Friday, September 19, 2014

The Friendly Skies

If you take the scenic route long enough you are bound to run across your fair share of airports. As a public service I shall review a few of the ones that have left an impression on me in my travels. It's not a top 10 or a "good,bad,ugly" it just is. Enjoy?

  • Kuala Lumpur - Real good, swanky clean and efficient. Great food and shops, though souvenirs cost 100 times more at the terminal than in the city. By far the best place to get a cheesy elephant statuette (sorry Malcolm). Would be #1 on my list if they actually placed the airport in Kuala Lumpur or in Malaysia for the matter. The 1 hour (plus++) no rules taxi ride to the city must be taken with your eyes closed, just trust me.
  • San Francisco - Likely the best in North America, super clean and everything works! Wifi, baggage handling, you name it, it all happens. Nice place to hang for a layover which I intended to do about a year ago when I arrived with the family from Sydney, unfortunately we were re-routed to Los Angeles ... good old LAX, which is the complete opposite to SFO in every way. Try customs at LAX sometime after a 14 hour flight from Sydney and I dare you not to cry.
  • Dallas - I like the cowboy hats (worn by all the info booth helpers and such), I like the big Texas feel and it's the only place where a person can order brisket at an airport and be optimistic. You hardly realize how unusual Dallas is when you judge it by the airport. The same goes for Portland, officially the weirdest place on earth, the airport is downright normal, in fact last time I almost bought a tiny little Oregon duck stuffed animal...almost. San Diego is the reverse, super city, below average airport with the most ridiculous system for rental car procurement, it's so close to downtown that you almost feel as though you are landing on an aircraft carrier in the bay, which actually - would be pretty cool.
  • Atlanta - You can find this airport on both best of and worst of lists, for me it wins me over with the rental car monorail, I'm a huge fan. The signage is nails and I have a suspicion it was designed by the same mob that built the Tampa airport, an altogether underrated place, with a handy rental car area and a superb monorail to the terminal, Tampa also has a perfect collection of shops that I have used as last minute "get out of jail free cards" on my way back to the family after an extended absence ;)
  • Toronto - Look, I'm a patriotic guy and every time I get to Toronto I feel Canadian, everything is overpriced and over-regulated...Ah, I'm home! But the three terminals (beautiful as they are; are no where near each other and I always go the wrong one! And if they ever host the Olympics in Toronto they should set the marathon at Terminal 3 - what I'm saying is ... it's a hike...and a half. While I am talking about Canada my friends and family will be waiting for me to "pay out" Vancouver,  my least favorite city in the northern or southern hemisphere, but you know what, it's pretty good, very organized (Canadian), the odd native painting (Canadian) and everything there almost works (Canadian), Alas. Vancouver used to have a program whereby they charged travelers $20 to leave the city, to wit I once replied to the attendant; are you kidding me I would have paid $100!
  • Detroit - there is a PGA superstore there, which almost makes up for everything else. And speaking of dreary I don't recommend the post apocalyptic landscape around the Denver airport to anyone but I would literally make a connection in Denver just for a taste of the sirloin steak at Elway's restaurant.
  • Sydney - Sydney is great in theory but nothing actually works there. The duty free area is outstanding but super intrusive if you were in a hurry. Australians cannot operate a line, god love them, so things like customs and baggage claim have no operational sensibility. It all works well when there are no people but it's as if the operators get surprised every day when the folks arrive. Most of the other airports in Australia are glorified bus stations. Same can be said about a connection from Montana, sorry people - I take comfort in a glass and steel monolith, flying out of a lodge just doesn't inspire confidence.

Happy Trails