Why are there Moving Walkways in Airports?

The travellator, another name for the moving walkway, is one of the best inventions to be found at an airport! It’s a flat escalator, in effect a conveyor belt, that moves you along. As a family, we love these for several reasons.

In fact, we love travellators so much that we’ve included them in our airport family-friendliness ratings for the help they give families with mobility around a terminal- getting to and from your gate.

Travellator how to use it at an airport with kids

The travellator serves two purposes: it gives you, and your little travel companions, the opportunity to rest. By standing to one side and just letting the travellator do the leg work you get a catch your breath.
The moving walkway also helps you get to and from your boarding gate much faster, if you do keep walking.

Travelling at about half the walking pace of an average person- c. 1.4 mph– a travellator is not fast, but fast enough to keep passengers moving through the terminal. This is exactly why airports have adopted them so readily- they really do keep the flow of both the tired and the rushing passengers flowing better.

Usually there is a series of moving walkways leading to (and from) the gates at airports. Often a single travellator will take you passed 1-2 gates, so it’s worth paying close attention to the signs and gate numbers, so you know when to get off. (It’s quite easy to get distracted by the kids.)

Using a travellator, just take care of those who are in a real hurry and want to pass by.

Which side do you stand on a travellator?

This may seem a funny question, but it seems there is an etiquette to using a moving walkway. It tells you which side to stand and on which side to keep walking.

In Europe, the general rule seems to be:

Stand on the Right, Walk on the Left

The Germans even have a little rhythm for it:

Rechts stehen, links gehen

This is important to keep in mind for families, as your instinct would be to have your little one next to you, holding your hand. Instead, make sure you both stand on the right or walk on the left.

Tuck in your luggage behind you and have the pushchair and kids in front.

In Australia, we are told it’s the other way around.

If you are not sure: look down and look up. There may be guides painted on the treads or a sign guiding you about the rules above the moving walkway.

The difference between a travellator and an escalator

Although travellators tend to be flat walkways, they can actually help passengers -or shoppers- on an incline of up 15 degrees.

travellators can have an incline of 15 degrees

An escalator, on the other hand, is a moving staircase, where the treads rise up after the passengers step on to the staircase. These operate to a maximum of 35 degrees after which they become too steep to comfortably take the steps.

Both tend to have a ribbed metal surface. This is to trap dirt and water and reduce slip hazards for people. This ribs can be quite sharp.

The distinction between the travellator and the escalator is whether it stays a flat walkway or stair risers arise.

Taking the moving walkway with the kids

There have been a couple of accidents in recent years, involving this seemingly simple installation. So do hold your children’s hands when you are getting on and off the travellator. If your kids accidentally trip, make sure you have a good enough grip to lift them off.

Tips for taking the travellator with kids
– Make sure the kids take a big step to get on and off.
Face forwards while on the travellator.
– We find it best to stop walking just a moment before you reach the end, so you can take a measured step off.

Surf the airport on the travellator

A travellator is not a playground nor play equipment!

Don’t let the kids run on it. (They really can get a serious injury if they don’t get off on time and there is a slight fault in the metalwork. Their foot or fingers can get seriously injured.)

Saying that we, as a family, cannot resist “surfing” on the travellator: as soon as we set foot on the moving walkway the kids (and us parents) stand to the right and jump into a surfing pose.

One foot forward and one towards the back, one arm out front, one “balancing” us in the back.
Sometimes we even chime into a Beach Boys song. (Really depends on how tired we are… the more tired, the sillier we get.)

Well leave you with a tune here. 😉

Try this harmless fun!

PS the moving walkway can be a great tool to distract your child who is afraid of the flight. (More about calming a child’s fear of flying here)

Monika Roozen

Monika is a mum of 3, an avid traveller, who grew up travelling the world and has continued travelling ever since. She holds a degree in animal sciences, nutrition and business administration and has consulted for several years for the hospitality industry and customer service departments. Monika loves slow travel- taking time for immersive experiences in culture and nature- sailing and snowboarding. Her personal adventures are chronicled in Inspireroo Family Travel Magazine . (Click to see their family mad ventures)

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