NY 2020 | Travel

A pilot lists his favourite airports to get stuck in

Planespotters watching a landing at Manchester Airport. The Manchester Airport Hotel beer garden is an ideal vantage point.

Planespotters watching a landing at Manchester Airport. The Manchester Airport Hotel beer garden is an ideal vantage point.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

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You won’t regret being stuck in these airports on New Year’s Eve

I have been a professional pilot for 20 years, the last 15 of which have been spent working for various international airlines. The fact that you like to go on vacation during holidays means that someone (people like me) has to work to make sure you get to unwind. This means I get to see more than my fair share of airports. Despite them being ‘work’, I like them — some more than others.

Here are my top personal picks for the airports I wouldn’t mind being stuck at for longer than I would want to. Please remember these airports are huge, give yourself enough time to reach the gate so you don’t get offloaded. We really do not like latecomers; it means we can lose our departure slot and it costs money and seriously inconveniences your fellow passengers, who have made the effort to board on time. So, thanks in advance.

Singapore

It consistently tops ranking charts as one of the best airports in the world. Changi might have been around for years, but it is constantly upgraded and a great passenger experience. Behind the glitzy duty-free where you can buy anything from super-expensive watches to fridge magnets, is a terminal designed to help you relax and unwind. Get some teh tarik, use the free WiFi, sit by the koi pond and literally watch the world go by.

View of the lighted up Rain Vortex at Jewel Mall in Changi Airport in Singapore

View of the lighted up Rain Vortex at Jewel Mall in Changi Airport in Singapore   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

There are not only proper restaurants but several food courts which have a range of great restaurants serving everything from local specialities to fast food staples (if you want to be boring). Go check-in early and enjoy a proper meal, or do what I do and get a take-away for the flight. It’s not that food on board is bad, but when you have been eating it as long as we have, a change is nice. In addition, you can get exactly what you want. Our crew do their best, but an airplane isn’t a restaurant kitchen. Wouldn’t you rather have one last taste of your holiday instead of chicken or beef? Personally, I like to get nasi lemak with beef rendang or some satay.

Tokyo

Narita International is run, as you would expect, with Japanese precision and Zen calm. It is easy to navigate, and while there may not be koi ponds, the food is amazing. Sushi Kyotatsu by gate 33 in T1 sums it up — a large sign states it is the last chance for good sushi. Unfortunately, we avoid raw fish on board as a safety issue, but there are plenty more options available. My preferred order is ramen and gyoza. You will be told off for take-away ramen (the noodles go soggy and the dish is no longer at its peak). There are loads of options and I can guarantee you won’t have time to try them all. Browse the duty-free to pick up some excellent Japanese chocolate (Royce is amazing) and then browse the whisky section to find your favourite Japanese variant and maybe even some tea that you can pack as a present.

Munich

Munich International Airport is a favourite. It is German efficiency at its best. It is a great one to travel through, but if you have a few hours in hand and don’t want to step into the city, why not spend it at the Visitors Park? It helps if you are aircraft-crazy like me.

Highway and air traffic at Franz-Josef-Strauss Munich airport; passenger aeroplanes taking off from the runway

Highway and air traffic at Franz-Josef-Strauss Munich airport; passenger aeroplanes taking off from the runway   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

There is a spotters hill which is a vantage point for both runways, and from where you can watch all planes land and take off. They also have some classic planes like the Constellation and DC-3 on static display and an exhibition with a behind-the-scenes view of how Munich airport works. And the Ju 52 Tante Ju aircraft has been converted into a restaurant so you can grab a bite and a beer. Just pick a nice summer’s day to visit. Alternatively, visit the only airport brewery and beer garden in the world and get a pork knuckle.

Manchester

For more airplane geekery, Manchester airport has its own Runway Visitor Park. Again, it is just next to the airport and easily accessible if you have time to spare. There are five different classic aircraft on display, including a Concorde, and you can book a private tour to view it up close. It is next to the runway, so you can watch air planes taxiing to and from the terminal. Just don’t forget your camera.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong International Airport can not be left out. I used to stay at the airport hotel and sometimes if I felt lazy to go downtown, I would wander to the terminal to get dinner. The choices were just that varied and good. HKIA has a lot more proper sit down restaurants than most other airports. They even have Michelin-starred outlets. Explore, and discover some amazing dim sum or roasted meats. When you have filled your belly, walk over to the Aviation Discovery Centre and check out the displays. Or get a ticket and climb up to the SkyDeck for a great view of the airport.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:36:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/you-wont-regret-being-stuck-in-these-aiports-on-new-years-eve/article30401144.ece

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