5 airports, 4 weeks, 3 countries. I’ve spent most of the past 28 days airborne and as I write this I’m sitting in the departure hall ready for my fifth and final flight. Home. As much as I hate flying, I love ‘airport atmosphere’ (although of course that greatly depends on the airport) and their two contrasting atmospheres: the holiday excitement in the departures hall and the anticipation of being reunited with loved ones in arrivals. But as much as I love ‘airport atmosphere’, I hate just about everything else that comes with it.
Take for example Departures. As soon as you’re dropped off outside- be it by taxi, public transport or family- you are confronted with melodramatic loved ones saying their over emotional goodbyes, tears of sadness at their impending separation. And if they’re not crying they’re stressed, most likely because they are running late for their flight. I recurrently fall into this category. As many of you know; I’m not big on punctuality. Usually I’m the very last person on the plane, the idiot that keeps everyone waiting because I can’t find my gate number, or because the painstakingly scrupulous airport security yet again fails to believe that it’s actually me in my passport photo (to be fair the photo doesn’t even look like me, in the photo I have light skin, blue contact lenses and straight hair- a far cry from my usual tan, brown eyes and afro). On the topic of airport security though, an obvious pointer about getting through hand luggage check quickly; always join the queue with the most white people who look like they have names like David Adams, Sarah Johnson or Brian Smith. I cannot stress this enough. Why? The queue always moves faster. Racism/ prejudice is not dead. If you’re running late, let’s face it, standing behind Mohammed and his suspiciously bulky rucksack isn’t really going to get you on the plane any quicker is it? Of course I wouldn’t have to use these shameful methods to get through security quicker if I had better time management skills and wasn’t always running behind schedule. The four flights I had prior to this have allowed me to practise being on time. As you can see I’ve perfected my punctuality or else I wouldn’t have had the time to scribble my blog down as I am now.
This is what I was confronted with the last trip I made to Oslo from Gatwick Airport. A body scanner, complete with passport, boarding pass, fingerprint and eye (iris/pupil) check. Speechless.
I’ve given up on the duty free shopping; it’s too stressful for me to bear. That being said the value gained from duty free shopping all depends on the airport. But regardless, in my opinion, duty free customers fall into two categories: The sane and the insane. The people who spend wisely and the people who burn their pockets buying crates of pointless shit like 10 packs of M&M’s, tacky key rings and I <3 NYC tourist propaganda grabbing them of the shelves as if it was Armageddon. And they’re crazy too. Just now I was browsing the duty free perfume section trying to uncover a new suitable scent for myself when I was rammed from behind. By a trolley. A trolley?! This isn’t a supermarket. The women in question didn’t even apologise. She was too busy ogling the perfume. Glancing in her trolley it looked like she’d brought everything in the shop, and still she wanted more? She started spraying D&G, Lacoste, Kenzo, Paco Rabanne and then Britney Spears, the scent amalgamating into a tacky cologne pervading my nostrils. My eyes watered, my skin itched, I was getting a headache. I left without buying anything.
Another thing I can’t get my head round are passengers who hover like wasps around their gate number, desperate to get on the place first even though their seat number says 48D. Step back fool didn’t you hear them say business class? Why are you rushing to get on a plane that you will be trapped in for ‘x’ amount of hours, wedged into a back- aching, knee-bumping seat? It’s not as if your ticket is invalid or it’s first come first serve. Pipe down.
And with departure comes arrival. In this instance I really do want to be off the plane first, so I can power walk like Jane Fonda all the way to the immigration queue in the hope I won’t be held up by my dodgy passport photo as they scrutinize my face to make sure I’m not an illegal immigrant. The same tips about getting swiftly getting through hand luggage check can also be applied here. Stand behind the whites and don’t affiliate yourself with Arabs, Asians or blacks.
The next obstacle is baggage reclaim. Why is it my bag is always next to last? All the time I gained rushing off the plane and power walking is wasted and everyone has played catch up. I’m normally one of the last people worriedly waiting for my bag to emerge. Usually it comes out so late it’s after the prams, the skis and the animals. In the very few instances where my bag has appeared first the other predicament is managing to swipe it off the carousel. I am not usually one to shove and push but if I see my bag go past you’re getting elbowed out the way, pronto. I am not waiting for it to go round another lap while you park up your 5 empty trolleys by the carousel waiting in vain for your bags which are nowhere to been seen. Wait you turn and get out my way.
And finally my favourite part.- Inshallah you get your bags back and you’re not stopped for drug-trafficking- when you walk out of customs from behind the screen feeling like a dishevelled superstar. I almost feel as if people are waiting to get their cameras out as they grin with anticipation and hold their welcome home signs. And better than that the jokes you get from reading the name placards. I remember once at
airport I saw a sign saying “Mohammed Khalid Waled Hassan Ali Abdul III.” Sure you won’t miss him; with a name like that he’s probably wearing a gold encrusted kaffiyah and has an entourage of 10 slaves. Dubai
But besides all my jokes and issues with airport security, my favourite arrival hall will always be Heathrow/Gatwick because no matter how good my getaway was, it’s always good to be home and see my family waving over-enthusiastically in my direction.
As an extra I’ve decided to jot down the best and worst airports I’ve been to over the years. Feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment!
Heathrow (Terminal 5 only) LHR
Ko Samui (
) BOM India
) VRA Cuba
Charles De Gaulle (
) CDG France
John F. Kennedy (
) JFK New York