I've stood many times at airports watching people come and go. Some are arriving after travelling many hours to see loved ones; some are saying goodbye and wondering when they will ever see each other again; some are going home, some coming home; some are laughing, many are crying.
I have stood and watched in awe and often get caught up in the emotion. I wonder why airports are such happy and sad places all at once. Is it because the airport is the final place of goodbye for so many, or because it is the gateway to one place you have waited so long to see? Maybe it's a place where people are often in limbo, with nothing to do. Perhaps many people are unsure of what awaits them on the other side, particularly if they haven't been there countless times.
That feeling of uncertainty is definitely something that most of us immigrants felt when we decided to take the plunge and book those one way tickets to Australia after deciding to bring our families to the “other side” of the world.
Being in the travel business, I wonder how many people actually research the airports that they fly into and out of. There is nothing worse than knowing you have to wait at an airport for a connection, sometimes with children who are tired and hungry, sometimes alone!
If you're planning to travel anytime soon, chat to your travel agent or jump on to a search engine and have a look at what airports around the world offer.
Some of the things to consider:
- Do your flights connect out of the same terminal? Are the terminals within walking distance of one another? If not, what does a transfer between terminals cost?
- If you have over five hours to wait, the following questions will apply: Is there a transit lounge area in which to rest or where you can take a shower? Many airports that are international gateways, offer a transit hotel and for a minimal fee you can check in and have a shower and snooze with sufficient time to board your next flight feeling refreshed and rested.
- Some airports offer a free city tour if you are in transit for six hours or more, and they collect you and bring you back to the airport in time for your flight.
- Does the airport have a children's play area for the kids to unwind and burn off some excitement and energy?
During a recent visit to South Africa, I flew via Singapore airport. Without accessing information about the facilities at the airport, I would never have known about the beautiful butterfly garden inside the airport terminal, and the koi ponds surrounded by leg massage chairs, which are free for guests to use. I would not have known that there is a movie cinema showing the latest releases in the airport.
And if I had been able to extend my trip, I could even have considered stopping overnight and seeing something of Singapore before heading on with my journey. If you have the time when travelling, don't been in such a hurry to get through a city to reach your final destination. Stop for a while, and you may be surprised at what that airport gateway holds for you.
Cathryn Bardwell has been in the travel industry since 1997, having worked for airlines and in the retail and corporate travel environments in South Africa. She operates her own travel company through Travel Managers.