Home > Centrestage E-Mail this page || Print this page
Flying Through

What sets one airport apart from the other? Is it world-class shopping, efficient services, rejuvenation facilities or the need-of-the-hour safety aspect. In the concluding part of this series, Charmaine Fernz lounges through some of the worldís trendiest airports

Talking Business
Being a frequent flyer to the US, the Atlanta Hartsfield airport, has always been a business link for me. William B Hartsfield International Airport serves more than 79 million passengers a year and recently wrested the title of ‘world’s busiest airport’ from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. No question about it, Atlanta is big and busy, but thanks to a US$ 250-million makeover inspired by Atlanta’s spruce-up for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, the facility is fairly easy to navigate and full of amenities. You’ll find that the airport consists of a Main Terminal and six concourses. The concourses are all connected by an underground people-mover transportation system. Without sounding cliched, Atlanta is undoubtedly a rising star in the airport firmament. With every visit, Atlanta comes across as big and getting bigger. It’s ideal for business travellers, as it moves people efficiently with the help of one of the world’s largest airport rail systems. I am not insinuating, that it is a hassle-free airport. At times, it’s a heck of a long way to some departure gates and, apart from electric buggies for older or infirm travellers, it’s a case of walk and fly.

In the Main Terminal atrium, you can sample regional cooking (biscuits, barbecue etc) at Paschal’s Southern Cuisine, or opt for a more mainstream menu of soups and sandwiches at the Atlanta Bread Company. Or if you’re in the mood for soothing music, try the piano bar at Houlihan’s. Designed as an easily accessible central point where people can meet, grab a bite to eat, shop or relax, the atrium features a 100-seat lounge area, lots of interesting stores, a full-service restaurant, a food court, a full-service shoe repair shop (Heel Quik), and a Business Centre.

In the Main Terminal atrium, shop for souvenirs of Atlanta’s best known exports at the World of Coca-Cola Store, or pick up T-shirts, key-chains, and other mementos of Atlanta at the City Store. Art lovers will want to make tracks for Concourse E, where more than US$ 1 million was spent on public art for the largest international concourse in the United States. The collection’s centrepiece is the 54-foot-tall, 2.5-tonne sculptured light installation titled Ascension in the Millennium. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) subway station is located inside the airport terminal and trains arrive at and depart from the airport every eight minutes.

In a nutshell, the mammoth Atlanta Hartsfield airport is as cosmopolitan as the United States of America.

Truly English

Frankfurt Flugafen

Just the thought of travelling to London, makes me feel very ‘English’. As we touched base at Heathrow, the feeling of ‘been there, done that’ emerged on entering the terminal. Handling over 60 million passengers each year, it is indeed one of the world’s busiest international airports! With that sort of pressure, the strain on facilities sometimes shows. Heathrow Airport has four consecutively numbered terminals (a fifth is on the drawing boards) serving more than 90 airlines. You’ll find both sit-down and fast food restaurants in each terminal, along with plenty of good coffee shops and snack bars. For ‘real meals’ in Terminal 1, saunter over to Garfunkel’s Restaurant; in Terminal 2, try the pub food offered by the Shakespeare AleHouse and Wetherspoons. The Food Village in Terminal 3 has a salad bar and a highly rated Indian restaurant called Noon. Terminal 4 has a good selection of coffee bars.

Grab a seat near any food court if you want to sit back and watch other travellers rush by. Or head ‘airside’ for the departure lounges if you’re looking for more comfortable seating, including some areas that feature ‘sleeper chairs’ for the extremely weary. If a little pampering perks you up, visit the Beauty Centre in Terminal 1, where several types of facials and manicures are complimentary with the purchase of varying amounts of cosmetic and body-care products. For more serious freshening-up, head for the free shower facilities located in Terminals 1, 3 and 4.

KLIA airport

You can shop for everything from jams and jellies to fine jewellery at Heathrow. And don’t worry if one of the duty-free shops you want to visit isn’t in the terminal you’ll be using: Heathrow has a free ‘personal shopping service’, with escorts to take you between terminals so you can shop in whatever store strikes your fancy. Before you pass through security, the following shops will tempt you: Virgin Music Store (Terminal 1), the Sock Shop (Terminal 2), Glorious Britain (Terminal 3), and the Body Shop (Terminal 4). Post-security, you’ll find branches of Harrods, the Caviar House, the Chocolate Box, and the World of Whiskies in each terminal. Shopping at Heathrow certainly puts one a step ahead. Many of your favourite brands are available exclusively at the airport for a limited period, and many products are launched by World Duty Free before they are available anywhere else in the world.

If you’ve got two hours or more to spend touring, ask the folks at the information desk for directions to the Heathrow Airport Visitor Centre, which has a series of interactive exhibits covering the airport’s past, present and future. It’s a free 10-minute bus ride from the main terminals, and an entertaining and educational endeavour that includes a great view of one of the airport’s three runways. Golfers rejoice! At the Golf Studio in Terminal 1 (past security) you can play virtual golf, enter the weekly competition for the longest drive, or get a lesson from the on-duty golf professional.

Heathrow is surely one of the world’s premier aviation hubs.

You’re In Safe Hands

Frankfurt Flugafen

s the blue skies cleared, what outstretched below me was the mammoth new Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), set amidst vast landscapes of palm trees. KLIA is, undoubtedly, one of the world’s largest and most advanced airport, which is currently being upgraded to suit every business traveller’s need. To my amazement, as we proceeded, what stood before me was a well-designed airport, with state-of-the-art facilities - the world’s tallest air traffic control tower (130 meters high), the biggest columnless hangar, the longest baggage conveyor belt system and a high-tech Olympex flight information display system. It certainly couldn’t get better.

Being my first visit, I was advised to take it easy, stroll along and delight in this new-age airport. Passing through the Main Terminal Building (MTB), we swiftly cleared all our formalities, and headed for the Satellite Building, that caters solely to international arrivals and departures.

Atlanta Hartsfield airport

Being an avid business traveller, airports are a part and parcel of my travel. However, a subtle fear still persisted post 9/11, it was then a colleague informed me that KLIA is the second airport in the world, after Munich, to have a special chamber to defuse explosives as part of its sophisticated fire-fighting systems. This certainly put my cynicism to rest. Moving on I was introduced to ‘a city by itself’ as it is better-known amongst locals. The KLIA Duty Free boasts the works. International fashion houses like Elizabeth Arden, Calvin Klein and Gucci frequently organise shows of their latest collections. So if you happen to coincide your visit with any of these, don’t miss an opportunity to revel in their designs. But definitely take home a feel of ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ by picking up some of the variety of traditional handicrafts on offer.

Self Service check-in at London

Checking in at the Pan Pacific Hotel, which is located within walking distance from the airport terminal, I reminisced my brief stint at one of the most innovative airport developments in recent times. KLIA is fast matching up to the impeccable standards of efficiency set by current leader Singapore Changi.

Shopper’s Paradise

Heathrow airport, Frankfurt Flugafen

Being my second trip to Frankfurt, the airport as usual stood vast and humongous in the chilly morning in November, welcoming its national carrier - Lufthansa and other airlines touching base. As I proceeded to board my cosy Delta flight, reality struck once again as I made my way through its huge alleys that connect one terminal to another. (I simply detest walking those extensive distances between terminals). After having checked in early, I had enough of time on hand to browse through my favourite Duty Free. I could personally vouch that shopping at Frankfurt Airport is a sheer delight; you’ll find that time simply flies by. Don’t miss out on a fabulous chance to stock up liquor and cigarettes at extremely competitive prices. Next in line is Frankfurt Airport’s international Shopping Centre, which has everything from haute couture to business suits and fashion for the young and restless.

KLIA airport

Being a foodie at heart, I enjoyed exploring the assortment of gastronomic delicacies on offer at the airport. Just try any one of Frankfurt Airport’s cafes, gourmet restaurants and bars or even the supermarket that has options galore. Be it international cuisine, Asian delicacies, or typical Mediterranean food - it certainly got me in the mood for my journey, so I’m sure it would do the same for you. A must visit are the Chinese and Steak joints.

Frankfurt Flugafen, surely stands firm in its position as one of Europe’s premier aviation hubs. Despite lacking technological advancements common with a number of recent airport developments, Frankfurt definitely holds its own.

Terrace lounge at
London Heathrow airport

Aussie Delight

After a relaxing stopover at Changi airport, I was all set to touch base at the Kingsford Smith International airport, Australia’s most talked about international airport. From a bird’s view, this 881-hectare world-class aerodrome, is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to Australia’. Perfectly so, as we touched base ‘Down Under’, what unfolded before me were the 10 international gateways, served by major international airlines as well as, the national carrier, Qantas. Unfortunately, we Indians would certainly miss this Aussie hospitality, with Qantas terminating India operations.

Talking about every traveller’s ‘sine qua non’- Duty Free - there is a gamut of options available. Duty Free Express, which boasts a fly-buy experience, has from liquor to fragrances, wine, confectionery et al. One will certainly find only the top selling items, so you are in and out of the store and on to your plane in record time.

I stopped by to take a quick bite, at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants - Astro Cafe, Bistro Bistro, Blue Sky Cafe, Bok Choy, Bondi Walk Cafe, Cafe Addio, Doctor Juice - the list is endless. The efficient transport facilities between terminals was a delight. Trains run every 10 minutes at peak times and every 15 minutes off-peak hours. Qantas, Ansett and Green and Gold Airport Express buses operate frequent services between the terminals. This airport is definitely a cut above the rest as it endeavours to suit every business traveller’s requirement.

As airports vie to meet the business traveller’s discerning needs, we can inevitably look forward to even more innovations in the near future - be it shopping, dining, entertainment, relaxation, technology, business facilities... a city by itself.

Seoul Incheon

State-of-the-art Incheon
Incheon, Seoul’s new state-of-the-art US$ 5 billion international airport is breathtaking in its sheer scale - the terminal is only second to Hong Kong’s in size. Korea’s massive new gateway is further from Seoul than the old Kimpo International and takes more time to exit. But the building is new, comfortable, and there are more runways and frequencies. According to the airport’s management, it takes 30 minutes for a full Boeing 747 to be emptied and processed. The artificial island created for the new complex is enormous - taxiways, runways, cargo warehouse and empty fields stretch across the horizon. The airport is passenger-friendly and has a 90-room transit hotel, 51 Internet kiosks, child and baby-care centres, four transit lounges, five smoking lounges, 18 information booths, 43 catering outlets, 17 bureaux de change, 42 retail outlets, three business centres and three pharmacies, plus showers, business rooms and couple of hair stylists. There are also extensive leisure facilities including fitness centres, a bowling alley, games rooms and video theatres.

Flying By

Atlanta Hartsfield Airport

  • An executive conference centre on the third floor of the main terminal atrium has meeting rooms, workstations, fax and copying services.
  • Best bet for a carry-on-meal: Pascal’s Southern cuisine will pack up everything from biscuits to barbecue.
  • Best sinful snack: Candy from Pecan Street Sweets, on Concourse C.
  • The MARTA subway station, located inside the airport terminal, provides convenient transportation options.

London Heathrow

  • Best healthful nosh: Salads from La Brioche Dorée (past security in Terminal 1 and before security in 2).
  • Best sinful snack: Fish and chips from Harry Ramsden’s in Terminals 1 and 3 (before security).
  • Play virtual reality golf at the Golf Studio in Terminal 1.
  • Heathrow has a free ‘personal shopping service’, with escorts to take you between terminals so you can shop in whatever store strikes your fancy.

Frankfurt Flugafen

  • Alcohol and cigarettes are the best buys here.
  • A must visit are the Chinese and Steak joints for a sumptuous meal.

Kingsford Smith International Airport, Sydney

  • For a quick buy, passengers visiting the airport can save time and money purchasing the duty free shopping via the phone. Dial 1 800 807 127 F to place your order and collect your goods at the airport, as you arrive and depart Australia.