Category Archives: Top-X-Things

Airports as stressful as moving house?

A recent article from the UK’s Daily Mail caught our eyes as it claims people find airports as stressful as moving house. The article claims it questioned 2,000 [British] holidaymakers of which 9 per cent – or almost four million in the wider travelling population – now avoid flying because of airport stress including flight delays, mislaid belongings and getting to the gate on time.

Continue reading Airports as stressful as moving house?

A solid mid-of-the-range airport: Brisbane International Terminal

I’ve been in Brisbane quite a few times but whenever I landed there it’s always been the domestic terminal. So when I recently got a chance to fly out of Queensland’s capital to Port Moresby (IATA: POM; LD reviewed), I took the opportunity and reviewed the international terminal of Brisbane Airport (IATA: BNE) for my loyal readers:

Continue reading A solid mid-of-the-range airport: Brisbane International Terminal

LAX: research vs reality – the research part 2

This is the second part of my two part series of what you can do at LAX airport (part one is here). This basically is an experiment to show you a comparison on what you can find out before you fly and the reality. I’m travelling to Los Angeles today and will be able to compare my notes and report back to you with my findings.

Continue reading LAX: research vs reality – the research part 2

Kuala Lumpur LCCT: A long way from the action

“Oh cool, you’re going to KL … are you flying into KLIA or KL LCCT, if KLIA, you should take the KLIA Ekspres to Sentral from there, take a taxi to KLCC?” It almost seems abbreviations have their origin in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur or, err, KL.

Well, let me introduce you to the secret language of KL:

Continue reading Kuala Lumpur LCCT: A long way from the action

Windy Wellington International Airport

Most people flying to New Zealand probably arrive at either Auckland or one of the two main airports on the South Island, Queenstown or Christchurch. But, oh boy, do they miss out! Not on magnificent airport infrastructure (sorry Wellington!) but definitely on an adventurous landing into Wellington International Airport (IATA: WLG). It was, without a doubt, the windiest approach into an airport that I’ve ever experienced – and l’ve experienced a few! Plus, they tell me that was a calm day! These guys here seem to agree with me.
Continue reading Windy Wellington International Airport

Patience required at Bali Airport (Ngurah Rai/Denpasar)

Ever heard of Ngurah Rai? I bet not. How about Denpasar? Maybe heard it once before? Where do you think it is? Alright, it’s in the title of the post, so let’s not play games. But seriously, why don’t they just call the airport Bali International? At least certain flight booking sites like Kayak allow you to search for “Bali”. But then, there are no other commercial airports on this island of the Indonesian archipelago anyway.

But since I’m supposed to write a review of an airport I shouldn’t muck around with naming conventions too much I guess. So, let’s look closely at Denpasar International airport (IATA: DPS). In fact it’s nowhere near Denpasar either. Alright, alright. I’ll stop it. Hmm, what can I say? The airport doesn’t offer too much actually. Bali, after all, isn’t particularly on the cutting edge of economic development. Don’t get me wrong, the charming island is doing fine but it still has that  “2nd world” feel about it. Maybe that’s exactly why it attracts Millions of tourists each year.

Most of us would probably first arrive in Bali before we depart. What I mean is, the arrival procedure is probably the thing that’s going to be of interest to you first. And what a procedure it is! Fresh off the plane and bursting with holiday energy you first need to join the queue to pay  the entry visa (make sure you bring US$ 25 in cash per person). With the visa voucher you then queue for the actual immigration officer. Check which line is the quickest before you spend 15 minutes looking at the queue next to you moving past swiftly. After that it’s straight forward: find the luggage carousel, pick up your luggage and head towards the taxi counter outside the terminal building and off you go on your Balinese holiday.

Leaving the country requires, you guessed it, another queue and more cash payments. They call it “airport service fee” and it comes in the amount of Rp 150,000 per person (about US$ 16). So don’t spend all your Rupiahs before you head back to the airport or you will have to pay a penalty exchange rate at one of the conveniently located little exchange stalls right in front of the service fee counter.

Once you’re in the inside of the terminal, you will probably still have some time to kill as most airlines require you to check-in 2 hours prior to your departure time.  So, let’s look at my list of things to do:

  • Check out the funniest McDonald’s outlet ever (a tiny pushcart with a menu)
  • Visit the toilets (well you probably are going to do that anyway) but if you can, err if you’re a man that is, check out the fish tanks above the urinals
  • Get a shot of Illy coffee close to gates 5 and 6
  • You MUST finish you heavenly holiday with a  final and oh so affordable Balinese massage at one of several massage outlets (e.g. the one towards gate 7,8,9)
  • Why not buy yourself access to the Garuda Indonesia airline lounge for Rp. 100,000 (about US$ 11)
  • Grab a Ku De Ta CD to remind you of your partying at Bali’s most famous beach club

Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport
Design Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop US$ 69
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop US$ 127

[Picture from Flickr – some rights reserved]

Space at last: London Gatwick, North Terminal

I’ve been to London’s Gatwick airport (IATA: LGW) a few times now but so far all my flights departed from the South Terminal from where there isn’t much to report from. It’s actually probably one of the most boring terminals on this planet. Yes, there are a few shops and eateries, but there’s nothing really exciting there. Mind you, there are still things you can do at the airport in such a situation, check out some of my more creative suggestions here, here and here.

But now, let’s rather focus on the North Terminal. First of all, getting there was a bit of a hassle on this April’s fool’s day as the connecting shuttle that normally runs between the two terminals wasn’t working because they are currently upgrading it. A new shuttle should be ready by this summer. I therefore had to cue up and board a bus. Once in the North Terminal, however, it’s actually quite a pleasant experience. This building seems to be the quieter and more airy terminal. This is simply about the ratio of space to people one would accept for an airport.

Then, once through security, you’ll get to a large open space with shops all around you. There are 2 levels, the ground floor containing mostly shops such as Harrods, Dixons Travel, Accessorize, WH Smith or Boots among the more general ones. Upstairs you’ll find mainly restaurants and bars, however luckily there wasn’t as single McDonalds or Burger King in sight, sadly no Starbucks either.
So here are a few suggestions of what to do:

  • Get your last minute flip flops from the well stocked “The Shoe Studio” on the ground floor
  • Stock up your miniature travel essentials from Boots
  • Check out the English old school, but fairly well stocked toy store “Hamley’s”
  • Treat yourself to a few innovative cosmetic solutions from “Rituals…”
  • If you’re hungry, go upstairs and check out Café Rouge which offers a nice seating area both facing inside and outside the terminal. Or grab a bite to eat at my favourite “sandwich franchise”, Eat. If you’re a bit more adventurous, go to the Lloyds bar and try one of their Bitters with a great view towards the runways. And finally, if you’re the milk shake & hot dog kind of person, then checking out “Shake-a-Hula” is a must. They serve, you guessed it, milk shakes and hot dogs. But don’t worry; you don’t have to have them in one go necessarily.

Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name London Gatwick Airport, North Terminal
Design Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop £62.20
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop £32.99 (incl. Ice Jacket)

[Picture from Flickr – some rights reserved]

Up and close at Sydney’s Domestic Airport

Usually the inner sections of airports are closed to non-travellers. I often think that modern airports with their great offers miss out on opportunities when they restrict access to people with tickets on that day only. Imagine: you could go inside London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and dine a last meal at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant with your close friend who visited you from Far-Away-Land before their long flight back home. Or imagine the family from Singapore that could enjoy some last moments in the Butterfly garden of Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 with their son departing for an exchange year at a university in the United States.

Well, the good news is that there are airports that do allow non-travellers into their inner core – the post security zone; domestic airports that is. The slightly bad news is that they are often not the most aspiring of places. Nevertheless, they do allow you to drop off or pick up your loved ones directly at the gate.

One such airport is Sydney’s Domestic Airport (IATA: SYD) on the North-East corner of the runways. There, once through the security check, you come down a set of escalators and can then either turn left towards the Virgin Blue gates or right in direction of the Qantas and JetStar boarding gates. Turning right will first lead you to a food court with some usual suspects such as McDonalds, Krispykreme, a Middle-Eastern Outlet, Subway, Sumo Salad and the Australian institutions of Red Rooster and Boost Juice among others.

There are, however, a few more exciting things to do beyond stuffingfilling yourself up prior to your cheap flight where you don’t plan to spend any money on their dry sandwiches. Here are my favourites:

  • Check out some serious outback clothing from R.M. Williams at the “And Beyond” store
  • Buy your kiddo (or some random kid you happen to know…) one of those cool dinosaur eggs that you have to submerge in water for 10 days before a little, wait for it, yes, you guessed it, Dinosaur pops out. You can find them at the well stocked “Kaboom” kids store.
  • Stock up on your SPF 30+ sunscreen for your island trip to Vanuatu (oooops, okay, if you are in the domestic terminal heading for Vanuatu, then you’re seriously in trouble, as that flight most likely leaves from the International terminal, a $5.50 bus trip away). So let’s say your Magnetic Island trip then… You’ll find it in the Pharmacy next to the Kids store.
  • Browse through the ubiquitous Peter Lik Australian landscape photography books and postcards
  • Try on some new boardies in the “Beachculture” shop towards the 31-40 gates
  • The ladies among you might also want to pop into the Mimco store close-by (while we lads wait in the Pub & Winestore called “Taphouse” across from it)
  • Finally, browse through the rather good selection of iconic Australian films at the Virgin Media store

Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name Sydney, Domestic Terminal
Design Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop n/a
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop n/a

[Picture from Flickr – all rights reserved]

Singapore, Changi Terminal 3 – designed with a true traveller in mind

Where do I start?
Well, the question you first have to ask yourself before coming to Changi Airport, Terminal 3 (IATA: SIN) is: how much time do I have? This could be one of the few airports you actually wish to be delayed in. Of course many passengers (37.7 Million passed through the airport in total in 2008) transit through Singapore between flights so typically have between 2 – 6 hours to spend and, oh boy, can they be spent well!

The next question is, what mood are you in?
Tired from your previous flight? Go to one of the many quiet zones throughout the terminal or chill out while getting a foot massage in one of the countless, free foot massage chairs throughout the terminal. Or watch a Koi feeding at the Koi pond which you find on the runway side of the terminal.
Need to spend the remaining cash? Visit the only FIFA store in an airport anywhere in the world and stock up on 2010 World Cup merchandise.
Interested in nature and the environment? Go to the butterfly garden and watch 1,000 butterflies of 47 species swirl around the outdoor exhibit. You’ll find it roughly in the middle of the Terminal on the runway side (see the interactive map for more details on how to get there).

Changi’s Terminal 3 not only gives you a wonderful experience, it thinks on a much bigger scale!. The airport’s flagship terminal, opened in January 2008, also puts a mark on its environmentally friendly approach. For example, the ceiling includes 919 panels to direct the incoming sunlight, therefore, reducing the need for artificial lighting thus conserving massive amounts of electricity. Furthermore in the middle of the massive terminal you will see a 5 storey high and 300m wide live green wall, made of plants (see picture). The green wall is visible from both the departing and the arriving side of the structure making the airport green in the truest sense of the word. That and the meticulously designed sound proofing elements of the airport make your travel experience a truly calm and enjoyable one.

Okay, let’s do the top list but other than my usual ritual of giving you just one list, here are 3 depending on how much time you have at hand:

Under 2 hours

  • Grab a quick espresso and a chocolate treat from the only Guylian Belgium Chocolate cafe in an airport
  • Men: Enjoy the views from the urinals in the pristine toilets of the main section of the terminal
    Women: Check out the “powder room” and work on your soon to be pretty faces. You will find the entrance just below the escalators to the SilverKris lounge
  • Grab a quick foot massage in one of the many free massage chairs
  • Go to the butterfly garden and watch the beautiful creatures feast on the flower and fruit nectar provided- a must see!
  • Quickly check your new email messages on one of the 500 free internet kiosks across the 3 terminals (and decide to answer them later)

2 to 5 hours
All of the above plus

  • Go shop-aholic and check out the numerous retail outlets neatfully aligned in sections by category
  • Grab a movie in the terminal’s own and free movie theatre (tipp: go there first and check out what movie you’d like to see and plan your time around that)
  • Retrieve to one of the quiet zones and nap for a bit
  • Check out the sculpture in the “A gates” zone arrival hall called “coming home” (it’s visible from the departure section too)
  • Find all the “green elements” of this clever airport design (challenge question: what are the nuzzles you see throughout the airport, above head hight and why are they where they are?)
  • (Re-)check your email and decide to respond to a few this time (see “under 2 hours”, above)

More than 5 hours
All of the above and/or

  • Consider purchasing lounge access at the Ambassador Transit Lounge (which also contains sports equipment for your immediate workout needs)
  • Book yourself into the Transit hotel upstairs; they sell rooms in 6-hour blocks
  • Go on a free City tour around Singapore (they depart in 2 hour blocks from 9am to 4pm and you won’t have to go through immigration)
  • Cross over to Terminal 1 for a swim in the rooftop pool (you didn’t forget to pack your swimsuit, did you? Don’t worry if you did, there are plenty of retail shops selling you a new pair!)
  • If you’re in a group – challenge each other on who can make a full round tour around the 3 terminals quicker (one group clockwise, one anti-clockwise)

If you do have more time and don’t mind queuing the 20 or so minutes it took me both times for immigration, then do go into Singapore. The city is only a 30 minute, very affordable taxi ride away. Let’s face it, you have to be able to tell your friends you’ve enjoyed a Singapore sling in the world renown Raffles Hotel on your stopover!

Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name Singapore Changi Airport, Terminal 3
Design Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop S$ 168 (£74.20)
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop S$ 95 (£41.95)

[Picture from Changi Airport Group – all rights reserved]