How We Got Wrapped up in the Airport Carpet Cult


For the past several months, you may have noticed a curious collection of carpet posts published through the social media feeds of APEX and the media team’s individual accounts. While nobody has really asked why we’ve been doing this or what it all means, there is in fact a story here that we’ve kept “swept under the rug.”

Last August, we ran a feature by Jenn Wint in The Marketing Issue called The Digital Power of Crowdsourcing. Her story examined how social media user engagement and the application of tools like hashtags can be leveraged to establish greater online connections – and subsequently, brand power.

Alongside that piece we challenged our magazine readers to read more about the editorial team’s favorite industry hashtags, and while researching #airportcarpet photos to run in that online gallery I stumbled across #PDXcarpet on Instagram. I couldn’t believe the cult phenomenon surrounding the carpet at Portland’s International Airport. There’s fan groups, swag, and to my astonishment, Twitter accounts for both the old and the new carpet.

Wait a minute, new carpet? One panicked Google search later, I discovered that a replacement project was underway to update the beloved 25-year old carpet at PDX. Given the popularity of the existing carpet, surely there must be some public outcry towards this project and the new design? So I called up Annie Linstrom, communications rep for the Port of Portland, and my curiosity about #PDXcarpet spun into an hour-long conversation about the project, recycling, Portland, how carpet is designed, manufactured and tested, and other topics along a similarly weird thread. Who knew this stuff would be so interesting?

Then our APEX Community Manager, Jessica Sammut, shared a find that brought our newfound carpet obsessiveness to the point of no return: Carpets for Airports, a website that chronicles the imagined meaning and history behind airport carpets around the world. We laughed, we cried… and from here on out, we were hooked.

Since then we’ve kept our eyes on the ground throughout all our travels. We posted our first shared #airportcarpet foot shot at YUL when the team was en route to LAX for the APEX/IFSA EXPO. We were all over the #hotelcarpet and #conferencecarpet during the show. While the food and the accolades were in no short supply at the Passenger Choice Awards, what did we notice? You guessed it: The red carpet.

The following week, Katie and I fell into the wonderful and psychedelic world of #casinocarpet while in LAS for the Future Travel Experience conference. Even our publisher, Al, began WhatsApping us photos the most boring photos of #airportcarpet he could find. When Jessica traveled to Newport Beach last week for the TEC conference, one of my first messages to her was, “How’s the carpet at the hotel?”

“Meh,” Jessica responded after she sent over this photo:

Hyatt Newport carpet

As a wannabe carpet connoisseur I was outraged, but there was an important lesson here. “You have to see beyond the lack of lustre,” I reminded her. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from our feature story on the PDX project, it’s that even the seemingly mundane aspects of the world are often full of hidden treasures.

Read “Cult Carpet,” Howard Slutsken’s feature story on the PDX replacement project, here.

And if you’re as into carpet as we are now, you might want to follow the Cult Carpet Tumblr.