Thursday, 24 January 2013

Terminal Living

If airports were people, their dramatic range of emotion would make Meryl Streep look a Best New Talent Logie winner from Home and Away.

The excitement and anticipation of departure; the weariness of a stopover; the disappointment and frustration of flight delays; the determination to make a connection; the thrill of arrival; the (sometimes) camaraderie of fellow travellers; and the sadness, dread and sense of loss of the return flight home.

As I prepare to head to the airport tomorrow, sometimes I think I could quite happily live in some airports.

Airports like Singapore's Changi seem to have more shops, facilities and recreation than my own suburb.   Sunflower garden anyone?   

But other airports seem to bring out the worst in people.   Many travellers seem to dread the militant LAX, with some even altering travel plans just to avoid it.

Perhaps good airports also require good travellers too.  People who understand what they need to do.

So that pretty much excludes those who, after spending 15 minutes waiting in line, go through security with $10 in coins in their pockets, only to pull them out and go back through again.

Or people who think throwing a tantrum at airport staff is really going to help their efforts to board that plane.

All up, here's what I think are the top five things that make a great airport:
  1. Speedy check-in.   Now maths isn't my forte, but two check-in staff and hundreds of passengers waiting in a line just doesn't add up.  And does checking in online actually mean anything?  They seem to just reissue your ticket anyway.
  2. Reasonable security.    I once had my hair frisked in Vancouver.   And I didn't have an afro or long locks.
  3. Free wifi or computers.   Seriously, if tent accommodation in the Sahara can offer free wifi, airports can too.  Don't make me register or pay for it as I'm just moving through.  I've been good and arrived early so reward me by giving me something to do.
  4. Comfy seating.   A friend who worked for an airport told me once that they removed some seating in departure lounges to increase foot traffic through shops.   Sound almost cruel.   And not just any seating - ones without arm rests so you can stretch out if no-one else is around.
  5. Quiet spaces.  I remember this carpeted tent within Abu Dharbi Airport where you could just take off your shoes, enter and have a lie down where it was a bit darker and quieter.  While waiting for a flight after 15 hours of travel, this was like climbing into a king size bed.

Given you're more likely to remember the bad airport experiences over the good, perhaps the mark of a good airport is simply one you don't really remember going through.

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