The Best-Kept Secret For Peace & Quiet at Major Airports

by SharonKurheg

Airports are generally not known for peace and quiet. Lounges used to offer some protection from the hustle and bustle, but with everyone and their brother getting lounge access, it’s frequently not really a viable “quiet” option anymore. DFW used to have this space, but it’s apparently no longer open to the general public.

So what’s a weary traveler to do? Well, there’s always the airport chapel.

What, what? A chapel? In an airport? What’s up with that?

The first chapel built in a U.S. airport was in the early 1950s, at Boston Logan. It was done at the request of Boston Archbishop Richard J. Cushing. “Our Lady of the Airways” was a Catholic church specifically meant for airport employees, most of whom were Catholic, who had to work long shifts and couldn’t make it to regular mass.

“Our Lady of the Skies” (do you see a trend? I see a trend), also a Catholic chapel, opened at Idlewild Airport (that eventually became JFK) in 1955. With NYC being the ultimate example of the Great American Melting Pot, JFK also opened a Protestant chapel and a Jewish synagogue in the 60s (they also opened a mosque several decades later. All 4 places of worship remain in existence today). Protestant chapels opened in the airports in Atlanta and Dallas (several of them in Dallas. It’s a big airport) in the next two decades, as well. As we continue into the 21st century, more airport chapels are still being built.  For example, ATL just got a 24/7 Eucharistic chapel in early 2023.

By the late 20th century, although airport chapels were still being built, single-faith airport chapels were becoming something of a dying breed. Many of the spaces started to become more inclusive and open to people of all faiths. Instead of being used for Sunday services of whatever flavor religion the chapels had previously represented, they were now used for services on other days/nights by those of various faiths. From Upworthy:

The chapel in Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, has multiple religious texts alongside prayer rugs, rosary beads, and artistically rendered quotes from the world’s major religions. Pamphlets on topics ranging from grief to forgiveness are available for visitors to take with them.

Besides becoming more inclusive to all religions, these chapels have also opened their doors so not only airport employees but also travelers who are looking for a quiet spot for reflection or meditation could use the space.

Nowadays, more than half of the “large hubs” (airports that cater to 1% or more of the nation’s annual passengers) in the U.S. offer one or more chapels for their staff and passengers. World Religions and Spirituality Project reported in 2018 that sixteen of the twenty largest U.S. airports have some kind of chapel or meditation space (LGA was one of the spaces with no chapels in 2018, but they’re working on establishing one. PHL now has a “quiet room.” LAX and LAS still have no chapels), most of which differ quite significantly from one another. The Catholic Aviation Association even offers a list of airport chapels with a specifically Catholic presence.

Each airport chapel is run differently, depending on the rules of the airport and sometimes the state they’re in. From Smithsonian:

What is permissible in one city is often not in another. Often, it is local, historical and demographic factors, including the religious composition of the region, that influence decisions. These could even be based on who started the chapel, or how much interreligious cooperation there is in a city.

Certain airports such as Chicago’s O’Hare have strict rules regarding impromptu religious gatherings whether inside the chapel or out. Some use their public address systems to announce religious services. Others prohibit such announcements and do not even allow airport chaplains to put out any signs that could indicate a religious space.

Whatever the case, for those who are looking for a place to worship, reflect, meditate, or just enjoy some quiet for a few minutes, it’s nice to know that chapels can be found in many large airports across the U.S.

Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.

Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary, or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Dom March 3, 2024 - 2:16 am

New to you doesn’t mean new. Most experienced travelers already knew this.

SharonKurheg March 3, 2024 - 10:40 am

Not all of our readers are experienced travelers.

Dobbson March 3, 2024 - 4:32 am

Kinda feel this needs emphasized: don’t hang out in the chapel and work on your laptop, take that important call or let your mutts run around while you follow up on your emails. Go there if you want to worship. Contrary to the gist of this article, it’s not a lounge to go relax in. It should go without saying, but since all the lounges have turned into pre-schools, it should be noted.


Leave a Comment