Weary seasoned travelers have long lusted after cozy airport nooks to lay their head and catch a few Z’s.
But whether it is finding an empty row of seats near your gate, or paying a little extra to rest in style in a first-class lounge, there are not too many options in the airport that are conducive to sound sleep.
And maybe that is a good thing. After all, who wants to fall into a 10-hours-in-economy-class-over-three-time-zones coma, and potentially miss a flight?
The din of airport announcements, rolling suitcases and the buzz of fellow travelers offers a handy alarm clock for the sleepiest of airport surfers.
But a few companies are taking note of the demand for quiet safe havens for folks to get a little shuteye in public.
Tired, frugal traveler, meet the pay-by-the-hour-airport hotel.
What’s Out There?
One example of the concept is the Sleepbox, a stylish pod that offers a bed with robotically changed sheets, workspace, Wi-Fi, TV, luggage space, a ventilation system, and, perhaps most importantly for travelers, an alarm system.
Users can rent by the half hour or hour using a coin-operated system.
While Sleepboxes have been spotted in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, they are still in the demo stage. But one FastCompany.com blogger has no doubts that seasoned travelers will start seeing the coffin-esque boxes popping up in airports, train stations and shopping centers in cities around the world.
Another product is the napcab. Similar to the Sleepbox, it offers a standalone hideaway for travelers hoping to escape the airport bustle. Inside the cabin is a full-sized bed, small table and a mirror. A multimedia touch screen offers video, music, ambient lighting, flight information and an alarm clock. Passengers can check in and check out easily using a credit card and the charges are based on the time of use. Once a passenger checks out, a cleaning team is notified to tidy up the cabin and put fresh linens on the bed.
Napcabs have been successfully launched in Terminal 2 of Munich Airport. The cabins can be rented for a minimum fee of $41, plus $13 to $20 per additional hour, depending on the time of day.
Another version of the micro hotel concept is the Dream and Fly Bubble, a small, luxury hotel room complete with full bathroom where people who are on the go can refresh themselves. Similar to other sleep pods, the Dream and Fly Bubble contains a bed, table, internet access, charging station for mobile devices and monitor to keep track of flight information. After sleeping for a few hours, the patron has the option of using the restroom or taking a quick shower. The bubble is not yet located at any airports or public spaces.
Not a New Concept
While the idea of sleeping in a state-of-the-art pod might seem futuristic, it is not exactly new.
The Japanese have been experimenting with these micro hotels for years (the first one opened in 1979). The most talked about version is the Capsule Hotel – a hotel with a number of small rooms, or capsules, that guests requiring the bare minimum can stay in for a low cost.
And by small, we mean small. The fiberglass or plastic rooms measure 2-by-1-by-1.25 cubic meters. Entertainment options vary, but the capsules generally contain a TV or electronic console and they have a wireless internet connection.
Capsules are stacked side by side with two levels. And yes, they do look a little like coffins.
Luggage can be stored in a locker and bathrooms are communal. Some of these hotels also offer a restaurant or pool. Depending on the hotel, guests can exchange their clothes for pajamas, slippers and maybe even a towel.
The number of capsule hotels has expanded across Japan and into other countries as well: Warsaw, Poland, built one in 2009 and Shanghai, China, also has one.
Some of the Japanese hotels have seen an increase in the number of underemployed or unemployed people renting capsules by the month.
Why Not Just Get a Room?
So what is the draw to staying in a capsule, napcab, Sleepbox or bubble? Well, cost, for one thing. Rather than spend the money on a hotel room that you might only use for a couple of hours between flights, these pods can be rented for as little as $30 to $50 a night, or $15 an hour.
Convenience is another factor. Many airport hotels require a shuttle ride, whereas sleep pods enable travelers to stay right in the airport (or wherever they happen to be located). Plus, if you have an unexpected layover in a strange city, the pods are a nice alternative to calling hotel after hotel to book a room.