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12 Features Slowly Disappearing from Airports

Airports, just like the entire travel industry, are always changing. Here are the things that could start to disappear from airports in the near future.

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Passenger walking through Chicago O'Hare International Airport on moving sidewalkMivPiv/Getty Images

Bon voyage

Not too long ago, it was only taxi cabs and parking lot shuttle buses that picked up weary travelers, and every ticket counter had an actual human standing behind it. Today, cabs have been replaced by Uber drivers and human beings by touchscreen kiosks. Here’s a look at a dozen familiar airport features that will likely be disappearing in the near future. These 20 major U.S. airports currently rank as the top.

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people standing on the curb waiting for rides at the airportScott Olson/Getty Images

Uber and Lyft curbside pickups

As quickly as they pulled up to the curb to pick us up, rideshare companies Uber and Lyft are having their pickup locations moved away from the terminal so as to not gum up the flow of traffic at the arrivals terminal. LAX was the headline grabber, announcing their offsite Uber pickup location in early October 2019, and the trend has continued at airports in Boston, Seattle, Austin, and San Francisco. Before long, all major airports will offer off-site rideshare pickup spots. Find out 18 things Uber and Lyft drivers don’t want you to know.

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woman relaxing in a coin operated massage chair in an airportfrantic00/Getty Images

Money-operated massage chairs

With the increase of XpresSpa massage ‘parlors’ in airport terminals, those rigid black leather massage chairs that you pop a credit card into should soon go the way of the dinosaur. Massages cost money but here’s what you can get for free at the airport.

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currency exchange desk in atlanta airportChmiel/Getty Images

Currency exchange shops

As more travelers became savvy enough to understand the house advantage enjoyed by those currency exchange booths littering most international airports, the fewer travelers will be duped into paying outrageous fees to obtain terrible exchange rates to convert local currency into foreign, the fewer we will see in airports. Smart travelers know they should simply withdrawal local currency from a bank ATM upon landing, receive a fair exchange rate, and likely pay no withdrawal fee (save for the nominal one your own bank may charge). Read up on the currency exchange secrets you should know before your next trip.

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An airplane passenger walks past a Smarte Carte vending station at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah.Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Luggage carts

When was the last time you actually saw someone pushing three to four pieces of luggage on a cart? Exactly. With nearly every airline dipping into traveler’s pockets for baggage fees, and nearly every traveling rocking a suitcase with its own set of wheels, most frequent fliers packing lighter than ever to squeeze a vacation’s worth of clothes and accessories into a single carry on bag, let alone multiple checked pieces requiring a cart to get to and from the gate! Don’t you think you can do it? Find out how one traveler writer packs for a two week trip with only carry on bags.

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luggage displayed for saleJay_Zynism/Getty Images

Suitcase stores

Have you ever arrived at the airport with a loose pile of clothes and shoes in your arms, in desperate need of a suitcase in which to pack everything for your trip? Of course not, so expect to see suitcase stores, those bizarre relics of airport shopping mall concourses, eventually disappear. Need new luggage? Check out these carry-on bags with 5-star reviews on Amazon.

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people walk past as a woman used a payphone at an airportColorblind Images LLC/Getty Images


You’d be hard-pressed to find a payphone anywhere now but there are some airports that still offer this ancient way of staying in touch. Soon, the last payphone will be removed and hopefully in its place, more functioning electrical outlets for travelers to charge their devices that don’t require a steady stream of quarters to use. Here’s a map with airport Wi-Fi passwords all over the world.

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best buy express vending machine kiosk in an airportLokibaho/Getty Images

Electronics vending machines

The novelty of buying a new pair of Bluetooth earbuds or, gasp, a full-price Nintendo 3DS, from an airport vending machine has officially worn off. Everyone passing through security to board a plane is already armed with their devices, chargers, headphones and even if they wanted the latest tablet, they don’t want to pay vending machine prices! Best Buy Express kiosks turn 12 years old in 2020, and are currently in over 50 airports but expect that number to decrease over time. In addition to electronics, here are 14 more things you should never buy at the airport.

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The TSA security lines in the main terminal are crowded with vacation travelers on June 16, 2013, in Denver, Colorado.George Rose/Getty Images

Security lines

Some travelers may miss the massage chairs and a vending machine to pick up a replacement set of earbuds, but no one on Earth will mourn the disappearance of long lines to clear security at the airport. If PhocusWire’s prediction is correct, airport security will look like nothing more intrusive than, “Walking along a corridor.” This would mean, “No more taking off your coat, shoes, and belt, or putting little bottles into little bags. And no more queues. Passengers and their bags will be recognized automatically as they go through automated checkpoints. Hard checkpoints will be replaced by sensor corridors, making physical document checks obsolete over the next decade.” Until this blissful future becomes the present, here are 7 pre-screening travel programs that can help you get through security faster.

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Passengers talk with United Airlines Customer Service agents at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado.Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Customer service representatives

According to, “Robots are likely to take over several customer-facing jobs currently held by airport staff, especially as passenger rates continue to rise and airports grow overcrowded.” If you’ve flown domestically recently, you likely have already seen a significant decrease in counter help at departures gate. This is because, “Technology is already replacing admin jobs at check-in desks, with most airlines encouraging customers to use their apps for check-in and some of them implementing self-service bag drops.” If you miss your flight, here’s what to do next.

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Bruno Rocha sleeps on the floor of John F. Kennedy Airport after having his flight to Brazil delayed due to a winter storm on January 27, 2011 in New York City.Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Passengers sleeping on the floor

Istanbul airport has installed sleeping pods in the terminal, allowing sleepy travelers to get some shut-eye in between flights, which gives us hope that more airports will adopt the kind of rentable spaces to ensure fliers stuck in the airport because of bad weather or a missed connection don’t have to curl up in public, on the dirty floor next to an electrical outlet. You’ll want to know how to avoid missing your connection so you never get stuck at the airport again.

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people crowding around an airport gateJoaquin Ossorio-Castillo/Getty Images

Overcrowded departure gates

Soon, passengers in boarding group 6 won’t be gumming up the boarding area while priority boarding groups are being beckoned onto the plane. This is because Delta has launched virtual queuing for boarding, and with luck, more airlines will hop on board this trend and help keep fliers in their seats until it is actually time for them to board. Slow boarding can lead to flights leaving late, which probably doesn’t often happen at the most reliable airports in the United States.

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patrons visit a starbucks at an airportanouchka/Getty Images


Oh no! Starbucks may begin disappearing from U.S. airports, so says This is because “HMS Host (the company managing concessions at almost every single one of the 400 airport terminals around the country) and Starbucks are officially severing ties.” It’s not that travelers no longer want their expensive Starbucks, but there’s been a “Big push from local and state governments to bring local coffee chains to airports. Most airports in the country operate under the control of city, county and state governments and the local governments are increasingly entering into deals with local brands.” Next, make sure you follow these 12 golden rules for stress-free air travel.

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment, and more for Reader's Digest. Jeff has also written for Parents Magazine, Esquire, PBS, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. He is the proud dad of teen daughters. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter @OWTK.