Airports are not exactly the most looked forward to experience as a part of a travel itinerary for a lot of people. The stress of having to run to your gate, grab a meal-on-the-go or while away time in the duty-free shop is not what people look forward to when they are ready to start or end a journey. But gone are the days when these were the only options you had at the airport. Today, airports are doing more to make sure you enjoy your experience.
Some are now culinary destinations in themselves and ensure that you get a little bit of a taste of the city when you are passing through and are unable to get out of the airport. At the Mumbai Airport’s Terminal 2, domestic pier, you could take in the mind-blowing Missal Pav from Aaswad. Following in the footsteps of Munich Airport, which has a brewery at the airport, the newly renovated Bengaluru Airport’s kerbside experience includes fresh Geist craft beers being poured right outside the airport. At the Hong Kong International Airport, you get to eat at the Michelin star winner for three years, Hung’s Delicacies, at the arrivals level. Passing by London Heathrow? Plane Food by Gordon Ramsay is your thing. And don’t forget to pick up macarons for everyone before you fly out from Paris’ Charles De Gaulle.
If, like me, after many years of travelling you just love your planes and enjoy taking a look at different aircraft, such as the A380s and the B747s, some airports have got that covered too. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport gets the credit for making this an enjoyable experience. Schiphol is host to a variety of aircraft from all over the globe and you can find your way to the Panorama Terrace to sight these beauties. They have a Fokker aircraft on display, and you can sit in the pilot’s seat too. In Asia, Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda, and Singapore Changi airport have made a lot of provisions to make those who enjoy plane spotting feel at home.
But if culture and experiences are what you yearn for, you could experience it right here at home, passing through the Mumbai Airport’s 3 km long Jaya He GVK museum . At the Singapore’s Changi airport, you can watch a free movie any time of the day, and at South Korea’s Incheon airport, there is the Cultural Museum of Korea as well. And as corny as it may sound, you can play on the slots machines till you get on a plane at the Las Vegas McCarren airport, just like they say you could in Ocean’s Eleven.
If fitness is your thing, San Francisco airport has a free yoga room which you could use. Doha’s Hamad International Airport has a 25m swimming pool and squash courts, apart from a gym at their airport hotel. At Changi, you have free massage chairs to make sure you get that soothing experience before your next flight.
Some people worry about not sleeping well on planes, so they want to maximise their sleep on the layover. The good thing is, many airports such as Doha’s Hamad Airport, Schiphol, the upcoming New Istanbul airport and Changi, now have airport transit hotels in their terminals, which don’t need you to go through immigration to be able to use them. But if you just want to catch a quick nap, you would find nap pods all over at Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Munich, Amsterdam and even Delhi Airport, among others. These pay-by-the-hour pods are sometimes just the quick fix of sleep you need before take-off. Incidentally, you would find a plush Nirvana transit hotel at Mumbai, and a very functional Holiday Inn Express at Delhi Airport too, that too, airside.
Some airports, however, take the transit game to a whole different level. Singapore’s Changi comes right on top. Apart from the butterfly gardens and the awesome shopping and dining options inside the airport, you can sign up for a guided bus tour of Singapore as long as you have at least five and half hours between your flights. When the Changi Terminal 5 opens this year, it will host the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, which will be used to stage a sound-and-light show as well.
So the next time you are planning a trip, don’t just look at the flight price. Check if the airport you are visiting offers something extra, and make full use of the opportunity.
Elevate Your Travel is a column for the business travellers by a business traveller.
Ajay Awtaney is founder and editor of Livefromalounge.com, a frequent-flyer website.