Have You Ever Noticed That Airports Don't Have Clocks? Here's Why

Have You Ever Noticed That Airports Don't Have Clocks? Here's Why

It's not just you — it's really a thing.

By Karen Gardiner

Ever been dashing through an airport, coffee cup in left hand, bag in right, hurrying for your flight and so desperate to find any available clock to check the exact time? Your hands are full so you can't pull out your cell phone and checking your watch, if you even wear one, risks spilling your coffee. At this point you might notice that there really aren't that many clocks in airports. (And you're not happy about it.)

Certainly there are those little digital displays on the flight board, but you may not pass one of those for a precious minute. Unlike train stations where large, prominently displayed clocks are a design feature, many airports lack convenient ways to check the time.

If the thought of this apparent design flaw has occurred to you, you are not alone. So what's the deal?

A handful of Internet forums debate the matter. Even the TED Blog has termed the lack of clocks in airports a "design mystery," albeit one without resolution, comparing airports to casinos and spas in that respect. Could that mean airports actually want you to stay longer?

That is a hypothesis floating by a few posters in various fora, based on the fact that airports are largely retail spaces. Jessamyn at Ask Meta Filter sounds almost conspiratorial in the suspicion that, "there is also probably a Las Vegas issue too. They want you to sort of lose track of time more than they want you to keep track of it. Put another way, the things that require you to be on time are your responsibility (getting to the gate). The things that allow you to track them being late they'd rather you didn't have ready access to."

We're skeptical that airports actually want you to miss your planes just so you'll spend more money in DFS, so find another common hypothesis more convincing: that, given the size of airports, many clocks would need to be synchronized and so require regular (possibly expensive) maintenance. Morever, euThohi3 makes a convincing argument over at Reddit, saying that hose clocks, "damn well better be correct, otherwise people would miss flights and blame it on the airport clocks. And since the arrival/departures boards are all networked, those are easy to keep correct."

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