Air­ports can be mis­er­able...

It’s all those painful lit­tle things you have to do that tick you off at air­ports.

Sunday Star-Times - - ESCAPE - SEPTEM­BER 24, 2017

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:

Wi-fi woes

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.

Park­ing your­self

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.

Forex rates

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.

Uber is­sues

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.

123RF

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.

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