a large room with tables and chairs
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Why I Was Evicted From This Airport

This has never happened to me before.

I cannot recall a time in my life when I was ever forced to leave an airport; but I was evicted from this airport — and I was not the only person who was told to leave.

Why I Was Evicted From This Airport

The airport in question was Cairns Airport in Australia. I was arriving at the airport rather late at night; and I was scheduled to be a passenger aboard an airplane for a flight to Brisbane departing at 6:00 in the morning on my way to Hobart. That meant that if I were to reserve lodging for the night, the stay would only last a few hours…

…but I searched for lodging anyway. Of the few places left that had vacancies, none offered transportation to the airport — which meant that I would have had to arrange for a taxi or ride sharing service and be at the airport by 4:00 in the morning the latest to go through the security checkpoint, which meant that I would have had to wake up at wherever I was to stay by 3:15 in the morning at the absolute latest.

The inconveniences combined with the costs suggested to me that the best option was to simply be at the airport for a few hours, as fewer things could go wrong and cause me to miss the flight.

a bench with tables and chairs in front of a brick wall
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Just prior to 2:00 in the morning, a man in a uniform — I was not completely sure if he was a law enforcement officer or a security guard — informed me and everyone else who was there to leave the nice cool air conditioned terminal out into the hot and humid January summer night laden with mosquitoes.

a person sleeping on a bench outside
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

A long hard wooden bench was the only place on which one could lay down outside of the building. One person already chose that option on one end of the bench with provisions nearby if necessary. Other people sat on chairs.

The bench was my home for the next couple of hours.

a large room with tables and chairs
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

At approximately 4:00 in the morning, people were allowed back inside. The seating was relatively much more comfortable inside than outside — primarily because of both the cool air conditioning and the cushioning of the chairs and places on which one could lay down…

…and no mosquitoes, either.

a large room with tables and chairs
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Many people opted to nap on the more comfortable seating. None of the stores and vendors in the airport were opened for business yet; but vending machines were available in case anyone was hungry or thirsty.

The International Terminal Lounge at Cairns Airport was undergoing a renovation at the time I was at the airport; so I could not use it. The only other available lounge was the QANTAS Club Lounge, of which I did not qualify for entry.

a round table next to a couch
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Final Boarding Call

I am not faulting the airport for having its policies and rigidly adhering to them. An airport terminal is not primarily designed to be a place to sleep; and people were likely evicted from the airport for reasons of safety and cleanliness…

…but the overall experience needs to be improved. If airlines are going to schedule flights as early as 6:00 in the morning, more lodging options — preferably, with airport shuttle service included — and more transportation options need to be available.

Regardless, if you plan on being a passenger on an airplane that departs from Cairns Airport very early in the morning, try to check in to a lodging establishment as early as possible the night before so that you can get a decent amount of sleep before traveling to the airport the next morning.

Even thought I rarely do so, sometimes sleeping in an airport is the best option…

…but not Cairns Airport. If you try to stay overnight there — even if only for a few hours — you will be evicted…

All photographs ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I’m not sure how viable this option is in Australia, but a rental car, running overnight with the AC on, and a driver’s seat that reclines, might have been more comfortable. As long as you can find someone to park it. In the US I would suggest at a 24-hour Walmart or Target.

    1. Cairns is both an international airport and a small airport; so the options are not as many as at larger international airports.

      Sitting or sleeping in a rental car is an interesting idea, FrequentWanderer; but it has its issues too. For example, one must take the time out to return the car prior to the flight. At 4:00 in the morning, rental car facilities are not open at Cairns Airport; so dropping the keys off in a dropbox is likely the only option when returning the car — and potential issues can arise from that as well.

      Also, if a car was rented in the evening at the beginning of the rental, several hours until 4:00 in the morning will likely constitute the cost of one day of renting the car.

      I am not saying your thought is not possible or not more comfortable than sitting at an airport for a few hours — it could be a good idea for some people — but like I said, it does have its own issues with which the cost and effort many not be worth the trouble.

  2. This happened to me in Calgary some years ago. Outside in winter is not an option. Very frustrating if your original connection gone already. If not a higher tier passenger and can’t reach your insurance provider (or find a hotel) you can be up S**T Creek without a paddle. Get a great credit card and by interruption/cancellation insurance… chances are you will need both as airlines struggle to meet schedules in summer 2024!

    1. I cannot even imagine being stuck outside Calgary International Airport during the winter, Hugh Kruzel.

      Thank you for the sound advice about getting a good credit card…

  3. My son was on a school trip recently to Guatemala and they tried to force them to leave the airport when their United flight was delayed by 12 hours. They couldn’t find any accommodation for them and in the end they agreed to let them sleep in the airport.

    1. I am glad that someone had the good sense to understand a situation that was out of your son’s control, Barry Graham; and to do something about it.

  4. Got kicked out of the terminal in Hawaii once — pretty early. Major flight delay meant we were going out in the morning. All hotels were booked due to a sports event. The benches outside were hard and getting bit. Went to 24 car rental at airport, rented a car, slept in it within view of the rental staff office for safety, drove to breakfast, got day pass at a gym to shower and change, returned car, back for our flight. The rental folks said it was a first. Desperate times…

  5. I guess one question I have is what if they have a plane that arrives really late or a flight gets delayed into those closing hours? I assume they would stay open.

  6. I’ve never been run out of an airport entirely. Closest I’ve come is getting booted from the airside concourse at BOS late at night and having to hang out around baggage claim. This was probably 20 years ago. Guy said they had to clear the concourses nightly for security reasons.

    1. I have had what you experienced happen to me at a few airports over the years, lars.

      I wonder what are those security reasons if everyone who is airside had already been cleared through the security checkpoint…

      1. Yeah, that’s a great question, Brian. After being soothed to sleep by the sweet sounds of the ride-on floor buffer, I was too groggy to meaningfully engage with the security/law enforcement officer beyond an “ok”.

        I’m just glad they let me hang out in the baggage claim area. It was winter in Boston.

    2. That happened to me in Boston too. 2014-ish. Delta last flight of the night connecting to a flight to London. London was canceled. Delta rebooked me on the first flight of the morning to JFK and then the daytime flight from JFK to London. It was pointless going to a hotel because I wouldn’t have had more than 3 or 4 hours, maximum. I fell asleep in the children’s play area airside. Around midnight, I was asked to leave the airside area by security. Ended up hanging out in the baggage claim area for about 3 hours until I could get checked in and back airside and into a Sky Club.

      Another time, around 2015, I was in LAX. Red-eye from LAX to DTW canceled. Stayed in the Sky Club until closing, which back then I want to say was 12:30 am as I think there was a 12:45 am red-eye. After being kicked out of the Sky Club, I went down to the gate that my morning flight had been assigned and just slept behind the gate agent’s desk.

      Yet another time, in 2014, in Gothenburg, Sweden, I had a 6 am flight out of Gothenburg. I stayed in the city centre until around 11 pm or so and then went back to the airport. I found a Volvo on display and the doors were unlocked. So, I slept in the back seat of the Volvo display car.

  7. I had a similar experience, it with Greyhound. O had an early morning bus,departing around 0600. I decided to arrive at the station around 0430. I’m firm believer of arrive early to mitigate unforseen delays. The bus stop was closed for the night; this on the middle of winter in western New York. A driver coming off duty opened the door of s parked bus and allowed me to rest out of the elements. Off course he could not turn the engine on got heat. It was a cold restful night until the station opened.

    1. That experience had to have been miserable even though it was restful, Firstlast.

      You were fortunate not to have encountered that legendary lake effect snow in western New York in the winter, as that could have potentially stranded you…brrr

  8. DFW-Dallas / Fort Worth Intl Airport – changing from an incoming evening American flight to outgoing morning United flight in another terminal. Made the mistake of leaving security to go to the inter-terminal train to the United terminal, not realizing there was a separate inter-terminal train inside security. When I got to the security at United was informed that could not go through until the following morning – and if I had taken the behind-security train I would have been able to stay near my United gate all night.

    You said “…but the overall experience needs to be improved. If airlines are going to schedule flights as early as 6:00 in the morning, more lodging options — preferably, with airport shuttle service included — and more transportation options need to be available.” Cairns- small city, prolly not a hub for any airline, so for the airport ability to provide additional hotel and transport options is limited to what they can convince private hoteliers and transport companies to do – and the cost relative to the (probably small) business potential might not be enough for any to step up.

    1. Look at it this way, STEPHEN: you have alerted others on how to avoid your experience; so at least something good came out of it.

      I agree with your assessment with regard to Cairns Airport. The only options that travelers have is to either avoid the early morning flights or pay for lodging for a few hours — or engage in creative versions of those options.

      The nicer hotel and resort properties are near the center of Cairns, which is not all that far from the airport — but again, every minute that is added to transportation is another minute earlier that the traveler must awaken…

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