Friday, October 27, 2006

A word on airports, part 3

Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates. We arrived at Dubai airport about 5.30am, it was still dark, and after clearing another security point (seems the only way into Sheikh Rashid Terminal after leaving an aircraft is through more metal detectors) we headed to the food court for breakfast, carefully stepping over the acres of sleeping people lying on the floor, there were chairs of course but obviously not enough as one false step and you’d be waking someone with your shoe in their leg/head/hand luggage.

The food court is located on the side of the terminal which kind of looks like a giant tube that’s been partially squashed flat. I sat with my coffee and croissant, watching the dawn arrive through the glass walls. The daylight allowed me to see very different world to that I’d left. It was an alien panorama of misty desert and distant sand coloured buildings (excepting of course the ubiquitous taxiing planes and concrete runways in the foreground) very different to the pastural views seen from Melbourne airports windows the previous evening.

After breakfast it was time to head to the departure gate for the third and final seven hour leg of the trip. The airport itself is quite modern although I personally question the need for the life size, fake, palm trees, the trunks of which are made from plastic gold bars, that line the central concourse. A proud symbol of the country’s wealth, or just tacky decor? I couldn’t decide. Well thinking abut it I can – tacky.

Like many airports, it seems overrun with golf buggies ferrying the old, infirm or just plain late people up and down the endless corridors. They airport employees who drive these buggies do so with apparent disregard for those walking in front of them. They don’t seem to be looking where they were driving, and apart form the constant siren/horn/warning signal the buggies emit, they seem to just assume the crowds through which they speed will separate like the parting of the Red Sea. Perhaps this was a reasonable assumption considering the relative proximity of the Red Sea itself, I don’t know. But part the crowds did, usually. I did note though that every now and again some weary traveller seemed not to hear the approaching buggy and failed to jump out of the way like all the others. The buggy would come to an abrupt halt and the driver would stand on his horn until the hapless pedestrian turned around to be confronted by the bizarre scene of a roofless golf buggy laden down with exotic looking (but often elderly) passengers, driven by an exasperated looking official with an evil stare.

The smoking areas were interesting. They looked like they were based on the model I’ve seen used in Frankfurt airport of confining the smokers to small areas located right in the middle of the main thoroughfares just below what appeared to be a small domestic kitchen extractor fan hood. The billowing clouds of cigarette smoke would lazily ignore the extractor’s feeble suction and happily disappear sideways out of the ‘smoking zone’ before curiously investigating the nostrils of the many nonsmokers who coughed and spluttered their way past. Unlike Frankfurt’s design though, which didn’t see the need for any form of enclosure for the smoking areas, Dubai had partially enclosed theirs with clear Perspex about six feet high (apart from a few entrance/exit gaps for the smokers) which gave the whole thing the odd look of a smoke filled goldfish bowl that was so full of smokers who had been deprived of their fix for hours on board a plane, that the walls would almost be groaning against the pressure of bodies within. Now and again the smoke would clear and you could make out the gaunt face of someone, their nose or ear squashed flat against the grubby Perspex, gasping for breath. Of course the cleverer ones simply stood outside the entrances of these zones (probably office workers in their daily lives) whilst half heartedly making an attempt to be inside by ensuring a foot or an elbow was just within the enclosed space.

So that was my experience of Dubai airport. On the whole I liked it, it was interesting, but slightly tacky.

Monday, October 16, 2006

- Interim Post -

This post replaces our regular post this evening due to, well, inexcusable indolence by the blog owner (and an un-missable episode of Mythbusters).
The regular program will resume shortly with 'A word on airports part 3 - Dubai International'
Please stay tuned to this channel.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A word on airports, part 2

Changi Airport – Singapore. Always somewhere I just travel through, this one (one day I will stop there a while) – but one of the best. Compared with Dubai and Heathrow it is quiet and relaxed usually. Plenty of space, always somewhere to sit other than the floor (unlike Dubai which seems so busy any time of the day/night that there is nowhere to sit as we shall see in the next post).

I like the fact Changi has free internet terminals in many of the waiting lounges too. If you don’t happen to have your Wi Fi laptop with you, you can just find a free terminal and check your email to pass the time before your next flight. As would be expected in a place like Singapore, it’s spotlessly clean. I have never even smelt cigarette smoke or actually seen anyone smoking, although it must go on, I think that the airport management have banished smokers completely to an out of the way corner that can only be found by those desperate for a nicotine hit.

Next airport revue - Dubai Airport, UAE.