Saturday, October 24, 2009 4:50:44 PM
This made me think about all the airports I have been at and to try to compare them.
Belgrade airport "Nikola Tesla"
Too small to be compared with the others, it is Serbian most important airport. And I could describe it with only one word: boring. As long as you stay out of checked passports area, you may find yourself some kind of fun. Looking at stewardesses, for instance or sitting in some of the crowded bars (during summer, at least). Inside the boarding area there is nothing interesting to catch your mind with, only thing you may do is reading newspapers and waiting for your flight. And police officers are too serious, like they are expecting some terrorist activity after every corner (there is only one, by the way ). Big airport museum could be interesting point to visit but it is too far away for walking and there is no organized transport. In Arrivals, there are taxi drivers that will peel your skin off if you are foreigner and don`t know what to do, their prices are insane. If you decide to come to Belgrade and take a cab to the city, it would probably cost you about 50 eur but if you go upstairs to Departures level you may get a cab for about 10-15 eur to the city center. Or you may go by bus but I am not sure what the prices are, probably much cheaper than taxi.
I was there in 1992. having connecting flight to Barcelona. Airport is pretty big and crowded but somehow everything is just "there". I liked it. All of the shops and restaurants, employees very kind and helpful. Then, it is no wonder they have gotten Travel Industry Awards (by World Travel Award) six times in a row for being Europe's Leading Airport for its user-friendliness and general quality standards.
Can`t remember almost anything about that airport Good thing I remember is that you can reach a center of city in about 20 minutes by train. I was there about a month before Summer Olympic games started in 1992. and airport was crowded with police, there was even an armoured vehicle on the parking. It felt like a war zone I guess it is different now
Rome airport "Leonardo da Vinci" Fiumicino
A new Terminal C building with its shuttle train looks nice and handy, also the main building, with lots of cafes where you can have excellent espresso. But, informations on monitors are incomplete sometimes, showing only flights about 1 hour ahead. I was a bit confused because there was no information on my ticket whether my flight is on terminal B or C (they were for intercontinental flights as I remember, now they have moved USA flights to newly opened terminal 5). You would probably ask why I haven`t tried at Information desk? Well I did but the answer was so... unrecognisable... that I gave up and just waited for anything to appear on monitors. Luckily, I have found and interesting Alitalia stewardess who spoke excellent English and she told me where and how to reach Terminal C. Also, I was advised to check about my sword (yes I was going to Japan) upon boarding to the plane. The information I got was of the same level of understanding as with one I got on Information desk, like they had the same English teacher. We were well over the Austria when I decided not to torture myself with trying to decode it. Overall, it would be the biggest minus for this airport. One interesting thing: it is hard to see that airport is named after Leonardo da Vinci, but you can see Emporio Armani sign from the air
Narita International Airport, Tokyo
The most impressive airport I have ever been. And probably the biggest one. The international Terminal 2 is actually a 5 levels building big enough to manage all of the incoming and outgoing flights. Personel are very well organized and even if there are passengers from a two or three arriving flights, passport control would be finished in about 20 minutes. Everyone speak excellent and fluent English and can help you about everything. Once I asked where I could buy adapter for my cell phone charger and girl at Informations told me even the floor and the name of the shop where I should try to find it My favourite way to go to or from the airport is by Narita Express JR line (train), but shuttle busses are very suitable and not much more expensive than train. The only thing that was a bit annoying is a security, they have checked my sword two times upon arrival and 4 times on departure But this is how it is supposed to be. Too many people around And safety regulations are different than in Europe`s airports. If you, say, buy a bottle of whisky in a duty free shop in Europe, it will be packed in a sealed plastic bag and you are not supposed to open it until you arrive to a destination. In Narita, they don`t do that, you can take it in your hand luggage with yourself in airplane, but they are polite enough to warn you that, if you have connecting flight somewhere in Europe, you will have to prove what you have there and why it is not in sealed bag
Milan Malpensa Airport
In future I will try to avoid that airport. On my return from Japan in 2006. a flight from Milan to Belgrade was cancelled. I was tired because of jet lag and 11 hours of flying so it was a bad news. Alitalia clerk really tried to help me, she told me they have organized a hotel for us to stay during the night but remained silent when I asked her if they will guarantee for me because I don`t have Schengen visa. She asked her superintendant what to do but that ass just looked at me like he is giving a shit and told her to give me dinner voucher and get rid of me. So she did. When I realised I would have to stay in the airport during the night, I went to restaurant with that voucher in my hand but waiter had no problem to slam the door in front of my face with a shitty excuse that they are closing. I tried to explain what happened and insisted to talk to his superior but he told me if I don`t step out he will call the police All I managed to do is to buy a sandwich (with my own money) and ice tea. Later I got myself a cup of espresso (even there a waitress was grumpy and whole area was full of garbage) and it was all I put in my stomack for next 17 hours. One of the passengers on a flight to Belgrade advised me to sue Alitalia for that but I was too lazy and wanted to forget the whole thing.
I must admit I was surprised to see it on the list of 20 worse airports in that Telegraph`s article. I spent there 5 hours waiting for flight to Tokyo last year and it was completely pleasant for me. Enough places to eat or for shopping but you may just sit and watch at the airplanes through a window in waiting rooms. Despite its significance, it was not too crowded and everything worked with German efficiency - so for people who worked there, it was probably a good day
On my way back from Japan last year, I decided to go via Munich because I could have a flight to Belgrade in about 50 minutes. Everyone of you who knows how big pain in the ass jet lag could be, may appreciate that opportunity. When I stepped out of the plane, I decided to walk around for a while - I always do that - and have found a small restaurant with few sorts of German beer. Of course, I was in Bavaria having a glass of Paulaner was a must. Cute waitress suggested me to eat something before drinking beer but I explained her I don`t have enough time for that. Beer would be enough. After all, it is a liquid bread, right?
Vienna International Airport
I was there 4 times and it felt OK to be there. Only thing, if you have to wait for a flight somewhere on a gates B and it is a rainy day, you might consider avoiding waiting rooms, it is too cold for sitting there. But I may suggest you to go and have a beer or lunch (or both) in Johann Strauss restaurant near gate A - prices are ok and food is good. Do I have to say that beer is excellent? Also, in Arrivals, it could be confusing to find a conveyor belt to collect luggage, but only if you arrived with a small plane like I did
Oh, I didn`t think this post will be so long, now when I read it again it looks like tourist guide But I like to travel and I like to fly. Therefore, spending time at the airports is as exciting for me as the journey itself. I like to feel like a part of all the people walking around; all the nations and races, faces, clothes, baggage, kids running around, pilots and stewardesses, handy men in ther working suits - they all give that unique feeling of life at the airport
In Frankfurt airport I met a man from Ecuador, he was travelling to Japan too, he is a captain of a cargo ship and his boat was waiting for him in Chiba port. He was tired from a jet lag but willing to talk to someone while waiting for a flight. He said, `Who knows, we met now and we will probably never meet again. This is the same thing with ship ports and airports. And, one day, you may be in a plane that I will look from a deck of a ship. This is the life of travellers...`
Narita airport, Lufthansa`s B 747-300 take off