Why airport walkways usually curve to the left – and the secret of the 'golden hour'

Surprise! The layout of the airport is designed to influence us and make us spend

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Dubai International Airport

Next to you is a group of lads wearing loafers with no socks. They're drinking beer. It's 6am.

You, meanwhile, smell of perfume samples and free whisky shots, while over on the other side of the room you're in is a large queue in which people are looking anxious. Yes yes, you're in an airport. It is all very upsetting.

And you've somehow spent £20 on chocolate.

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This may be because of the curve. Most airport walkways flow to the left, according to consulting company Intervistas, because most of us our right-handed and therefore are more inclined to look right.

The layout of the airport is designed to influence us – and make us spend. Ned Flanders is better able to refrain.

Credits: PA

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"More sales are generated if a walkway curves from right to left with more merchandise and space on the right side because passengers are looking right while (perhaps unconsciously) walking left," says one report, noted by Mental Floss.

So that's why you bought the giant Toblerone, all gappy and rubbish. Later, you'll inevitably buy a Lacoste polo shirt and a bottle of champagne. Guys! Calm down.

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But you can't help it. The curve isn't the only thing making you part with cash. There's also 'dwell time', which is when passengers are at a loose end and more likely to spend. Airports like to maximise this. They want a smooth transition.

Take display boards. They list clearly and promptly your flight information – or are supposed to, anyway. This makes you feel relaxed. And 'Time to gate' bulletins always let us know how much longer we've got – oh yes, you've got time for that second glass of wine.

The 'golden hour' is an interesting concept. Two of them? Even better.

Credits: PA

"One hour more at an airport is around $7 (£6) more spent per passenger," says Julian Lukaszewicz, lecturer in aviation management at Buckinghamshire New University.

Why airport walkways usually curve to the left – and the secret of the 'golden hour'LEAD

Which is one of the reasons why automated services have arrived, self-service kiosks and other speedier functions.

Julian adds: "You print your own baggage tag. You put it on the bag on the belt. You go through auto-security and immigration where there is no one. At the boarding gate you just touch your barcode and they open a gate and you walk onto the plane without any interaction."One study suggests that for every ten minutes a passenger spends in a security line, they'll spend 30 per cent less money on products. So, even though it doesn't always seem like it, airport staff – who are also tasked with keeping you happy, comfortable and willing to spend – want you ready to fly as soon as possible.

Shops are strategically placed, too. They're sectioned to play to impulse and frivolity. They appear where footfall is highest, pooled in waiting areas and lounges. Duty free is the most prevalent, of course.

Intervistas explains that shops have "serpentine walk-through" paths – wandering things that expose you to as many items as possible.

In addition to all this meandering, shops also sell local items to get you in the holiday spirit and make you feel in tune with your surroundings. Going away is exciting, and joy makes us splash out.

Finally, even textures and surfaces have a role. Carpets make us feel cozy and want us to stay in certain places, hence their significance in areas where the powers of be want us to stay in. Linoleum floors will be in the sections in between.

See also: New airport screening could mean hand luggage is checked as we walk through duty free shops

So, yes. We're being perpetually manipulated. By the time you get to that tropical paradise you're off to, it's any wonder you've got any money left at all.

World's best airports 2017 (Skytrax)

World's best airports 2017 (Skytrax)


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