I frequently eat, work, sleep, shower, shop and even exercise at airports across the planet. When you travel as much as I do, airports become your second home. I thought it would be fitting to write about the ones that I visit most often.
London Heathrow Terminal 5, UK – Amazing architecture, great restaurants and awesome shops. The British Airways lounge complex is the largest and most impressive in the world. I actually start to feel homesick if I don’t visit at least once a fortnight.
Rome, Italy – Begging for a major refurbishment, which is not going to happen till the Italian economy makes a u-turn (the way things are going, this may not happen in our lifetimes so dont hold your breath). The duty free is as dilapidated as everything else but stocks great Italian food products.
Muscat, Oman – small, crowded and utterly devoid of character. The business class lounge is as exclusive and luxurious as Chennai Central Station.
Karachi, Pakistan – Surprising efficient and quick to get through (even with an Indian passport!). The only feature of note is the McDonalds counter – the first I’ve seen anywhere in the world which only sells ice cream. I cannot understand why its not managed by Baskin Robbins.
Milan, Italy – Visit the Boggi outlet and buy yourself an immaculately tailored Italian shirt. And Camicissima where you can get 5 for €100 – at prices that beat Naidu Hall, you cannot possibly go wrong !
Beijing, China – only in China would they build an entire world-scale, world-class airport terminal, use it for one event (the Olympics) and then mothball it for the foreseeable future.
Dubai, U.A.E. – While its easy to get distracted (and slightly disturbed) by the ugly interiors and the hundreds of passengers sleeping on the floor, this airport is the frequent travellers dream. For short layovers, there is a great gym and for long ones, a hotel – both inside the duty free.
Nairobi, Kenya – Keep space in your carryon bag for Macademia nuts – you wont get them cheaper anywhere in the world.
Sana’a, Yemen – looks and feels like a decrepit warehouse but amazingly, it offers free wi-fi everywhere. In the highly unlikely event that you ever pass through this building, be sure to buy a bag of Yemeni Coffee.
Abu Dhabi, UAE – a sad relic of the 70s that is a pimple on the face of this wealthy emirate. The curved pillars with psychedelic tiles will scar your memory forever and I cannot think of one thing worth doing if you are unfortunate enough to be flying through this dump.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – vast open white spaces and lots of natural light. I can spend hours and hours walking around this building without getting bored or tired.
Doha, Qatar – If you are fortunate enough to be travelling First or Business Class, expect a terminal that looks and feels like a Four Seasons hotel and attentive waiters who ensure your glass of Veuve Cliquot Le Grand Damme never drops below the half full. If you are flying Economy Class, you will be sent to a different terminal where you can expect an experience worth forgetting as soon as possible.
Amman, Jordan – Old, tired and desperately seeking the refurbishment that is currently underway. If you are flying through, you should keep your hand luggage empty and fill it up with the most amazing nuts in every flavour available in the duty free store
Prague, Czech Republic – All the bars inside serve great Czech beer. Unfortunately, they are the only areas in the airport where you are allowed to smoke. So unless you want to develop lung cancer, settle for a cup of coffee from the vending machine.
Stockholm, Sweden – Dont bring your wife as the cosmetics section is probably the best (and most expensive) in the world.
Originally published in Frappe July 2009. These days, I confine myself to Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai airports.