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#sowhoknew: The 11 most annoying things about airports

I travel. A lot. And after racking up over three million miles in the past decade I now loathe airports as much as flying. Want to know why? Read on…

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when being at an airport felt exciting. The promise of exotic travel to destinations unseen was always alluring and being at the airport was part of the joy. Add to that the appeal of Duty Free with the heady aroma of mixed perfumes, the twinkling and beeping of assorted electrical goods plus the calm caress of the Business Class lounge all made the experience something to savour.

But over the years, the appeal hasn’t just diminished it has completely evaporated. I now think about going to the airport with the same sensation that I get when I’m going to the dentist for root canal work.

There is much to despise about the airport experience but I have carefully considered the aspects which I hate the most and compiled a little listicle of my top 11 pet peeves (and not one mention of the recent Ryanair fiasco):

1. Statues on the Travelator – moving walkways are a real bonus in todays gargantuan airports as they can obviously help you get to where you need to be much faster. That is until you come across those morons who don’t realise that there is an etiquette when using them. By all means if you want the Travelator to trundle you along at it’s own pace then please feel free to stand to one side whilst you enjoy the ride. But, for crying out loud, don’t stand right in the middle with your trolley bag by your side preventing those people who simply want to get to their gate on time. If you want to get your kicks on a mundane ride, just go to an under 5’s fun fair instead.

2. 100ml means 100ml – how many years has the liquids ban been in effect? 11 years as of the 26th September 2017 to be precise. So why is it that people still don’t seem to understand the rules? The number of times the queue is held up because some idiot is arguing that he should be able to take through his 125ml bottle of Paco Rabanne because he has “used more than half of it”. Truth is, you might not like it but rules are rules and they are there to keep us all safe.

3. Is this yours Sir? – beyond the ‘liquid imbeciles’ mentioned in the previous point, the security check is always a place which never ceases to both surprise and irritate me in almost equal measure. Some of things that I have seen people trying to get through in their hand luggage almost beggars belief. Amongst the items I’ve seen over the years are bullets (with the guy saying he thought it was ok to take bullets because he hadn’t brought a gun?), a dead turtle (the guy and his wife explaining that it had died whilst they were on holiday and they were taking it home to bury it – why did they bring it in the first place?), a mini-Samurai sword (a gift for his children apparently) and a box of fireworks (because you can’t get decent ones back home). Seriously, you can’t make this sh*t up.

4. Stop and Stare – why do some people gape at the flight departure board as intently as they watch an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’? I don’t get it. I look at the board, locate my flight, check the gate and swiftly move on. So why is it when I recheck the board around half an hour later they are still there gawping at the screen? I reckon it’s the same people who have been transfixed for years and stand there, moaning gently, like the shopping mall zombies in George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

5. Cattle Crush – this is a game, a little like Candy Crush, which is played when the boarding announcement has just been made. Then, irrespective of which class you are in, or the airlines often pathetic attempts at segregation, everyone rushes for the door thus creating the inevitable bottle neck. It always reminds me of the free-for-all when they open the breakfast buffet at a cheap hotel. On the (sadly) rare occasions that the staff do step in to sort out the melee I must admit that I do give an internal fist pump when the interlopers are vanquished and sent to the back of queue.

6. Weakling WiFi – I have a theory that airports purposely put in the worst possible free WiFi they can find (the kind that makes dial-up seem positively rapid) so that you simply have to upgrade to their exorbitant premium service which, incidentally, still packs about as much punch as an asthmatic mouse.

7. Are we there yet? – that sinking feeling when you realise that not only are you going to have to get to another terminal via the airport Underground system, you then discover that you have to take a coach to your plane. Crammed in like sheep on a sweaty bus with wheezy aircon to drive another 20 minutes to finally get to your aircraft. The only enjoyment is watching that one cocky passenger (and there is always at least one) who thinks he / she is too cool to hang on and then plants their face firmly into another passengers backpack when the bus lurches to a halt.

8. Why do I need to show my Boarding Pass to buy a bottle of water? – look, I understand that the airports and their retailers want to build up a profile of their users and the boarding pass is a useful mechanic to help them do that. I’m sure the likes of Chanel, Paul Smith and Burberry glean a lot from it. But do I really have to show my boarding pass to buy a bottle of still water and a packet of peanut M&M’s?

9. Cry Baby – is it just me, or is there a toddler throwing the mother of all tantrums pretty much everywhere you look at an airport? I was at Frankfurt airport a few weeks ago and counted 17 different kids (yes that’s 17 folks) losing the plot whilst en-route to my boarding gate. That’s a lot of tears. And snot. As a father of three I know what it’s like. Kids get sensory overload with all the new sights and sounds at airports and it’s pretty much a guarantee that at some stage they are going to implode. That said? God it’s annoying.

10. Bagging a bargain? – you might think that you are getting a great deal when purchasing a a product in Duty Free. Sadly, the truth is you probably aren’t. The retailers know you are a captive audience with time on their hands plus there is the prevailing myth that Duty Free shops are cheaper than the High Street. However, the latest research on pricing discovered that across a wide range of products from Perfume to Watches and Clothing to Wine you could be paying up to 99% more than you would pay in either a supermarket or online. My simple tip? Always Google the price of what you are about to buy in Duty Free to check whether you can get it for less elsewhere.

11. Breakfast Boozers – It doesn’t matter which airport you are in, anywhere in the world, at whatever time of day, you will see the breakfast barflies throwing back their tipple of choice. Whether they are going on holiday or on a business trip, the urge to imbibe copious amounts of alcohol before they board their flight seems almost universal. And it’s becoming a real problem, with the occurrence of booze fuelled air rage incidents on the rise. Certain airlines are recommending that passengers should be limited to a maximum two drink rule before they board an aircraft. From what I can see, the Breakfast Boozers would just get around that by ordering two pints of vodka.

So do you despise airports as much as I do or do you still enjoy the experience? If you do hate them as much as I, which other facets of airports do you abhor? As ever, I am keen to hear your views…

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.
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