Hell Will Be an Airport (A Layover Story)

Hell will be an airport, I’m almost certain of it.

The damned will find themselves in a massive, snaking line, boarding pass in hand, their essential earthly belongings heaped upon their shoulders and pulled behind them on jittery roller bags with one bum wheel. They will have an initial wave of expectancy at the thought of the journey ahead and this will render them fully oblivious to the fact that they’ve entered into a period of eternal suffering and are quite surely doomed. They will gladly move in painfully slow, three-foot increments through a long maze of the similarly ill-fated, unaware that this is the most hope they’ll ever have today.

Herded like livestock toward a large metal gate, they’ll be asked to quickly remove their shoes, belt, and jewelry while an assortment of grim-faced ghouls photograph and prod them. If they’re fortunate enough to be allowed to pass through without a second, more involved manhandling, they will scramble to retrieve their things from a swiftly moving conveyor belt before they’re crushed by the crowd of sock-footed humanity behind them who are irritated at their poor progress. They will frantically reassemble themselves and scan the horizon for a hint as to where to go: It will be B9.

The damned will traverse overcrowded hallways, wildly ping-ponging against a small army of sweaty strangers, and when they finally arrive at B9 disheveled and perspiring, there will be a sign telling them they now need to go to C17. Once at C17, they will be met by a joyless woman behind a grey counter who makes no eye contact and seems bothered by their presence when they ask the reason for the change.

They’ll turn sheepishly and tiptoe their way down one of the narrow rows of thin, rigid chairs, clearly not meant to accommodate the human frame, dotted by clusters of dead-eyed figures huddled around electrical outlets, several of which will not work. As their bodies finally fall awkwardly into an L-shaped piece of black leathertte, they will notice the clock: They were supposed to have started boarding ten minutes ago. This will be their first hint that things will not be going as planned.

Five more minutes will pass. Then ten. Then fifteen. They will wait and be told nothing. Restlessness will rise among the damned, and they’ll scan one another’s eyes as if hoping someone else will approach the joyless woman behind the counter. No one dares. Suddenly, she will pronounce through distorted speakers, in words barely discernible to the human ear, that there is a delay. She will offer little details and quickly end transmission, while the doomed travelers stir and grumble, speaking desperate follow-up questions into the ether, but the joyless woman and her cadre of blue-vested minions will pretend not to notice, as they stare into computer screens and speak on corded phones closely resembling children’s toys.

As the minutes tick by and the damned nurse the remaining morsels of the snacks they’d hoped to be enjoying at 30,000 feet over 45 minutes ago—they suddenly begin to feel a looming sense of dread. Prayers and incantations begin, requesting relief from the Fates or the Travel Gods. Panic will begin to grow steadily in their midst. They will begin calculating the earliest chance they’ll have of arriving where they’re heading and their blood pressure will rise dangerously as they inventory what they will now miss. And then, just at the moment when their spirits are almost broken, they will be given a reprieve (cruel and brief though it will be). They are told to grab their things and they are ushered into the cramped confines of a tiny metal tube, crammed with far too many elementary school child-sized seats. Somehow, every overhead bin will already be full.

After having their belongings unceremoniously whisked away, the damned will shoehorn themselves into their appointed places, wedged tightly against the moist humanity on either side of them, unable to bend, extend their legs, or rest their arms without also recreating some ancient marriage rite with the adjacent person. But they will all exhale as one, as the engines roar to life and for the first time in their seemingly endless journey they begin to have some hope for deliverance. Then, the engines will just as quickly go silent and they will moan in unison as the voice of a nondescript man with a perpetually buoyant voice comes over the speakers positioned a few inches from their heads, simply saying, “Uh folks, there seems to be a problem. The plane—is broken.” He will say nothing more.

Time will begin to pass and a heavy sense of dread will move through the capsule as the damned begin to understand what is happening. Cramps will move through their extremities, their eyes will tear as tiny jets pummel them with recycled air, and they will watch in abject horror as the percentages on their phones drop precipitously, and with it their optimism.

It will be another 40 minutes until the nondescript man with the perpetually buoyant voice comes on to tell them that “The plane is still broken. We’ll update you as soon as we can.” Things will begin to unravel among the doomed assembly. Every baby will begin to cry, as if programmed and synched together. The young and the elderly will be the first to lose hope, followed by the small-bladdered and those traveling Internationally, along with the First Class folks who already resented being forced to travel with the common rabble, separated only by a thin fabric curtain. (They too are in Hell, though with a bit more leg room.) 

Desperate pleas will be made to the blank-faced, smiling sentinels roaming the aisles; begging for information, snack mix, anything to stave off the panic now gripping their contorted bodies. No such comfort will be given. Another hour will pass, with all but a few becoming fully catatonic in their despair. And the nondescript man with the perpetually buoyant voice will suddenly return to tell them that they’re changing planes, and they should quickly gather up their things and hurry to their new destination: B9.

Their bodies will respond poorly, being riled from their contorted states so suddenly, and they will stumble and stagger through another overcrowded hallway filled with sweaty strangers, experiencing a disorienting deja vu as they are again crammed into a seemingly identical metal tube. They will all fear the worst, and yet as the engines once again roar to life, with a mix of elation and disbelief they will leave the ground and finally imagine themselves fully delivered—for a moment.

There will be no drink service due to the lack of preparation for the second capsule, but the damned will not care, as they are airborne and once again feeling a small bit of the expectancy they began their journey with, but it will be short-lived. When they finally arrive and endure a seemingly endless departing recessional, they are unceremoniously deposited into another hallway, yet this one empty and darkened.

The damned will crane their necks and through exhausted, half-closed eyes, gaze upon giant glowing screens, and terror will grip them completely as they learn their fates: they’ve missed their connecting flight—and the bar is now closed.

And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.







45 thoughts on “Hell Will Be an Airport (A Layover Story)

  1. Oh my yes, exactly my experience the last time I flew from the East Coast. Except you forgot to mention how hot it gets in the plane, sitting there without the a/c and all those bodies.

  2. If Hell is an airport, I have already been there.
    I have traveled extensively, all over the world (US, Europe and Asia) and have been in more than 20 airports. There’s not much to differentiate between cities…Munich had armed guards when I landed there in 1984; San Angelo (TX) is so small you have to take the stairs off the plane and straight out onto the tarmac–two “gates” both leading into the same room in the “terminal”. Heathrow is a scientist’s experiment to see if humans can learn to run a maze; they serve something called “Congress Tarts” in the restaurant–I assume that means dough with nothing but hot air inside. Don’t even talk to me about JFK.
    My last airplane ride, which is probably the last ride, was a cross-country jaunt, moving our household from VA to CA. We flew first class, which I had never done before. I strongly suggest it. (They were serving drinks before we left the gate. That goes a long way towards calming a traveler’s nerves, haha.) My beloved but very geeky husband spent most of the flight watching…not a movie, but the GPS map of our flight and the little moving dot that was us.
    I love flying. I hate airports.

  3. Oh my gosh, John!!! This is SUCH an accurate depiction of some of my air travels, (the last three flights were excellent, I have to say ). I have to hand it to you…this is a more scary picture of hell than any painting by the old Masters; people can relate to this!

  4. I see you’ve spent time at O’hare in Chicago. This describes it perfectly! I have to laugh, because this brings back so many awful memories. Thanks, John! ^_^

    • I always wondered why Chicago would build O’Hare airport in a snowy wind tunnel. O’Hare and “delayed due to weather” are synonymous in my mind.

      • So, so true. I won’t fly through O’hare if I don’t have to. I try to fly into other airports and rent a car if I can. Milwaukee and Indianapolis are much easier to fly through, and I can live with driving a couple of hours. In fact, I live close enough to Chicago that driving is almost quicker than flying there.

  5. Seriously? Re-read James 1:2-4 and go get a McDonalds breakfast at the airport food court.

    While John is complaining about the hardships of first world problems Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith.

    • I am beginning to see that God himself could not please you, so mere mortals would do best not to let those hiding and sniping from anonymity matter at all. Go rend your garments in the street.

    • Are you trying to shame us here for having a chuckle mostly at ourselves? I think everyone here has shown despair at the unjust treatment of so others. If we didn’t find respite along the way how could we go on if we are all in the depths of despair? Being self-depreciating and finding laughter and joy does not equal having a cold heart. It is human nature.

      If I am reading you wrong I apologize. I seem to be a master at that.

      • Joanne, I think you read it 100% correctly. Also, in a cowardly manner by hiding behind “anonymous.”

        This blog is filled with commenters who want John P to write about something else. They ceaselessly demand that he write what they want to read.

        Things is that since this is John’s blog, John will write what John wants to write.

        Bottom line.

        So if people want to read something else, please go someplace else and find it or start your own blogs to write what you want to write. Then see how much you like it when people clamor for you to write what they want to read.

    • All who proclaim what is not accepted and pleasing to the mass’s are persecuted and silenced by those who do not want to hear the truth. YOU see some times persecution has many forms. NOT Politically correct.
      Those who have decided to love themselves, thier lust, thier possessions , thier car, hse, lifestyle , what ever they want . have cursed God in thier heart and gone thier own way. Deciding to create a all go to heaven worldly religeon . NO one fails, all accepted, all have the same chance, the same opportunity .
      NO ones Fault But thier own.
      God sent Jesus Christ To Die on the cross of calvary so that none shall perish , they ( the world decided they know best and rejected Him, His attonement for sin, His gift of love and acceptance, His payment for all sin.
      as stated the way to Hell is wide, large, and many go their by thier own choice. Dont Ever Blame God , Thier is a Price for Rebellion

  6. As a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, I certainly hope I help alleviate this “hell on earth” experience!!
    Saving a smile and some pretzels for you 🙂

  7. I had to giggle at the memory of my last layover… yes, the clock seemed to stop and noises seemed to sharpen and amplify. But, I also have to say that for me, Heaven will be an airport; there is no place that I feel more hopeful anticipation than in a boarding area. I love the variety of faces, languages and emotions. I gain so much energy in looking forward to the journey to come. Yep, Heaven will be an airport~ Happy travels, all!

  8. Have you lived some portion of my life a few dozen times??? On more than a few times I’ve had to sleep over in my forgotten city of layover, the next plane left the next day to my destination!!! Always a nightmare. There are really good airlines (Qantas) where they treat you well and feed you well and you have entertainment, and they actually respect you, so if traveling abroad you have a few really good choices. If you travel more than 4 times a year purchase a club lounge pass, more than pays for itself!!! We have a Oneworld family membership.

  9. Airports have never been all that much fun, but post-9/11 Security Theater has made them exponentially worse, and airlines’ determination to wring every last cent out of every hapless passenger, while cramming every plane as full as possible, has made air travel closely resemble a long bus trip, with much less comfortable seats. Bah!

  10. Reminds me of a flight years ago, where the perpetually buoyant voice informed us that the copilot’s sear had dropped into its lowest position and couldn’t be raised. The repair guy took nearly an hour to tell them he couldn’t fix it, the had to put in a replacement seat. Which was going to take about an hour But we all had a good laugh when one guy at the back of the plane yelled “make him stand!” It was hot, it took forever to fix, but I bet most of us smile when thinking of it.

  11. There is a saying in Atlanta. When you die you have to change planes at the massive 4 square mile, 5 runway, Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) Airport. It inspires pride, awe, and white knuckle fear to fliers that change planes and locals alike. When weather is bad it can be the pure Hell JP describes, and more.

  12. And how about the person who should be careful with what they say?. I was on a flight in Atlanta to Rio de Janeiro, ready to take off when the pilot announces that there would be a delay because he had pushed the wrong button and consequently broken the AC. I am phobic and need elephant dose of tranquilizers just to make thru security and here this man who is supposed to fly this sky monster thousands of miles can’t tell the control buttons apart? If he was joking, I didn’t think it was funny.Misery, plain misery!

  13. Thank you for the laugh. I read your posts to my husband and had trouble getting through this one because I kept laughing. We have been there done that. When we got done being silly, my husband said, “That man truly has a special gift”. Peace and Love,

  14. I would say that either Joe Catholic has brought you around to his view and you have described purgatory in a modern way, or you had a bad flight. I can understand a bad flight as I fly international a good bit.

  15. And don’t forget the passenger molester. At Punta Gorda Airport they have no digital scanners for passengers once you make it to the security screening. I always set off the buzzers and bells. A male TSA security officer starts a long rant of the rubdown procedures he will soon put me through. His hands start going up my legs, crotch, across my genital area, and then a general rubdown of those same locations and the rest of my physical body. If I say anything, I get arrested. And to top it off, he asks if I’d like a private screening. Well buster, if you’re going to molest me, you can do it in front of everyone. Not sure if I’ll ever go through Punta Gorda again. Oh, and the flight was delayed 45 minutes due to………..

  16. When they finally arrive at their destination, no matter where they thought it would be, it would turn out to be Miami International Airport. The lowest reaches of Dante´s Inferno.

  17. I want to add to my comment that when I pass through the security, I always say thank you to the agent for helping make air travel safer. They have a thankless job, but there is a reason we now have to go through such security. When I first began air travel many years ago, there was no need for security. Nobody hijacked nor set bombs in planes. In those days there were also machines in airports where one could purchase insurance for the flight. Then one man bought a lot of insurance on his mother who was to fly. He put a bomb in her suitcase. It exploded, killing all on the flight. The sense of safety in air travel changed. That was before the Muslim terrorists. We live now in a different world.

    • You flew before 1955 when that man bought that insurance and put his mother on the plane? Good for you being active still!

      If the TSA was any good at their jobs they wouldn’t fail 95% of the simulated tests performed every year.

      The fact they can legally molest people with the new criteria in an airport is disgusting. The fact we allow it is worse.

  18. While we are talking about airports and Hell, I would very much appreciate it if all you nonfundie Christian readers would go over to my blog for just a couple of minutes and read the new main post I have put up. I have solicited an answer to a couple of questions there, and I really would like to receive a whole lot of your responses—like 100 or more—to get a real feel for what you think. The safe link to my blog is as follows:


    Please feel free to pass this request on to your friends and family members and advertise it wherever you would like on-line, at your church, or wherever. I am doing a little bit of research on this subject. Thanks!!!

    P.S. I would like to tell you about the Hell I experienced at 40,000 feet surrounded by thunderstorms between Dallas-Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas. It happened about 20 years ago, and I have never forgotten it.

  19. Well Said John
    As the bible says their will be a great chasm between Heaven and Hell
    Many will say lord , lord haven’t I done all these good things and does not my works make up the difference , does not my good , make up for my bad .
    then He ,,God shall Say depart from me YOU workers of Iniquity , I never Knew( close relationship ) You , YOU workers of sin, damnation, selfish works, self centered pleasure, self indulgence.
    God is not unjust
    People of the world choose this. Choose Death over eternal life. Death over Life a they don’t want accountability, don’t want anyone telling them anything they don’t want to hear, Tickle my ears , Tell me good things , only good , pleasure, selfish , self seeking answers to life .
    The Real Problem is Man, The Real Answer is God, Jesus Christ, Repentance, Change, Constant Self Examination , Constant Seeking, Praying , Asking God to open your eyes so you can see clearly and the World , its false sense of values don’t cloud the truth and give false ideologies . (Mans wisdom )
    If God Made a Way of Escape and YOU or who ever don’t want or except it , then what , Mans selfish way . The Problem , The solution is Repentance, self examination, turning your heart over to christ to change your life.

  20. Pingback: Sorry John, but God is in Control | See, there's this thing called biology...

  21. I had almost the exact same thing happen recently. But then add on no flight out until the next day, no hotel room for 20 miles, no restaurants open. I went to see if my suitcase was around so I could put on warmer clothes in anticipation of sleeping on the thinly carpeted floor of one of the gates. No bag. Then security wouldn’t let me back in until 4:00 am because my ticket was dated the next day. So I spent the night in the chilly baggage claim area in thin clothes, in a chair because there were only cold, hard linoleum floors. Then I had bronchitis for three weeks.

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