I love travelling, probably as much as the next person does, but unlike most other people, I think I enjoy the journey more than the actual destination. More than finally settling down in my hammock by the beach, I enjoy the long trip it takes me to get to where I want to go – I love being on the road, in the air, or out at sea.
There’s probably nothing I hate more than being stationary, and that’s probably why I love travelling so much too. Unfortunately, this hobby of mine is often a double-edged sword – I get to be on the road for days at a time; but I also run the risk of facing long layovers in airports.
Connecting flights are part of the package – a hazard that you just have to accept if there ever was one – and while some people enjoy taking a bit of a break at the airport, I’ve certainly never been one of them.
The Singapore Layover Experience
That is, until my recent trip to Southeast Asia, I experienced one of the most amazing layovers in Singapore’s Changi Airport. Unlike Anthony Bourdain, I didn’t have the luxury of a camera crew or a celebrity persona to help me out as I braved Singapore – in fact, I didn’t even spend a lot of time outside the airport. But the experience inside the airport was life-changing for me. It was easily one of the best layovers of my life, and I was almost a little sad that it had to end – but only a little.
Changi Airport, being a major hub in Asia that serves 57.3 million passengers a year, has become renowned all over the world for its facilities. It’s won the “Top Worldwide Airport” award from the Wanderlust Travel Awards no fewer than 12 times, the same title from the Ultimate Luxury Travel Related Awards (ULTRAs) 8 times, and even Skytrax’s “World Best Airport” 5 times. It’s equipped with facilities that most other airports can only dream of, such as a butterfly garden, a sunflower garden, and even a movie theatre. The airport is hardly an airport, and I can completely understand why some people like Hiroshi Nohara have chosen to live in airports.
Heathrow, step it up!
When I flew back to the UK, I was a bit disappointed. Considering how busy our airports are and how many millions of people pass through their gates every year, our airports hardly have anything that comes close to what Changi has to offer. Why is this so, when airports serve as the first thing that tourists see when entering a country?
The information on Parking4less says that our own Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the UK and the third busiest airport in the world in terms of total passenger traffic, yet the most we’ve seen happen at the airport is the recent opening of the Queen’s Terminal. Sure, there are restaurants and wonderful shopping options, but nothing for tourists spending a bit of time inside the airport itself.
This has resulted in many travellers simply spending time outside the airport, visiting some of the landmarks in London. But while this is ideal for extremely long layovers, layovers short of 7 hours will never leave you with enough time to actually experience anything that London has to offer. While it does kill time, you’re bound to feel as though you’ve spent more time on the tube than actually experiencing London.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who hates long layovers, especially when the layovers aren’t actually long enough to let you venture out into the city, but so long that you find yourself sitting in one spot in the airport for hours. It’s certainly something that airport administrators need to start looking into, and while it might take us years to be able to build facilities like Singapore Changi’s, we shouldn’t be too far behind.
After all, we already have the Jetters Kidz Club Lounge in Heathrow’s Terminal 3, which has books, toys, and computer games to help entertain the kids, as well as the 4D Deck Lounge in Terminal 4 – a majestic lounge that spans two floors and offers great views of the runway, where guests can enjoy some quiet time with some complimentary snacks and drinks.
Manchester Airport, on the other hand, has the Runway Visitor Park which lets you see panoramic views of two full-sized runways, as well as a collection of aircraft.
It’s all about the people
I’m sure we all have an idea of what we’d like to see in airports, and these things shouldn’t be too far ahead in the future for us. More than high-end shops and restaurants, these airports need to have more fun activities that keep the tourists in mind. With top-notch facilities like Singapore Changi’s, layovers in the UK should soon be as enjoyable as the trips and vacations themselves.
[author] [author_info]This post was written by Naomi Dawson.
Naomi first started travelling for the sake of travelling in her early 20s, but she’s now found the best of both worlds in a career that sees her visiting various regions of the world regularly.
She spends most of her downtime in a Birmingham flat with her boyfriend Nigel, and a French bulldog named Mr. Pops. She can be reached through her email address: nmdwsn(at)yahoo.co.uk[/author_info] [/author]