer an interfaith chapel, but others continue to offer specific religious services. In fact, JFK, Washington Dulles International, and Ronald Reagan Washington National all offer a Catholic chapel, a Protestant chapel, a mosque, and a synagogue. Next, while you can attend religious services at many airports, find out the things you should never, ever do at the airport.

Brittany Gibson
Brittany Gibson is a regular contributor to’s culture, food, health, and travel sections. She was previously an editorial intern for and Westchester Magazine. Her articles have appeared on Buzzfeed, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN, among other sites. She earned a BA in English from the University of Connecticut