If you love travel, do you really have to love every part of it?
Absolutely not. There are loads of things about travelling that get me anxious just thinking about them, including visas, vaccinations, packing. But possibly the one part I hate the most – in what is otherwise the wonderful experience that is travel- is airports.
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I realise this is 100% first world problems, but please, anyone who’s ever been through an airport will relate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always grateful that I even get to travel, but at the time (especially 5am for the red-eye flight) it’s hard sometimes to ignore those things that make airports bloody annoying places to be.
So, in an act of cathartic ranting, here are 8 of the worst things about airports:
1. Getting there
It’s not so bad in Edinburgh – a bus from Waverley Station, the tram from St. Andrew’s Square or a £20 taxi from the centre of town will get you to the airport with relative ease. But in London, getting to the airport used to be a mamouth journey in itself. A train, a bus and various tubes (never a taxi, unless you’re actually loaded), so reliant on connections being on time. Even now when I go back down and have to catch a flight from a London airport, I feel exhausted before I’ve even gone anywhere! Having said that, express services like the Heathrow Express have made the whole thing a lot less soul-destroying. Maybe it’s just me: even in Edinburgh that 45 minute bus or tram ride leaves me on edge. The journey is just time for me to worry about stuff: what I’ve forgotten to pack, what if there’s traffic, how long the queues are at security. Once I arrive then it’s time to get it over and done with, worrying is futile, but for that brief period I’m a bundle of nerves.
2. People who don’t know how to scan their ticket
It’s really quite simply: barcode, face down, on the glass screen, add a little bit of patience and bingo you’re through. It’s not terribly difficult – and if you do struggle, may I suggest you practice by using a self-service checkout at the supermarket more often, it’s the same principle. One caveat: you could be unlucky enough to pick a gate that’s not working, in which case I’ll try my best to stifle the sighing eye-rolling.
3. People who don’t prepare for airport security
We’ve had the 100ml liquid rule for hand luggage since 2006. That’s 10 years. An entire decade. You cannot bring certain liquids, gels and aerosols in containers larger than 100ml in you carry-on bag. Check the full list of what you can and cannot bring on board on the Foreign Office’s website. So why, after so many years, do people arrive at security unprepared, shocked and frowning quizzically when they’re asked to place all liquids in a clear plastic bag? And then they argue with airport security when they’re forced to throw their litre of Chanel in the bin? Same goes for taking off shoes and belts. Prepare before you reach security checks and save everyone else in line (as well as yourself) unnecessary delays.
4. People who start queing at the gate 3 days before boarding
You’re all going to get on the flight – most of the time now you’ll have a reserved seat on board. So you might want to make sure your hand luggage is in the overhead bin directly above your chair, but is it really worth spending a tedious hour staring at the gate when you could be enjoying the amenities of the airport? I mean, Singapore’s Changi Airport has a slide between floors! I know which one I’d rather be doing…
5. The way they make you walk all the way through duty-free
“Hey – you’re late for your flight, but let me make you have to snake your way through a load of over-priced tat you’re not going to buy.” I have had to weave and dodge my way through duty-free en route to my gate with about 5 minutes to go before the flight closes, and it’s really bloody annoying! I can’t blame the people ambling through duty-free, it’s my fault for turning up late, but why funnel everyone through duty-free so that they can buy a sack of mini-Milkas and sunglasses that are no cheaper than on the high street? I know it’s just business, but it’s not in my best interest when all I want to do is make my flight without breaking my neck on a Trunki!
6. The cost of everything
While we’re talking about duty-free, I hate the way that everything at the airport costs approximately 150% more. Be it perfume or Scottish whisky, duty-free really isn’t that much cheaper, at least not if you’re travelling within the EU. For example, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne at the airport is currently £41.99 while the same bottle from Tescos is £35*. And bottled water. Don’t even! I can buy a 2l bottle of Evian from the supermarket for 90p while at the airport you’re dropping £1.50+ for a small bottle. I can’t help thinking that the airports know they’ve got a captivated audience and feeling more than a little bit ripped off…
6. Flight delays
These can’t always be helped – just the other day I sat for 5 hours on the runway at London City Airport because there was a chemical spill in the airport terminal. This wasn’t something that the airline could have prevented and was completely unforeseen. But when a flight is delayed for usual reasons you can’t help but groan a little, especially when you’re trapped at a gate that’s a bus ride from the terminal, or there’s a weekend to start! So get your laptop or iPad loaded with TV shows, pack plenty of reading material and snacks, just in case you end up exhausting entertainment opportunities at the airport.
7. Having to take your cabin bag to the toilet
Travelling solo and you don’t have anyone to leave your cabin bag with when nature calls? Rather than leaving it unattended you’ve got to take it with you, and so you start to fold and contort yourself into a cubicle that really take just about one small adult, sans suitcases. Why don’t they just make toilets that are big enough to accommodate me and my hand luggage? I must say that toilets in some airports can be roomy – Edinburgh’s water closets are practically condos – but in general, I’ve had too many embarrassing climbs out of cubicles to count!
8. The surprise bus to your terminal
Made it through the gauntlet that is airport duty-free and you breath a sigh of relief, you’re going to make it! But wait, your gate is a bus or tram ride away, and your stress levels hit the roof again. Please give us more warning of when this is the case, maybe at check-in if the gate is available, or with better signage near departure boards. This way we know just how much time we’ve got in the bar!
End of rant. All of this pain is ultimately worth the end result. And let’s be real, it’s not the end of world that we’re lucky enough to see it, one small corner at a time.
Want to read more of my travel rants and tips? Head this way…
What are your worst airport peeves? Feel free to vent in the comment section below!
*Published October 2016. Prices correct at time of publication.