When you spend a significant portion of your life in airports…
When you travel as much as I do, you spend a significant portion of your life in airports. Your experience in airports can range anywhere from absolutely amazing to absolute shit. Some airports you get emotionally attached to and others you’ll vow never to set foot in again.
Here are my random observations from 10 different airports around the world that I feel like I should share.
1. Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD)
Madrid Barajas Aeropuerto is the most glorious airport you will ever fly into. And yes I only say this because Madrid is my favorite city.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing those sunny yellow waves on top of the building when I land. Some dude who looks like a supermodel always waits for me at customs to stamp my passport. They do this so that you never want to leave the country from the moment you enter. The transportation setup at Barajas is immaculate and super easy to figure out.
I never feel sad at Barajas except when I’m leaving Spain. Which is saying a lot because going to any other airport usually fills me with sorrow and desperation.
2. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Going to LAX is like going to a DMV in hell. Nobody goes into LAX and comes out in a good mood. The place is a bona fide shit show every time. Having to go to LAX makes me want to cancel all of my travel plans. Because I’ll find that everybody and their mamas decided to fly out on the same day as me every time.
Even when your loved ones come to pick you up everyone is pissed by the time you leave the airport. I know this because I’ve been picked up at LAX by my infuriated parents many times. If you miss the person you’re picking up at the terminal and have to go around again, you want to kill yourself. Once my mom picked me up after not seeing me for over a year, and immediately kicked me off her health insurance and phone plan because she hated me for making her come down to this hell hole.
Point is, fly in and out of Burbank or John Wayne or anywhere else if possible. It’ll save you a lot of stress and tears.
3. Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Oakland International Airport is the chillest airport ever. It has just two terminals, side-by-side, and it’s relatively easy to drive out and around again if you need to. That newly renovated Air Bart looks hella fine. Plus even the people who come to pick you up are excited because it means they’re getting In-N-Out. It’s the best setup ever.
Why would I take the Bart for 2 hours to SFO on the other side of the world when I can just fly out of Oakland?
4. Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN)
Whenever you get off at Seoul Incheon Airport, you feel like you’ve time-traveled 100 years into the future and not just a few time zones. A robot comes to take your bags and another one buffs your nails as you walk to the baggage claim. Just kidding. But there are sleeping lounges, massage chairs, a golf course, casino, spa, museum and the world’s best Duty-Free shopping center. It’s awarded Best Airport Worldwide every year and simply seeing how immaculately it functions makes it worth flying out to Seoul.
5. London Gatwick Airport (LGW)
Gatwick is the BEST airport to have a layover ever. Why? Because there’s a Nando’s AND Wetherspoon’s in multiple locations inside and outside the terminal. I can experience the best of British culture without having to leave the airport.
Whenever I get a layover in Gatwick I’m extremely torn between Nando’s peri-peri fries or a fat English breakfast at Spoons. I’m not ashamed to admit there’ve been times when I got both during the same layover.
Gatwick is objectively the best London airport because of the train that quickly takes you to the city and floga. Don’t know what floga is? Check out this past JST News article to find out.
6. Any U.K. Airport
Regardless of whether there’s a Nando’s or Wetherspoon’s at the airport, getting through customs at the U.K. border is THE WORST. Any non-British person who has flown to the U.K. knows this.
They ask so many goddamn questions that start to feel extremely intrusive. Why are you here? What do you plan to do while you’re here? What nationality is your friend that you’re visiting? Are you really here to see that Swedish House Mafia concert? (They actually asked me this question) Can you name all three members of Swedish House Mafia? (They did not actually ask me this question) How many people are you thinking about sleeping with while you’re here?
You’d think they’re guarding golden eggs or some amazing national secret beyond those borders. But no it’s just a lot of drunk British people.
In short, brace yourself for the barrage of questions coming at you when you leave the airport. And always have the address where you’re staying handy to write on your landing card. “I’m just going to look for a hostel when I arrive” does not fly with U.K. border control.
7. Beijing Airport (PEK)
First of all, that notoriously intense Beijing smog is real. That stuff hits you like a thick, hot, foggy blanket as soon as you step off the plane. You feel like you may never breathe fresh air or see the sun ever again.
Second, I will eternally be salty towards this airport. They make you go through another security check, even if you have a connecting flight and you’re not even leaving the terminal. They took away my adorable cat lighter that my sister gave me that had immense sentimental value. And my Clinique moisturizer. I know I’m being whiny but I’m still very upset.
8. All airports in Portugal
On St. Patrick’s day one year an Irish friend and I flew out to Dublin from Faro Airport. We bought a bottle of tawny port wine at Duty-Free to start the festivities on the plane. But when we got to our seats a stewardess told us we weren’t allowed to drink it during the flight. So we opened the bottle and hid it on the floor and took surreptitious swigs whenever she wasn’t looking. Because no uptight Ryanair flight attendant was about to tell us we couldn’t get drunk on St. Patrick’s Day.
Anyway the moral of the story is, buy lots of port wine at Duty-Free when flying through Portugal. They’re great to drink on the flight and make the BEST gifts. People get real excited when you get them port wine from Portugal. Because even a 7.95€ bottle of port will make anyone feel like a rich banker or the Queen of Sheba.
9. Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
Coming into Honolulu International Airport is always lovely. There are people getting lei’d and everyone looks like coming to Hawaii was the best decision they’ve ever made.
However, when you first get off the plane you will always immediately have one of two thoughts: a) Goddamn it’s hot, or b) Goddamn it’s humid. If you’re unlucky sometimes it’s c) Goddamn it’s hot AND humid. A and B don’t really take away from the fun of being in Hawaii but C definitely can and usually does.
10. Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK)
Stepping into Jakarta International Airport is quite nice. There are colorful tapestries hung along the hallways and vibrant trees and flowers outside by the entrance.
Do not leave the airport if you can help it. Because as soon as you get into the hellfire that is Jakarta traffic, your soul will be crushed and all of your dreams will die in the back of a taxi.
Featured photo: Nadia Cho