Getting there is half the fun. Regardless of where I go, I never overcame the excitement of airports, boarding an aircraft – even if going home. Airports can be a city’s pride or embarrassment – you remember the awe of gleaming features like pools or gardens, or the nightmare of queues and chaos.
But in the big picture, every big journey starts and ends here, and so do the epic stories … and the cast of characters in them.
1) The Party Backpacker
The last time I remember flying Qantas or a budget airline, I remember the captain reminding the audience over the PA that sleeping on the floor is prohibited. Which was slightly amusing. You get a taste of the type of person who flies an airline by the announcements. This announcement may be a bit extreme, or a bit of self-deprecating Aussie humour – but you certainly won’t miss the distinction of a backpacker’s scruffy hair and grungy clothes. Or flip-flops … which make me cringe.
2) The Adventuring Backpacker
What is the distinction between the party backpacker and the adventurer? From an Australian perspective, the adventurer’s passport contains stamps from places other than Bali, Phuket or LA; for Americans, it’s places other than Acapulco or Cancun. Which means that they’re travelling in at least some decent clothing (note: closed shoes) and have probably washed up before they boarded. The flight is not an extension of their party time; rather it is a time for some contemplation about life and the meaning of it all amidst the adventure while above the clouds. They have the best stories to tell … and in the stories, they’re sober. And they had the time of their lives.
3) The business traveller
Airports are no exception to the rule of dressing the part – blogs have recommended that, wherever a free upgrade may be available, dressing worthy for business class is one of those things that gets you that coveted seat. And why not – YouTube is full of videos of the business class experience, which is certainly more than a touch of class. And by mere virtue of the environment, the service demands the same standard of its customers.
4) The first timer
With the growing middle class in Asia, and the growth of low-cost airlines, more people have the chance to travel than ever before. Which leads to quite a few interesting scenarios of first-time travellers, never having set foot on an aircraft before. They may be nervous and shaking as they board, or excited to experience everything that they’ve heard about flying – the engine rumbling, the sensation of liftoff, the food, the entertainment, the view from 10 kilometres high. Or they’re sweating beads as they go through it all. They may not know the quirks of in-flight etiquette – so most of the time our experience is getting annoyed at or giving them dirty stares. But remember, we all had a first time …
5) The farewell … for now
There are a plethora of movies out there which start or end at an airport. For many, it carries that emotional connection of saying hello to a loved one for the first time in years … or saying goodbye for the last time in years. Surprisingly, few airlines have capitalised upon this connection in marketing their brands – though some, like Qantas, have picked up on it recently. But it’s a blessing to have that experience of the romanticised hello or goodbye – the start of a new story or chapter in your life.