I haven’t been paying much attention to this, because like most travelers, including muslims, I can and do pray wherever I am at the time. So I have never entered an airport “chapel.” Neither have most people. There’s a reason for that. Airport chapels started with a specific purpose, and it wasn’t really for praying.
The very first chapel in an American airport was at Boston’s Logan International. Dubbed “Our Lady of the Airways,” it was established at the request of the workers, many of whom were Catholic, so that they could receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist from a priest chaplain while they were working on weekends. Most people of other faiths had no reason to visit, although it was not uncommon for mixed Christian denominations to be present at times, just as it is at most Christian chapels. Similar airport chapels were established over time, many with an interdenominational Christian motif.
According to Harvard’s Pluralism Project, that started to really change in 2005 when most airports began to convert their “chapels” to “interfaith prayer rooms.” As stated in PP’s literature, “[T]hese interfaith chapels are intended for the use of people of all faiths. However, most of what has been incorporated in these new chapels caters specifically to the needs of Muslims.” No kidding. I took the photo above in Indianapolis last month, and I have to say that I was shocked at the extent to which such IMDs are presented as exclusively Muslim. I understand that a few airports offer separate Muslim and “Other” prayer rooms, but many do not.
Interesting. I have a suggestion for my home town, Indianapolis. If they’re going to have just one “Interfaith Meditation Room,” the least they can do to make non-Muslims more comfortable is to add some additional features viz the augmented photo below.