Airport travelators – are they used for speed or for rest?

If you want to use a travelator or moving walkway while going around the airport, make sure you’re doing so to conserve energy rather than improve your walking speed. A recent study from Princeton University showed that people move slower on a travelator, but it doesn’t save you any time.

This may save energy, but even under ideal conditions of no congestion and no baggage a walkway only makes a small difference in travel time – about 11 seconds for a 100-metre stretch.
Source: “Airport travelators actually slow passengers down” by MacGregor Campbell,

Our perception of our own speed is to blame. According to the article from New Scientist, “our desires to conserve energy and to resolve the conflict between visual cues and leg muscle signals – your eyes tell you that you are going faster than your legs are taking you – slow us down so that our total speed is only slightly greater than it would have been on regular ground.”

The congestion on the travelators doesn’t help either. Travelers with heavy luggage tend to put their bags down, and those who are tired from their trip prefer to stand passively. If you want to use the travelators to speed up, the presence of these people will prevent you from doing so.

Personally, I find that the traffic on these moving walkways tends to vary from airport to airport. All it takes is one look and you can assess for yourself if going on the walkway is best for your needs – whether it’s for rest or speed.

Does your experience with airport travelators reflect the results of the study? Or is it very different?

Image by Steve Hopson Photography via Wikipedia

Posted by | Comments (4)  | July 23, 2009
Category: General

4 Responses to “Airport travelators – are they used for speed or for rest?”

  1. Andrew Says:

    if they’re too congested (and they rarely are) I don’t use them. i’ve never even actually thought of using them as rest, strangely. other than in the regard that I was getting further with each step than I would normally (compared to people not walking on it) and i figure I saved those extra seconds that I would still be walking otherwise.

    that said, the only two countries’ I’ve used these in are the US and Japan. every US one I’ve been on has been the same metal used as escaltors, whereas the Japanese ones have all been rubber and have the most amazing spongy feel to them I’ve ever felt. it would be a waste to just stand still on them!

    finally, when I’m in airports, I’m usually rushing to a
    soon departing plane and I’ll take as many seconds shorter as I can.

  2. Liv Says:

    I’m a big fan of travelators, probably because I’m always carrying bags that are too heavy for me. If they really don’t make us move faster, I have to say that’s one pretty great illusion because I could swear I’m hurtling ahead ….

  3. Libby Says:

    I agree that when you’re rushing to make a flight, even 11 seconds seems worthwhile, and if there are several in a row, as often happens, it can add up. If you are rushing to make a flight there is probably something to be said even just for the _illusion_ that you are going faster.

  4. memory foam Says:

    I usually use them, even if just for a change of pace. It is annoying though how many people block the way … when more than one person is in a group they often end up blocking the way. Somehow this seems to happen even more in the less uncrowded airports … people there are not so used to others moving quickly.