The moment you step into an airport, your senses are assaulted by a myriad of sights, sounds, and especially smells. From the aroma of brewed coffee wafting from the cafes to the oft-dreaded scent of jet fuel lingering on the tarmac, airports contain a complex medley of odors. But one unexpected smell that permeates many terminals today is the subtle fragrance of scented candles.

Walk into any major airport hub like O’Hare or LAX, and you’ll be greeted by the gentle fragrance of lavender or eucalyptus floating through the air. The reasoning behind this aromatic trend is two-fold. Firstly, scented candles help provide a more relaxed, spa-like environment for travelers in the midst of the inherent stress of air travel. Their fragrances evoke feelings of tranquility and wellbeing, which helps ease the anxiety that often accompanies the pre-flight process. Secondly, candles work to neutralize less appealing odors that are commonplace in travel terminals. The power of a lit Yankee Candle can help mask the smells of crowded security queues or funky airport bathrooms.

The candle scents selected for airport use are specifically chosen to be calming and inoffensive. Light, fresh fragrances like lemongrass, ginger, and green tea are prevalent. Heavier aromas like vanilla or cinnamon are rarely used, as they could trigger allergies or sensitivities in some passengers. The overall effect is one of subtle relaxation, with hints of soothing scents that don’t overpower or distract.

The strategic placement of these candles also enhances their stress-relieving ambiance. Candles are often set up near seating areas, food courts, nursing rooms, and other locations where passengers naturally congregate. For example, you’ll find flickering candles on side tables near gates where people wait to board planes. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants has advocated for more scent diffusion in airport gate areas specifically to help people unwind pre-flight.

Some airports have expanded their sensory experiences beyond just scented candles to full aromatherapy programs. “Travel spas” at airports like Miami and Philadelphia offer massage chairs, light therapy, and essential oil inhalation stations. Travelers can partake in relaxing services to help ease the pain of cramped flights. These amenities represent a conscious effort to transform airports into calmer, more wellness-oriented spaces.

Incorporating scented candles has also proven to be quite effective in alleviating travel anxiety for some passengers. One frequent flyer remarked how smelling a calming cinnamon scented candle before boarding significantly helps lessen her flight nerves. The scent triggers a peaceful, nostalgic feeling that lets her mind relax amidst the pre-flight jitters. Mental health professionals actually recommend using familiar scents as grounding techniques to mitigate stress or panic.

The scent diffusion trend extends beyond just candle use as well. Wall-mounted electronic diffusers steadily pump out soothing fragrances in airport public spaces today. Some airlines have adapted by offering aromatic cabin sprays for passengers to use in-flight. People seem to appreciate the sensory touch, as one study showed airline cabins scented with rosemary resulted in more refreshed, energized passengers post-flight.

Of course, not all travelers want to be immersed in lavender-infused air. Some prefer no fragrances at all, especially those with scent sensitivities. Thus airports should offer designated scent-free areas to accommodate diverse preferences. However, when unobtrusively employed, the subtle scents of an airport can have profoundly relaxing effects.

So next time you find yourself wound up over a delayed connection or long security line, take a deep breath and savor the calming whiff of scented candles around you. Let the soothing fragrances transport you to a spa-like state of relaxation amidst the hustle and bustle of travel. The next time you fly, see if you can detect the faint aroma of scented tranquility in the air.