Whether travelling for business or pleasure, I more and more look forward to the airport experience.
I'm on my third generation of aviation transition. The first involved getting there far too many hours before my flight was due to take-off and then sitting nail-biting, while listening out for every announcement.
The second generation revolved around how fine I could cut it. To spend as little time in the airport as possible - running was often involved, and this high-risk strategy did once or twice result in me missing flights. I did seriously consider buying a cabin-size suitcase, which doubled up as a push scooter, to shave seconds off my transition time. I believed this investment would quickly pay for itself.
Today, I've entered a third generation, in which I'm experiencing the wondrousness of the 'sixth continent' that many international airports have become.
I now have favourite airports, and within them, favourite lounges, shops and services that I frequently return to. I have extended my second generation timing to accommodate a 'golden hour' where I can appreciate the airport, shop, eat, work or socialise.
Ok, I'm fortunate that work takes me to many countries, and a gold card (which I'd like to point out is always attached 'inside' my bag rather than displayed on the outside) brings perks, but I feel I cannot be alone in thinking or acting like this?
However, the overall master planning and strategy of many airports doesn't appear to have fully embraced this golden hour phenomenon - or considered that airports could be destinations in their own right, and not just for consumers with pull-along suitcases or a boarding pass. They could also appeal to consumers.
They achieve scale, but often fail on navigation, and a friction between architecture, travel, and every other function is often sadly evident.
The master planning seems solely aimed at causing disorientation. Arrival is say at Level G, check-in is then inconveniently located on Level 3, with departures back down on Level G or even LG...
You might as well be blind-folded and spun around several times as you cross the threshold. Or why design one building when you can design two?
Is it simply to provide the opportunity to over-engineer a sky bridge or design a bullet-shaped shuttle train connecting the buildings? Is this an example of billion dollar architecture simply for the sake of architectural self-gratification?
Having established a master plan of disorientation, then it appears flight travel and its complex infra-structure (to accommodate say 75million passengers per year) is uncomfortably added, then throw in way-finding (a nasty word in many circles) and finally, and the biggest clash of worlds, retail and hospitality!
And is there a global sample board doing the rounds...why is every airport exactly the same material palette?
It shouldn't be like this. The experience can and should be much better and more integrated.
I'm enjoying many moments in international airports around the world - thoroughly enjoying my golden hour.
But I would like to see an airport grasp the opportunity and make it a true destination, where all strands and functions are considered with synergy and designed where passengers, consumers and people, are considered as 'one tribe'.