Tag Archives: terminal

Merry Christmas, From Your Aviation Queen: A Love Letter To Heathrow Airport

2044910106_3b9e1b0a41_zOne of my favorite movies is “Love Actually,” released in 2003.  You can read the Internet Movie Database post for details about the movie.  I really love how all the romantic stories are put together, but my favorite parts are the beginning and the end.

Both were shot in London Heathrow Airport and show a wonderful collage of people greeting each other in the arrivals area.  I listened to director/writer Richard Curtis’s commentary on that scene.  He just parked a camera there for a few weeks and edited it down to the collage.  I actually spent Christmas 1998 in London and got to see this play out as I waited for my luggage and my friend.


I am a frequent traveler and one of my favorite thins to do is to watch people showing the love to those arriving and departing.  One time on a trip to Miami in 1985, a very enthusiastic Haitian family mistook me for a loved one. I was startled for a moment, but I still tear up to this day when I remember how loved I felt by these complete strangers until the mix-up was fixed.

And I know a lot of people just hate Heathrow Airport, but I’m not one of them (I’ll be there tomorrow).  My family moved to England in 1970 when I was six years old.  We landed at Heathrow, and I thought it was the most magical place on earth.  Fast forward to 1995, when I flew into the airport to cover the Farnborough Air Show, and I was still transfixed.  I love the proper British accents doing the announcements. I love the myriad shops (Harrods and Boots, to name a few) where you can pick up a piece of the UK.  And I especially love all the airline liveries from around the globe, especially flag carriers you don’t always see in the United States.

I practically fall into a swoon when I think about my time in British Airways’ T5 terminal (you can see my pictures on Flicker).  Yes, there were issues building it.  Yes, the airline was embarrassed when a baggage snafu marred the grand opening (attended by Queen Elizabeth, no less).  But the pieces are in place, and it has become one of my favorite terminals — right up there with Singapore’s Changi Airport, San Francisco’s international terminal and Seoul, South Korea’s Incheon Airport.

So wherever you go during the holidays , I hope you feel the love of the season.  Take a second to let the magic of the airport sink in, and enjoy this video of the closing scene of “Love, Actually.”


Frommer’s Picks The 10 Worst Airport Terminals – I Pick My Five

I am a sucker for slide shows that show the top 10 worst or best in anything related to travel.  These lists can be very  subjective, so I was ready to pounce when I saw that the Frommer’s travel site had made their picks.  I agree with some, and disagree with others.

Of the ones I’ve been in, they were spot on with Newark Terminal B, US Airways’ LaGuardia Airport terminal, Paris Charles de Gaulle Terminal 3 and Delta’s JFK Airport Terminal 3 — fondly known as the Third World Port.  But I disagreed with their pick of Chicago Midway, finding it to be a nice little airport with a great sense of place.  Below are some of my own picks for the worst airport terminals.

  1. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The city deserves better than this.  The airport has outdated concessions and a very bland, 1060s look.  The city has been arguing for decades over airport upgrades, with no end in sight.
  2. Garuda Indonesia’s terminal at Jakarta’s Soekarno–Hatta International Airport.  I was last there in 1994, but the place was a dump. It was dark and badly laid out.
  3. São Paulo/Guarulhos–Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport. I’m told they are upgrading this airport in time for the 2016 Olympics.  My advice would be to tear it down and start from scratch. This airport is old, dark, dank and not very passenger friendly.
  4. Lima, Peru’s Jorge Chávez International Airport. I actually smelled this airport more than I saw it.  When I was there in the late 1990s, the airport was literally next to a large garbage dump. And it seemed to be coated in cigarette smoke. Not a good look for a country’s main airport.
  5. TIE – The old Terminal Bs at Sacramento International and San Antonio International airports. Kudos to both of these facilities for upgrading these respective terminals, which were both frozen in the 1960s.

So I ask you, dear readers — what are some of your nightmare airport terminals? Why are they so bad?

Random Aviation Photo

Back in November 2008, I got the chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour of British Airways’ flagship Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport.  Say what you want, but I feel that building is an architectural wonder.  One of the unique features is that the floors don’t touch the walls anywhere in the building.  The floors are held up by these massive ceiling joints.  Check out my photos, below.

A Letter To United Continental Schedulers

Dear Schedulers:

Having worked at two airlines, I understand the difficulty of your job.  Every day it’s like someone throwing 30,000+ puzzle pieces on the floor in front of you — with no box as a guide — and asks you to schedule hundreds of flights.  Believe me, I feel you.

But I wasn’t feeling you so much last Tuesday.  I was going home on Continental — MSY-IAH-BWI.  I had a great time in New Orleans, but I was ready to get home.  I looked at my ticket with a sense of foreboding, because my MSY flight landed at 4:26 and my BWI flight — the last one of the day — was scheduled to leave at 5:00.  The gate manager at MSY checked my ticket and assured me that I’d have enough time to make the connection.

I get on my flight, and I hear the dreaded word “mechanical.” Fortunately, it was an easy fix,  and we landed about 2 minutes late. As we were taxiing, I saw we were arriving at gate E22 — and my flight was at C24.  Track star — the world’s fastest man — Usan Bolt could not have made that connection.  And I was carrying a backpack and a rollerboard.

I asked the gate agent for a cart and said I needed to make that last Baltimore flight. Long story short, I would have NEVER made the flight had I been forced to walk from E22 to C24.  The gate agent for the Baltimore flight was literally waiting out in the alley looking for me.  She told me I had another 30 seconds before the had closed the door.

Once I was on the plane, I was pleased with the service.  The flight attendants were nice, the food choices were great (I went with the cheese plate) and I kept myself amused with the DirecTV.

But really, schedulers — have YOU ever tried to make a connection from E to C in that half hour you gave me?  I urge you to take another look so that you’re not frustrating your passengers with nearly impossible connections.  And tell Mr. Smisek I said hi!!


Aunt Benet

Santa Barbara Airport Unveils New Terminal

Back in the summer of 2001, I quit my job as an aviation journalists to become Director of Corporate Communications and Community Relations for Mesa Air Group, based in Phoenix.  The job had been empty for a while, so I had a lot of work to do.

One of the first things I needed to do was update the company’s photo files, which included the airline’s executives, aircraft and airports.  I wanted to do an aircraft photo shoot at a unique airport in the Mesa system, and the person who found me a great photographer also suggested we shoot at Santa Barbara Airport.  I was game, because I would have gone anywhere to escape Phoenix’s 110+ degree heat.

So we hopped the flight to SBA, and I fell in love.  The terminal, originally built in 1942, back then had this old-school, 1930s Spanish architecture vibe that I thought was stunning.  And the terminal had the beach and the ocean in the front and mountains in the back.  I was completely charmed.

So imagine my alarm when I heard that the city was going to build a new terminal.  I understand why — they needed to bring it up to standards with new baggage and passenger screening equipment, and give airlines more room to breathe.

The new terminal is 72,000 square feet, with passenger amenities past security and FREE WiFi throughout the building.  And I think the new building pays homage to the old one, with a modern twist.  In the old terminal, you boarded outside with air stairs, making me feel a bit like Eva Peron.  The new building has jet bridges for larger planes and ground boarding for smaller ones.  And the facility was built for a relative bargain, $54 million.

So where are some of the more unique airport terminals you’ve visited? What makes them special to you?