New York City is my favorite place in the world to visit. When it’s time to head home, though, the departure can be a downer. Not only am I leaving behind the city’s cosmopolitan vibe, the closing note involves a stretch of time at LaGuardia Airport where the past few days of fun, great food, and live music collide with an environment that former Vice President Joe Biden once compared to a third-world country.
Even the most recent J.D. Power rankings gave the travel hub the dubious honor of being named the worst airport in the U.S. The options to enjoy your wait in Terminal B — my usual spot for departing New York — are limited. You can buy a pretzel at Auntie Anne’s to exceed your daily recommended allowance of sodium. You can browse through a range of items you don’t need at the Duty Free Americas depot. You can buy a beer at the Sam Adams bar. While none of those activities are especially appealing, they are made worse by the fact that they all involve a crowd of travelers who are equally frustrated to be wasting a portion of their lives at LaGuardia. No matter where you sit or stand, someone is sneezing on you. A child is crying on the floor. A loudspeaker announcement is letting you know that your flight is delayed — again. Privacy does not exist.
However, my visit to LGA last week brightened my view — not just of the airport (which is in the midst of a massive renovation that seems poised to move the passenger experience from worst to first), but of the entire future of business travel. That future involves an environment that takes a cue from a surprisingly old-school remnant of the way we used to communicate: a phone booth.
These are not pay phones, but booths, courtesy of a company named Jabbrrbox. Inside, travelers will find charging ports, secure Wi-Fi networks, adjustable lighting controls, and most importantly, peace and quiet. For travelers who need to make phone calls, catch up on emails, or disconnect from the chaos of an airport environment, Jabbrrbox creates an area free of those sneezes and screaming kids.
Is it weird? A little bit. I never thought I would pay $15 for 10 minutes away from the world, but welcome to the future where solitude comes at a price. Plus, there’s a bit of a zoo-like vibe as the Jabbrrbox guest is on display for the world to see.
Despite these oddities, the idea has potential. Consider every environment where crowds stand in the way of productivity. According to the company’s website, Jabbrrbox can be found “anyplace with a high density of people,” which includes trade shows and conventions. In addition to pleasing attendees with an escape from the madness, the pods feel like a sponsorship slam-dunk. I know I would remember the company who paid for me to have the ability to clear my head. (Convene wrote about how Steelcase’s pods at Music City Center gave Convening Leaders 2018 attendees a chance to clear their heads and their inboxes.)
For now, if you want to test out the Jabbrrbox, you’ll have to head to LGA. However, the company wants crowdsourced assistance on where to install its next locations. You can submit your city here. I already cast my vote for O’Hare.