Why I’ll never relax at airports – and who’s doing their shopping there?!

I’m more likely to get hitched with Pixie Lott than understand people who shop at airports.

Who are these people? Why do they find such a stressful setting the opportune moment for a spot of retail therapy?

For most of you, those opening lines will meet you with bemusement.

For me, I find the whole airport experience a thing of nightmares.

If you’ve read yesterday’s blog (click here if you didn’t), you’ll understand the setting. I’m about to jet off to a clime where temperatures are probably double my maximum tolerance, owing to the fact sun-loving Hanna has yet to be convinced by an Antarctic adventure. It’s not started well.

Think of the opposite of Christopher Columbus and you’re not far off an accurate picture of my jet-setting experience. Twice-yearly – and eventually tiresome – trips to Cornwall as a child formed the majority of my early holidaying.

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We paid an extortionate amount of cash for airport parking. For this one, they looked after our key for the week while I wondered if they had joyridden the car through a muddy field. I like this picture, taken on the bus to the terminal, as it looks like Albie has a giant hand grabbing onto the pole!

As I recall, a swift trip to the Isles of Scilly in an air vehicle more paper plane than passenger jet was about as exotic as it got .

It’s probably understandable, therefore, that my brushes with airports are more jittery than others’.

Having said that, I think I could spend the rest of my life taking daily jaunts to Gatwick and still fail to understand why anyone feels relaxed at any part of the process.

I’ve shared my airport survival guide with a few colleagues at work and they find it bizarre. To me, the feeling’s mutual when they say they do nothing of the sort. It goes like this:

  • Arrive in plenty of time. Better to be two, four or even six hours early and bored stiff than cut it fine and risk missing your flight – especially when you’re homeward bound
  • Proceed to security without haste. Perform numerous checks to confirm you haven’t lost your passport and boarding pass. Don’t take liquids in your hand luggage, it’s simply not worth the hassle
  • Prepare to be the one poor sod in ten that activates the alarm and ends up in the body scanner.
  • Pray the time you’ve taken in security hasn’t seen you miss the announcement of your gate
  • Upon passing security, proceed IMMEDIATELY to the departure lounge
  • Pass all shops and eateries. Now’s not the time for a Nando’s
  • Quickly survey all possible vantage points and place yourself as close to a big screen as you can.
  • Stare at said screen until gate information comes up
  • If you are desperate, a brief stop to WH Smith for a meal deal (absolutely no hot food) and magazine is (just about) ok. Don’t let the magazine distract you from missing your gate. Best to read that at your end destination.
  • Wonder why they required your boarding pass to purchase overpriced foodstuffs. 
  • When your gate is confirmed, proceed IMMEDIATELY to it. If travelling with your partner, try not to curse them as they insist they require a toilet break at this crucial time
  • Be one of those people who queue at the gate from the get go. Why would you get this far and miss your flight through complacency?
  • Get on the plane, take a deep breath, perform final passport check and plan for return procedure

If I follow this strict protocol, the whole process is bearable. Unfortunately, the in-laws accompanying me on my latest trip were about as brazen as they come to my ‘rules’!

While I didn’t catch them scouring the duty free shelves, they were mad enough to lead us to the bar, didn’t seem overly bothered when the gate flashed up and most definitely weren’t in the mood for queuing. I’ve no idea how we got there and back.

On our return flight, they even sat round the corner, blind to the ever-diminishing queue. No wonder our buggy didn’t make it home. It must have picked up bad habits.

Shopped ’til he dropped…

The one shining light was avoiding having to travel with Easyjet, whose Speedy Boarding concept both baffles and irritates. I took great glee in discovering that a snooty family’s Speedy Boarding pass got them on the plane home from Basel last year a full 35 seconds quicker than us cheapskate peasants.

Travelling with Tui seemed more of a free for all. None of that nonsense. They did, however, lose serious brownie points in their gushing praise of their ‘fantastic’ in-flight goods.

We were promised the ‘best prices in the skies’. A great relief, for it saved me that time-consuming trip up to ‘Primark Cumulus’ when I returned home.

The whole airport thing, in my crazy world, is a recipe for disaster at every turn. Add shopping into the mix – or a baby who could poop at the moment you’re ushered to gate 620 – and it’s just far too stressful.

I’m just glad the flying itself isn’t a fear. I do, though, stick firmly to my mantra that the sky is for birds, water is for sharks and stuff which would like to eat you and anything underground is mole territory – and avoiding all as much as possible is the safest bet!





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