Do Airports Ever Close? Explained

When visiting an airport, staying overnight is usually the last thing you want to do. If you’re facing unexpected inconveniences like a layover or flight cancellation, staying overnight can suddenly become necessary. That brings up an important question: do airports ever close?

Many airports do not ever close and stay open 24/7, with international airports being most likely to accommodate travelers who need to stay overnight. There are exceptions to the rule, though, as some domestic airports are more likely to discourage or even kick out travelers at certain hours.

Through the rest of this article, I’ll explain a few questions you might have about airports, including the options you have for sleeping overnight and what regulations apply to delayed flights. I’ll also equip you with the right questions to ask to determine if the airport you’re staying at will accommodate you overnight. 

Do Airports Ever Close?

Technically, most airports are open 24/7. Airports are generally staffed overnight with essential workers like air traffic controllers, security, and cleaning staff. Although, depending on the airport, you may find that some are more unwelcoming than others. Certain airports will close their doors to travelers entirely during night hours.

International airports are often open overnight because it allows them to time flights effectively. Most passengers of international flights prefer to fly at 2 a.m. if it means they’ll land at a reasonable time. Thus, if you need to stay overnight at an international airport, it’s unlikely you’ll be alone in doing so. For this reason, the staff at international airports are usually much laxer about travelers staying overnight.

Meanwhile, domestic airports are more prone to closing overnight. Most domestic passengers prefer to fly during daytime hours, so there’s no good reason for the airports to stay open overnight in most cases. And since domestic airports are much less likely to have overnight layovers, their policies are often harsh on overnight stays. 

Of course, the best way to determine if your airport will accommodate you late at night is to check if they offer amenities like a sleeping lounge. Since international travel at odd hours has become increasingly common, airports have heard the demands of passengers and started to provide services to keep travelers comfortable. By taking advantage of these services, you won’t have to worry about your airport closing or even kicking you out overnight. 

Can You Stay in an Airport Overnight?

Many airports have different policies regarding overnight stays, with some being more welcoming to visitors than others. 

You can stay in an airport overnight if it stays open 24/7 and has security policies that welcome travelers to sleep at the airport where required. Some airports even offer sleeping pods and lounges for a reasonable fee.

Generally speaking, international airports that regularly deal with odd departure and arrival timing are more friendly to sleeping travelers than domestic airports.

You are also more likely to be allowed to stay if you minimize your presence. You should ensure that you don’t block any walkways and only occupy a small space. 

You should contact the airport you intend to sleep at to clarify with their customer support team whether staying overnight would be allowed.

In some instances, they will give you permission, which is particularly useful if you are worried about airport security kicking you out. In other cases, the airport staff may direct you to rent a room at a nearby hotel.

Boarding at Manchester International Airport Terminal 2

Do Airports Have Beds?

Most airports have beds in sleeping lounges due to increasing interest in comfortable and safe overnight accommodations. You can research online or call your airport in advance to determine if they offer these accommodations to travelers. 

Can You Sleep on the Floor of an Airport?

You can sleep on the floor of an airport overnight in most cases. Still, you should research in advance to ensure you can sleep peacefully and in sanitary conditions. Contact the airport’s customer support representatives or speak to a security staff member to determine if you’ll be allowed. 

Generally, you should be prepared to explain why you’re sleeping at the airport instead of a hotel and should have your ticket or boarding card as proof, but when provided with a good enough explanation, most airports will let you stay overnight.

You should also prepare to sleep safely and comfortably, if possible. Bringing sleep essentials like earplugs and eye masks can make sleeping in a busy international airport significantly more comfortable. It doesn’t hurt to have a travel pillow, either. 

To stay safe, you should look to sleep in a spot that has a lot of cameras and staff. You should also secure your valuables. Many airports allow passengers to secure their luggage overnight in the lost luggage office, but if this isn’t an option, you can sleep over your valuables to deter most thieves.

How Late Can Flights Take Off?

As outlined by the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are certain restrictions to how late flights are allowed to take off. 

Domestic flights can take off as late as three hours after the scheduled departure time and be held on the tarmac for this entire duration. International flights can’t be held on the tarmac for more than four hours.

If your flight is significantly delayed, you do have certain rights you can take advantage of. This includes a right to exit the plane after the three or four-hour limit, a right to food and water, and a right to necessities, including working airplane toilets, comfortable air temperature control, and medical attention. 

Here’s a tailcam video of my Virgin Flight to Orlando in August 2022

It’s important to note that these rights and restrictions have exceptions in cases where providing them would harm the safety and security of passengers and staff. It’s also important to note that airlines aren’t required to let you back on or offload your luggage if you exit the plane.

Aside from the regulations around delayed airplane takeoffs, you may also find that your airport closes at a particular time or that the country you travel to has aircraft curfews. You should research your airport’s closing times and your destination’s aircraft curfew laws to determine if any restrictions apply to your specific scenario.

Conclusion

While some airports close their doors to overnight travelers, most airports are tolerant of and even welcoming to people who need to stay the night.

Depending on the airport you stay at, they might even offer helpful amenities like safe areas or sleeping lounges that make an overnight stay much less uncomfortable.