mandag, december 11, 2006

2006 Airport Report

NOTE: I'm not liking the "Beta Blogger" that Google is insisting everyone switch too. The platform seems to have ripped off Microsoft Word's dysfunctional formatting elements, particularly when using cut-and-paste. Google! Knock it off.

Home, Sweet Home

If I add up the time away from Saint Paul this past year for either business or fun, I find I've been away from my apartment more than four months. Much of that travel has involved airports.

From frisking to customs, people-watching to clawing out my eyes, here's my airport year in review....

Airports Visited: 10

1. Bush International (HOU), Houston, Texas
2. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), Somewhere in northern Kentucky
3. Hartsfield - Jackson International (ATL), Atlanta, Georiga
4. Kastrup (CPH), Denmark, Copenhagen
5. Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP), Bloomington, Minnesota
6. Narita (NRT), Tokyo, Japan
7. O’Hare (ORD), Chicago, Illinois
8. Palm Beach International (PBI), West Palm Beach, Florida
9. Seoul/Incheon International Airport (ICN), Incheon, Republic of Korea
10. Shanghai (SHA), Shanghai, China

Total flights: 22 or 26

Total miles: Approximately 50,000

International roundtrips: 5 - Minneapolis to/from Tokyo (twice); Tokyo to/from Seoul; Seoul to/from Shanghai; Minneapolis to/from Copenhagen

Domestic roundtrips: 6 or 7

Number of domestic roundtrips during which my baggage was not sent back to MSP on the same plane as me: 4 or 5

Number of times pulled aside and frisked: 4 - Minneapolis, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo…I’ve a vague memory of being frisked in Copenhagen, but I may be superimposing the painfully polite frisking I received in Amsterdam in 2004.

Most polite frisking: Seoul. They gave me special slippers to wear. They apologized four or five times.

Best flight crew: Minneapolis to Tokyo, late May. Half of the crew was based in Tokyo. The food was actually concerned with diets other than chicken or beef. Copenhagen to Atlanta, early September, was close, but the first flight to Tokyo’s airport was definitely the nicest crew.

Note: I’m being unfair, I think, to the Comair crews I flew with three or four times to/from Cinci or Atlanta. All but one of those flights was really quite nice. And they were well-piloted. I now trust small planes…sort of. It doesn’t help that a Comair jet crashed not long ago because the pilot tried taking off on an unlit, too-short runway.

Worst flight crew: Tokyo to Minneapolis. Both of these journeys were deadly obnoxious. Those attendants didn’t care, and they made sure the rest of us knew it. A woman next to me was chastised for asking for a third cup of coffee. “I’ve never heard of anyone having three cups of coffee on a flight,” the attendant said. This was a flight in mid-June. In late September, as I flew the same route, it was again a disastrous crew. This time I was the coffee problem, only it wasn’t because I asked for three cups of coffee, it was because I accepted a third cup when it was offered to me. The attendant smiled encouragingly as the first two cups were poured, but her smile fell off the map the moment I said “Sure” when she offered a third cup.

Number of Nacho Libre viewings: 2

Number of Mission Impossible 3 viewings: 2

Film most-improved by viewing it with the headset on a foreign language: Cheaper By the Dozen 2

Best airport bartender: the young woman in the C concourse of Palm Beach International. She told a guy there in January that she had a really good memory for travelers. She told him what he’d ordered the last time he’d been there. “That was maybe two months ago,” he said. She and I chatted briefly. Six or seven weeks later, I wandered up to the same bar. “Hey!” she said. “How’s Minnesota? Can I pour you a Sam Adams?” Pretty creepy.

Best airport for waiting in: Palm Beach International. The people-watching isn't notable, but the book selection is decent, it doesn't smell weird, the wi-fi is FREE, there's a wonderful stretch of places to meet, eat and drink before the concourses (Hence, you can sit down with people who you are meeting or saying goodbye to rather than just being shoved through security checkpoints or out of the baggage area), the parking out front is decently priced for an airport, the security is quick, and there's that bartender with the great memory. I guess I'd give a thumbs up to Minneapolis too. In short, I like the airports I'm in most, which is a good thing. It's a case of familiarity breeding content. I'm comfortable in them and don't mind waiting when delays crop up, and delays always crop up. Kastrup is pretty good. I adore Schipol (Amsterdam), but I didn't pass through this year. Maybe next year, but I'm pretty sure I'll fly through Iceland when I go back to Copenhagen (and sneak up to Stockholm to meet up with my folks).

Best airport for people watching: Narita (Tokyo). I actually think I enjoy Kastrup (Copenhagen) much more, but Tokyo was such a Love Boat experience (that is, exciting and new). So I’m giving the year’s award to Narita. The shopping is oddly deficient, though. You’re essentially given something like five canned shopping ideas: the Hello Kitty experience, candy / saki / digital cameras, kimonos/t-shirts, gift cards/magazines, or cheap memorabilia. I don’t know what I’m looking for, really. You can probably divide all airports this way (save for the kimono thing). But the shopping in Tokyo’s airport—the whole things-to-do scene—was a wispy version of the city’s sell of itself. Narita is quite plain inside...though I do recall seeing the Northwest "Elite" Lounge across a breezeway, and the decor and sushi looked pretty sweet.

Most surprisingly pleasant airport: Houston. I was truly angry to have to fly through Texas. I expend an unfortunate amount of energy hoping that state will leave the Union, and I was doubly angry about visiting an airport named for the Bush family. Yet, Houston’s airport was a really nice experience, even with the two-hour flight delay.

Least favorite concourse: the B Concourse at Atlanta. The ends of this concourse are characterized by seating maze that cuts through what should be an aisle between the end gates and the main aisle that runs the length of the concourse. This obstacle course is there probably to create an “organic” feel, like a street or park path plan from Frederick Law Olmsted (who designed New York's Central Park and Riverside, Illinois' slash and crescent-obsessed streetplan). But when you have 15 minutes to get on the goddamn inter-concourse train to catch your connecting flight, having to weave through rows of fat Americans eating McDonald's is not pleasant.

Most anticipated bad-customs experience: entering China (Shanghai)

Easiest customs to clear: China

Funniest airport security: Minneapolis. The woman looked at my passport and asked when the photo had been taken. “A few years ago,” I said. “You realize you’re getting younger,” she said. The woman behind me said, “You can tell me that!” to which the security official replied, “Ma’am, I’m not allowed to lie.”
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by