Long Beach Airport wants to make flying fun again through playful popups

As travelers mulled around the concourse inside Long Beach Airport on Valentine’s Day, a patient line of travelers waited at a folding table where a bearded man in a hat was making people cry.

The tears of joy, nostalgia and love were released by poems produced from an antique Remington typewriter by a poet who was positioned in the middle of the open-air concourse typing free poems for travelers.

The attraction was part of the airport’s new “We Make Flying Fun Again” initiative that began on Feb. 14 and will run through the end of the year. The pilot-program will use pop-up attractions like the poet station to remind travelers of the time when air travel was fun and relaxing.

“The idea is that there used to be a time when people got excited to go to the airport and go on a flight,” said airport spokesperson Kate Kuykendall. “Now when people think about airports they think about girding for battle almost. You have to battle traffic. Where are you going to park? What’s the ride share situation? All of those things.”

Kuyendall said the airport prides itself on being a stress-free environment and the program is a reflection of that. Over the next 10 months it plans to roll out other pop-ups in the concourse for travelers that could include street magicians, jump rope performers, sand sculpture artists and even a pet lounge.

The latter could work in conjunction with the city’s animal shelter, where Kuykendall said animals could be showcased to the public but also just get a well-deserved petting. The airport already has pet-able volunteers in the form of the therapy dog program it launched in October to help travelers who might feel anxious about flying.

VIDEO: Poet and travelers connect to create the poetic at Long Beach Airport

While the program is in its infancy, it is scheduled to run through the end of the year. However, the schedule has yet to be filled out and the airport is open to suggestions, Kuykendall said.

Next month, the airport will roll out a Pop-A-Shot basketball game where travelers can do their best Steph Curry impressions.

“As you can see, people are coming and going, coming and going, so the kind of experiences that you don’t have to be there from the start to the end, but you can just swing by, those kinds of experiences are what’s best suited for this space,” Kuykendall said.

The idea for the program originated from the airport’s desire to consistently want to be better. Long Beach Airport has consistently been ranked among the best airports in the nation and this program seeks to reinforce the brand of the airport as “chill” and “quirky.”

The program would also put the airport in line with a developing industry trend where giant toys, flash mobs and art museums are becoming more common. Long Beach previously partnered with Cal State Long Beach to place art installations in its concourse.

Long Beach already has a section of its airport where live local music is performed on its “LGB Live” stage and under the new program it could expand to showcasing local restaurants. The catch though, would be that most of if not all of these events would be located past security and could only be experienced by travelers.

The program, in its first hours of operation, was already receiving positive reviews from travelers in the concourse Friday afternoon.

Inside the northern section of the terminal where a craft table was set up and full of construction paper and markers two small children hovered over valentines they were designing for their grandparents in Arizona.

Meredith Xepolis, a mother of two from Lomita, said that the craft table was a lifesaver because her family’s flight to Phoenix had been delayed and it gave her two toddlers something to focus on.

“It will keep her busy until we get on the plane,” Xepolis said, motioning toward her daughter who was working out how to incorporate Fruit Loops into her Valentine. “The more we don’t put them in front of a screen the better.”

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.