Waiting at airports need not be the royal bore it is made up to be. Here's how you can make the most of those extra hours
The dreaded announcement is on: “We regret to announce the delay of flight number xxx from A to B due to a technical fault / bad weather conditions. It is likely to take off at …”
Whether it's dropped on you like a hand grenade with apologies or is an anticipated one at transit points, the upshot is the same.
Aaargh, the waiting! You can't find a comfortable seat to wait in. Airport seats, for some reason, are modelled on ones meant for naughty kids on their time-outs. Which is why those who have been occupying them for a longish time have a pained look.
Shop for gifts
But there are ways to kill time, say veteran travellers. Listen to music on your iPod, read a book, and clear junk from the laptop.
“If you have cash to burn, buy a trinket or two for folks back home,” says a frequent-flying consultant. “Makes for a warm welcome-back.” Check out if the airport has a gym. No? Stroll slowly, gawking at the window displays; it's good for blood circulation.
Time breezes away if the airport has a broadband service. Find the Internet kiosk. Blog, update info on your social networking site, check e-mail, chat with friends. Solve sudoku or crossword puzzles or play online scrabble.
Go on a city tour
Explore the airport. Both Hong Kong and Singapore take you on city tours during long stopovers. Seoul has an art centre where you can try your hand at sketching and painting, for free.
San Francisco International Airport has a mini museum, Dubai International is a sprawling souk. Taste the dates, compare gold prices, check out the freebies.
“The best place to be in is the business lounge,” says Gaurav Rastogi, who has been through every major airport. “You can relax in a comfortable lounge watching TV, enjoying snacks and drinks and checking out computer / business equipment.”
“In my waits in terminals across the world, I've listened to a pianist and local musicians, admired local art and architecture, watched a jumping water fountain, sat in rocking chairs, tried my luck at slot machines and used free wi-fi,” says Kala Murthy, entrepreneur.
“If you're willing to part with cash, you can have a relaxing foot massage or a full body massage with manicure and pedicure. O'Hare's Hilton Health Club is definitely worth a visit.”
Time to socialise
Madhav Mohan, a regular at the “weary pit stop” of the Frankfurt terminal on his India-U.S. trips has a ritual. He sprints out of the aircraft to beat the rush to the shower stalls in the Business Lounge, “chuckling at the way the Fraulein (stall manager) calls out names such as Venkatasubramaniam.”
During his quick bite at the breakfast bar, he watches Indians “sleepwalking past the duty-free stores”.
And then, it happens. “I invariably spot the ex-boss; the colleague from a past life; a long-lost friend from my school days. I step over to share stories. Time flies.”
Ah, well, that's romanticising the wait.
Says a disgruntled flier: “When airport waiting halls lie between perfume shops, and coffee costs Rs. 65 a cup, you begin to wonder about this waiting business. For most of us, it's guessing where each passenger is headed or who they might be talking to on their cell phone.”
He prays that he gets stuck at an airport that's easy to navigate; one that is clean, offers free wi-fi and a plugging-in area with a couple of comfortable seats; one with free cinemas and free inter-terminal transport such as electric carts. A meditation area is welcome too.
Then, he thinks of Tom Hanks' character in The Terminal. And, tells himself: patience is a virtue.