Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I rather like airports. I like the clean, modern international style they often share, and the exciting energy of people moving around the globe. With that said, I don't really want to spend eight hours or more in one. Especially if it's a bad airport.

On a too-long layover, the quality of airport makes all the difference. Is it a mild irritation having to wait, alleviated by having enough to do, see and eat; or is the whole layover spent counting the minutes until you can get back on a plane?

Two of the worst:
1) Pictured above is LAX in Los Angeles, which, I'm embarrassed to say, has one of the worst international terminals I've been to. Lots of places to sit down, but almost no where to eat, shop or hang out, and the whole place just seems a bit faded and run down. Los Angeles is rather good at self-mythologizing, and investing itself with a good show of glamour-- so why does the airport fall so short? It could be a great place to show off the city's food, shopping, and style. Imagine if they had a foodcourt with dining options from the famed Farmer's Market, or shops selling work by local designers?

2) On our way to South Africa this year, we had a depressing ten-hour stay in Frankfurt. I could have left the airport, but as a South African, Bordeaux would have needed an expensive visa. There was very little to do at the airport during that time, and worse, almost nowhere to sit. The airport had wifi, but at a ridiculous price, and despite our searching we didn't find one outlet to plug our laptop in. We ended up spending nearly the whole day in the McCafe, which is about as good as it gets in Frankfurt. We did go elsewhere for lunch though-- the rather glum Cafe Goethe, where we got a somewhat gray sausage with a pile of tired looking sauerkraut. What luxury it felt to board our South African Airways aircraft and actually have a seat, movies to watch, and be provided with something to eat (the bottles of South African wine helped to relieve the memory of the Frankfurt airport).

On the other side, I had a rather pleasant stay at Incheon in Seoul, South Korea. The airport was bright and clean, there were some decent places to get some kimchi or a latte, and not only was there free wi-fi, but they would lend you an adapter so you could plug in your laptop.

What's the best airport you've ever been to? And the worst?


Brett said...

I completely agree about the purgatory that is LAX. As the first and last thing some foreigners see when they visit the US, you think they could spring for some new overhead lights and a good bar.

The Dallas airport has karaoke, or so I've heard. I'm not sure whether that puts it in the best or worst airport category.

Robyn said...

Agreed, LAX is a nightmare.

I have fond memories of the Turin airport -- tiny and no wifi (or at least not the last time I was there, in 2005), but a convivial bar offering well-poured aperitivo and fantastic Piemonte vintages by the glass at regular (ie not airport rip-off) prices and, in the Italian style, gratis antipasti: prosciutto wrapped around fresh grissini, assorted salumi, huge Sicilian green olives, chunks of quality parmesan reggiano. There are certainly worse places to pass the pre-boarding 90 minutes.

kristine said...

yeah, frankfurt is bad.

singapore by far the best. I think i could almost go and hang out in singapore airport just for fun.


annamatic said...

I really like Narita in Tokyo and Hong Kong International Airport. Lotsa varied shops and interesting snacks, perfect for keeping me entertained on long layovers. All other things being equal (price, travel time), I'll book my flights especially to stop over in either of those two airports. Incheon, South Korea actually realllly bores me - the food court is boring and there is nothing to buy but luxury handbags and cosmetics.

Alexander Santillanes said...

Narita, Singapore, Hong Kong... so many Asian airports I still want to check out!

And you're actually quite right on all counts about Incheon, Ms Annamatic. The only stores were all luxury goods, which doesn't make for particularly interesting browsing for most of us. I suppose I was quite seduced by the glossy glamor of it all, however, as we had just come from Utapai Airport, near Pattaya. We had to re-route out of their due to the airport protests last November. Our flight time kept getting push back, and pushed back, and we finally boarded at about 2 AM-- after spending I can't remember how many hours standing in endless lines, and waiting in the terminal where there was nothing to eat, drink or do. I suppose if I saw Incheon a little more objectively, I wouldn't have been quite to impressed by it. Especially if I had to use it quite often, as I suppose you have had to. -X

Unknown said...

Hong Kong, Incheon and KL have been kind to me, plus Dulles in Washington DC. Frankfurt? I haven't experienced it but have heard a lot about it.