One of my photos

Bloody airports

August 18th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

I like being away, but getting there is becoming less bearable every time I do it.   I used to take trips to the USA, Australia and the Far East in my stride but I am now finding even a four-hour flight to be about the limit.  Part of this might be age, but there is a lot more to it than that.I think you spend as much time in the airport now as you do in the air.  It was even worse for us as it was a last-minute holiday so we had to be there even earlier to pick up the tickets before checking in.  Most of my travelling was done on scheduled flights for business, and before paranoia set in after 2001, so I have been known to arrive at an airport 15 minutes before take-off: arriving more than two hours before take-off still seems wrong to me.

And then there is all the security.  I don’t think it serves much of a purpose except to make nervous fliers even more nervous.  The problem is that it is all so reactive:  everything is designed to avoid the last incident and not the next one.

There is a positive side to it though: there seems to be a lot less hand luggage now.  I remember how you used to find the compartments on the plane absolutely jammed as so many people were travelling with enormous bags as hand luggage and also taking suit carriers, carrier bags and all sorts on the plane with them.  There were supposed to be rules, but everynody ignored tham and the airports were complicit – they provided lots of trolleys airside.  I laways felt that if you needed a trolley airside then you probably didn’t understand the concept of hand luggage,

Still, we got to browse the shops a bit and had a nice large breakfast to keep us going – I had some pancakes and syrup. Proper ones – not the MacDonalds variety.  There was still a lot of sitting around and waiting though.

Coming back was another story.  Heraklion airport has got no better since we last visited, in fact it may have even got worse.  It is a terrible place.  We were quite lucky that it was an early flight home and so it was still dark when we arrived and not too hot.  Also there were not many flights at that time, but that is where the luck ended.

Even though it was more than an hour before sunrise when we arrived, it was already more than 30 degrees at the airport and the queue for our check-in desk was coming out of the doors and onto the pavement.  I still can’t work out whether it is bad design or bad organisation, but it was well over an hour before we had our bags checked in, and we were by no means the last coach to arrive.

Our plane was a 737-800 which seats only 189 passengers, nearly all are in groups of two or four, so maybe only 30 parties to go through each of the two check in desks, but still it took forever – and then you had another (much smaller) queue to put your bag into the x-ray machine before heading off to queue for the security checks.  The notoriously slack Greek security seemed a little thorough than before, but at least they didn’t make you take your shoes off.

No sooner had we got through all that and walked into the duty free shop than our flight was called.   Heraklion airport must lose a fortune through missed opportunities to sell stuff in their shops!   I do grumble a bit that our airports here, like our railway stations, are now seen as giant retail premises with travel almost an afterthought, but Heraklion is going too far in the opposite direction.

Maybe all that would be easier to take if you could at least have a smoke to calm yourself down, but even Heraklion is a smoke-free building these days – yet another way in which Habib Bourguiba airport in Tunisia is better.

Seriously, Crete would do well to sort that place out.  Not only are they missing a fortune in lost revenue from airport shops, but there is a danger of putting people off returning.  We had a fantastic week on the island, but could easily have left with our lasting memory being the chaos involved in getting off it, eclipsing memories of the friendly people, good food and stunning views.  Even just having enough room to queue inside the building would be a vast improvement.

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