Airports can be miserable...
It’s all those painful little things you have to do that tick you off at airports.
Airports are the new shopping malls, haven’t you heard? Meet, greet, shop, eat. Repeat. Last year, I was even encouraged to do some Christmas shopping at one of my local London ones. A joyous experience no doubt.
I agree that there are similarities between a major airport and a identikit-white-box shopping centre – mainly that both are awful and require a strong strategy in surviving their inadequacies to get the reward at the end. For all of the millions poured into New Zealand’s major airports in recent years (Auckland seems to be undergoing constant ‘‘rejuvenation’’), many commuters and tourists are lessthan-impressed with our aviation gateways. So how could they be improved? Here are a few ideas:
It’s 2017. Somebody tell Auckland International Airport, which still only gifts 45 minutes free wi-fi (you’ll use all of that just waiting to get through immigration and customs). If you want more you have to sign up for something called the Strata Club. Wellington and Christchurch counterparts offer free, unlimited service, yet our major international airport is dragging the chain.
We all know airport parking is prohibitively expensive (particularly at Auckland, where the company raked in $52m in parking income in 2016), and can often rival the price of your airfare. To avoid that, you’ll have to embrace public transport, park-and-ride or bribe friends and family with souvenirs to get dropped off.
However, the parking problems don’t cease when inside the airport. One of Auckland International’s biggest complaints on online forums is the lack of places to park your keister in the departure lounges. It seems there’s always room for shelf-aftershelf of duty-free goods, but not enough to ensure most people waiting for their flights have a place to sit at the departure gates.
I sound like a broken record, but these friendly kiosks and counters can do some serious damage to your travel budget. The airport is, by far, the worst place to exchange currency. Head to your bank or post office, order online, heck, even visit an ATM at your destination and you can guarantee a superior conversion rate. But, in your last-minute panic after clearing security you’re an easy target to get ripped off. Avoid.
The transportation app has been embraced by some – but not, it seems, by some of our major airports. My Uber in Wellington last year requested I drag my luggage across to the Burger King and petrol station for pick-up to avoid extra airport costs. It might not have been company policy, but it sure was odd. In Auckland, the designated Uber area is hidden away from the premium taxi stand, which has pride of place outside the arrivals hall.
Unprepared at security
OK, this one can’t be borne by airport companies or staff – it’s all on you. Heightened security has been omnipresent since 2001, yet many passengers seem dazed and confused when approaching the X-ray machines and conveyer belts: How many times have you been held up by somebody who cannot grasp the idea that a metal buckle or heavy jewellery might set off a metal detector? Jacket, belt, laptop, keys, wallet, phone, and watch all go in the trays provided. Come on, we should all be able to do it in our sleep. I attract these amateur types and the whole performance saps the relaxing vibe from a holiday – maybe a trip to the mall would have been sufficient. Email if you have a travel issue you’d like Josh Martin, a London-based travel journalist, to write about.
When there’s a lack of seating and an issue with airport wi-fi, it can result in a frustrating beginning to a trip away.