What you're about to read is a fusion of interesting things that I've observed in airport terminals over time. I find them interesting because they are places where you sometimes find yourself having to experience different aspects of life you ordinarily wouldn't notice, as you wait in transit, before you can reach your destination.
Airport terminals and lounges are more or less similar for me (except for the peace and quiet in the lounges of course). I guess what I often grapple with is the model of punishing economy travellers so that premium travellers feel slightly better; probably not the best or most ethical way to do business, but hey, it’s worked for a lot of airlines for a long time so...That said - I'm probably one of the few people that don't think you're missing out on much, with the exception of Virgin Atlantic’s flagship lounge (which I hope to experience one sweet day).
As a tip to other travellers, if you’re looking for a high-class experience during frequent travel – I have over time, discovered my own way to be “pampered” without it costing me much:
Tip #1 Find a coffee shop that makes the same drink everywhere – Starbucks or Gloria Jeans Coffee or Lindt for example, or any number of local alternatives where they have a million branches and all make it the same way. Enjoy the drink you like from their menu, that way, no matter where you are, you’ll always have your “favourite” drink on hand, made just the way you like. My favourite’s the single hot chocolate.
Tip #2 Get some music, and some comfy headphones. If you can create and listen to a playlist you like that you can also work to, all the better. You could also watch a movie or catch up on series - whatever floats your boat really. That way you won’t have to worry about volume control or insufferable muzak.
Tip #3 Find an armchair. There’s something about armchairs that make them so much more luxurious than hard chairs. Curl your feet up and enjoy your personal soundtrack. They almost never ask you to take your feet off the seats – I personally have never once been asked to do so.
Tip #4 If you can, find a book you like, or a magazine, or a newspaper, or a website … anything to engross yourself in, and float away. Favourite drink, favourite music, comfy seat, and a great novel: 2 hours drifts by like that *insert finger snap* … who needs fancy-schmancy club lounges, anyway?!?
Back to the observations I mentioned earlier:
Observation #1: There are no more observation decks
My first airport experience was at Entebbe International Airport, where my siblings and I used to watch airplanes take off and land while we waited and watched my mom's plane take off or land whenever she was going off on a trip - she worked outside Uganda at the time. It was a free and exciting activity that a lot of kids enjoyed with their parents back in the day. So much so that almost every airport had a glass-enclosed observation area (outside the security check) where the public could sit for hours to watch and even photograph jumbo jets. When I eventually went to live with her, I discovered many other airports allowed the same. Of course things have changed over the years and plane spotting has become less convenient. I started noticing theses changes after 9/11 happened.
Observation #2: Hellos and goodbyes are just not the same
I can't tell you how many times I've seen couples hold a kiss, just a little longer than usual or hug each other just a little tighter in an embrace. When I witness sacred moments like that, I always think about how both beautiful and sad it must be for them. It doesn't help that nowadays, tightened security prevents friends and family members from walking almost up the jetway to greet arriving passengers or clutch them tightly for one last farewell hug before departure. You're almost limited to saying your good byes as soon as you get out of the car parking section or if you're lucky, at the departure drop off or arrival area of the airport.
Observation #3: Notice how you have to pay for luggage carts?
In many parts of the world, luggage carts are owned by the individual airport and are provided to customers as a convenience. This was once the standard internationally, until someone thought the luggage cart business should be sub-contracted out to another company. Airports quickly found that they could save money by not having to retrieve carts from the far reaches of the parking lot, or worry about passengers taking them home with them; and so many have adopted this business model. When you spend a buck on a luggage cart, you're more inclined to be more responsible for it.
Observation #4: There's a lot you can tell about a person if you observe their body language long enough
Ok, I know that sounds borderline stalker-ish, but hear me out:
When you're in transit for more than 2 hours or when your flight's been delayed - you see a lot, especially when you're sitting in the same place. Would you believe me if I said I can tell when:
Someone's flying for their very first time (yes, even when we're still waiting at the boarding gate)
Someone's going back to their home city vs someone going away to another city
Someone's travelling for business vs someone travelling for pleasure (and it has nothing to do with them sitting in business class)
Someone is excited to go back to their home city vs someone is dreading the flight back there.
Nah? Still don't believe me? Well - there's no way we can verify it, is there? I just know that 7/10 of those times, I've been right! :)
Observation #5: Not all airport staff are nice
This shouldn't be a surprise, right? I mean, not everyone in the service industry is as courteous or as nice as they're paid to be. Still, it perplexes me, that for that much money spent on tickets by millions of travellers across the world - people still get shitty service, even at airline and airport information desks. The only place I feel like I've experienced memorable service is in Dubai, in the duty free and restaurant/food court sections - their security is not to be messed with.
Have you made some observations of your own? Care to share in the comment section below?
Love and Light,