Why Are Airports So Cold? A Detailed Explanation

Have you ever wondered why it’s always freezing inside airports? As you make your way through the terminal with luggage in tow, you grab your sweater a little tighter to brace against the chill of the powerful air vents above.

If you’re pressed for time, here’s the quick answer: Airports keep the temperatures low to increase passenger comfort while boarding hot planes designed for high altitudes.

In this nearly 3,000 word guide, we’ll provide a comprehensive explanation for the science behind frigid airport temperatures. We’ll explore how airplane cabin pressure works, regulations for ventilation rates, reasons for cold sensations, and more to help you understand all the elements that create an icy airport environment.

How Airplane Cabins Are Pressurized

Have you ever wondered how airplane cabins are pressurized? It’s a fascinating process that ensures our comfort and safety during flights. Let’s take a closer look at the mechanisms behind pressurization.

Cabins Meant for High Altitudes

Airplanes are designed to fly at high altitudes where the air pressure is significantly lower than at sea level. At cruising altitude, the air pressure outside the airplane is too low for humans to breathe comfortably.

That’s why the cabins are pressurized to simulate the conditions at lower altitudes, making it easier for passengers to breathe.

The cabins are engineered to maintain a pressure equivalent to an altitude of around 6,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. This altitude is more comfortable for passengers and reduces the risk of altitude sickness.

Using Packed Air for Pressurization

So, how exactly are airplane cabins pressurized? The process starts with the compressed air from the engines. A portion of this air is diverted and packed into the cabin to increase the air pressure. This packed air is cooled and then mixed with fresh air from outside the aircraft.

This mixture of packed air and fresh air is continuously circulated throughout the cabin, creating a comfortable and breathable environment for passengers. The temperature and humidity levels are also regulated to enhance comfort during the flight.

Ventilation Systems Recirculate Cabin Air

Another important aspect of pressurization is the ventilation system. The air inside the cabin is constantly recirculated to maintain a consistent airflow and remove any odors or contaminants. The recirculated air passes through high-efficiency filters that remove dust, allergens, and other particles, ensuring a clean and healthy environment for passengers.

It’s worth mentioning that the air in modern airplanes is replaced entirely every two to three minutes. This frequent air exchange, combined with the filtration system, helps minimize the spread of airborne diseases and maintain a high level of air quality onboard.

Why Cold Air Is Better for Air Quality

Have you ever wondered why airports always seem to be so chilly? It turns out that the cool temperature inside airports is not just a matter of personal preference or a consequence of air conditioning systems.

In fact, there are several reasons why airports maintain a colder environment, and one of them is the positive impact it has on air quality. Let’s explore why cold air is better for air quality in airports.

Increased Moisture Improves Passenger Comfort

One of the primary reasons airports keep the temperature lower is to improve passenger comfort. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air, which means that colder environments tend to be less humid. This reduced humidity can actually make the air feel more comfortable, especially in crowded areas like airports where there are many people generating heat and body moisture.

Additionally, lower humidity levels help prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms that thrive in damp conditions. By keeping the air drier, airports can minimize the risk of unpleasant odors and maintain a more hygienic environment for passengers and staff.

Colder Air Reduces Risk of Transmitting Illnesses

Another reason airports maintain colder temperatures is to reduce the risk of spreading illnesses. Cold air can help limit the survival and transmission of viruses and bacteria. When the temperature is lower, these pathogens have a harder time remaining airborne and infecting individuals.

This is particularly important in crowded places like airports, where people from all over the world gather, making it crucial to minimize the risk of contagious diseases.

Studies have shown that cold air can play a significant role in reducing the spread of illnesses such as the flu. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends maintaining a temperature range of 18-21°C (64-70°F) in public spaces to help prevent the transmission of respiratory infections.

Low Temps Prevent Tech Overheating in Small Spaces

In addition to improving air quality and reducing the risk of illnesses, colder temperatures in airports also serve a practical purpose. Airports are filled with various electronic devices, including security scanners, computers, and communication systems, all of which generate heat.

By keeping the air temperature lower, airports can prevent these devices from overheating in the confined spaces they occupy.

Electronic devices are susceptible to damage and malfunction when exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods. By maintaining a colder environment, airports can ensure that these crucial systems continue to function properly, minimizing the risk of disruptions and delays.

Ventilation Rate Regulations for Indoor Air

When it comes to the temperature inside airports, one important factor to consider is the ventilation rate regulations for indoor air. These regulations ensure that the air quality inside the airport is maintained at a high standard, providing a comfortable and healthy environment for both passengers and staff.

ASHRAE Standards for Air Quality

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has set standards for air quality in various indoor environments, including airports. These standards take into account factors such as temperature, humidity, and ventilation rates.

ASHRAE guidelines aim to ensure that the air supply system in airports provides enough fresh air to dilute contaminants and maintain a healthy environment.

According to ASHRAE Standard 62.1, airports should have a minimum ventilation rate of 15 cubic feet per minute (CFM) per person. This ensures that there is an adequate supply of fresh air for everyone inside the airport, even during peak hours.

Additionally, the standard recommends a higher ventilation rate of 20 CFM per person for spaces where people engage in strenuous activities, such as gyms or fitness centers within the airport.

High Ventilation Rates Remove Stale Air

One of the reasons airports may feel colder than other indoor spaces is the high ventilation rates required to maintain air quality. The constant influx of fresh outdoor air helps remove stale air, odors, and pollutants.

While this is essential for maintaining a healthy indoor environment, it can result in a cooler overall temperature.

Additionally, the high foot traffic in airports can contribute to an increase in humidity levels. The ventilation system helps to control humidity levels by bringing in fresh air and reducing the moisture in the air.

This helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew, which could negatively impact indoor air quality.

More Air Changes Per Hour at Airports

Compared to other indoor spaces, airports typically require a higher number of air changes per hour (ACH). An air change refers to the complete replacement of the air in a given space with fresh outdoor air.

The higher ACH in airports is necessary due to the large number of people passing through, which can lead to an accumulation of contaminants in the air.

While the exact number of air changes per hour may vary depending on the size and design of the airport, it is not uncommon for airports to have a minimum of six to eight air changes per hour. This ensures that the air inside the airport remains fresh and clean, contributing to a more comfortable and healthy environment for passengers and staff.

The Science Behind Feeling Colder

Have you ever wondered why airports always seem to be so chilly? It’s not just your imagination – there is actually a scientific reason behind it. Understanding the factors that contribute to this cold feeling can help shed light on why airports are often colder than other indoor spaces.

Wind Chill Factor Impacts Perceived Temperature

One reason airports can feel colder is due to the wind chill factor. Even if the actual temperature inside the airport is relatively mild, the presence of air conditioning systems and the movement of air can create a wind-like effect.

This can make the perceived temperature feel much colder than it actually is, similar to how wind chill makes the outdoor temperature feel colder on a windy day. The constant circulation of air in airports can lead to a noticeable drop in perceived temperature.

Decreased Humidity Increases Evaporative Cooling

Another factor that contributes to the cold feeling in airports is the decreased humidity. Air conditioning systems in airports often remove moisture from the air, resulting in lower humidity levels. When humidity is low, the moisture on our skin evaporates more quickly, which creates a cooling effect.

This phenomenon, known as evaporative cooling, can make the air feel colder than it actually is. So, even if the temperature is set at a comfortable level, the lack of humidity can make the airport feel colder.

Why Moving Air Feels Colder Than Still Air

Lastly, the movement of air in airports can contribute to the perception of coldness. When air is in motion, it increases heat transfer from our bodies, making us feel colder. This is why sitting in front of a fan can make us feel cooler, even if the temperature in the room remains the same.

The constant movement of air, whether it’s from air conditioning vents or people walking by, can create a chilling effect and make the airport feel colder.

Next time you find yourself shivering in an airport, remember that there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. The wind chill factor, decreased humidity, and the movement of air all play a role in making airports feel colder than other indoor spaces.

So, don’t forget to bring a sweater or jacket with you on your next trip to stay warm and comfortable!

Tips for Staying Warm in Drafty Terminals

Airports are notorious for being cold, and it can be quite uncomfortable to spend hours waiting for a flight in a chilly terminal. Fortunately, there are several tips and tricks you can employ to stay warm and cozy during your airport experience.

Wear Layers for Better Temperature Regulation

One of the best ways to combat the cold in airports is to dress in layers. By wearing multiple layers of clothing, you can easily adjust your body temperature to the changing conditions. Start with a base layer made of moisture-wicking material to keep you dry.

Add a middle layer made of insulating material like fleece or wool to trap body heat. Finally, top it off with a lightweight, water-resistant outer layer to protect you from drafts. This way, you can easily remove or add layers as needed to stay comfortable.

Bring a Scarf to Protect Exposed Skin

Exposing your skin to cold air can make you feel even colder. To avoid this, always carry a scarf with you when traveling through airports. A scarf can be wrapped around your neck and face, providing an extra layer of insulation and protecting your skin from the cold air.

Additionally, a scarf can also double as a blanket or a pillow during long layovers.

Stay Hydrated to Maintain Body Heat

Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining body heat. When our bodies are dehydrated, it becomes harder to regulate our internal temperature, making us feel colder. Therefore, make sure to drink plenty of fluids while waiting at the airport.

Water, herbal tea, and warm beverages like hot chocolate or coffee can help keep you hydrated and warm from the inside out.

It’s important to note that the temperature in airports is often kept low to accommodate the needs of aircraft and to prevent the spread of germs. While it may be challenging to stay warm in these drafty terminals, implementing these tips can help you stay cozy throughout your airport experience.


Hopefully this outline gives you a clearer picture of the main reasons airports keep temperatures so low. While it may seem excessive, the cold is critical for meeting air circulation standards, keeping passengers comfortable pre-flight, and preventing illness transmission.

Next time you’re rushing through a chilly terminal, at least you’ll better understand the science behind the freeze!

We covered cabin pressurization systems, ideal air temperatures, ventilation rate regulations, the wind chill factor, evaporative cooling concepts, and tips for braving the cold. With all of these elements working together, it becomes more apparent why it’s a frigid affair waiting for your flight at the gate.

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