[Guest post by M!]
I have done a fair bit of flying now: not as much as some unlucky souls, but more than a lot of people I know. Here’s what I’ve picked up.
TERMINALS I HAVE KNOWN:
Heathrow: Terminal 5 is huge, expect to do a lot of walking, but there’s lots of quiet places to sit with good views of airport activity. There’s not, to my recollection, anything particularly interesting to do except look around the shops.
Terminal 3 is crowded and cramped, although the gates still manage to be miles away. Avoid if you can!
Vancouver/Seattle: My one experience of Vancouver Airport was much the same as K’s so I won’t elaborate further, but I did notice she didn’t mention Seatac at all. I found SEA to be very similar in style to YVR , but a bit smaller and not as well thought out. (Don’t tell K, but very much like Seattle and Vancouver themselves!). That said, the US Border people are much nicer in Seattle.
Dubai: A modern airport, I thought the terminal design was a very nice blend of modern and tradition styling. They’ve got everything you could want here, as long as you want to do is shop duty-free. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a balcony or some outside area, deserts are very much a novelty to me but if the only choice is between aircon and 40 degree heat, I’d pick aircon too. Disappointingly, I’d heard there was a gold bar vending machine in the airport but all the ones I found were for coffee.
Sydney: I arrived in Sydney after about 24 hours of solid travelling. I vaguely remember it being light and airy. Someone nice bought me an apple juice from a snack bar. The apple juice was good.
Auckland: It seemed OK? I wasn’t there long at all! I also noticed the Hobbit obsession in that time.
AIRLINES COMPARED & CONTRASTED
For this trip, I flew on a Qantas A380 on the LHR-Dubai-SYD route and it was the best airline experience I’ve had to date. The seatback screens were large and clear, while there was a comprehensive selection of recent films as well as very nifty selection of classics. Qantas also offered whole seasons of TV shows, which is better than the 2 or 4 random mid-season episodes that British Airways and Air Canada have on the North America routes. I watched Gravity, American Hustle and The Hangover and, as usual, my favourite watch-on-a-plane show, The Big Bang Theory.
Pro-tip: bring your own headphones. The first few trips I did to the USA, I used the provided ones. It really made a difference using non-disposable headphones; I could hear the films and not the cabin noise!
The A380 also introduced the best new flight feature since the moving map that shows you where you are: the tail mounted camera so you can see what’s ahead (and pretend you’re flying the plane maybe?). Speaking personally, I always take a window seat because I spend as much time as I can looking at the view and now I can see what’s happening during taxiing too! As an aside, the Iraqi oil fields at night are an amazing sight.
The only area that wasn’t an improvement on the BA jumbo jet flights I’m most familiar with was the food. The Qantas food was quite good, but I remember BA made a big deal out of improving their food a few years back and their meals are still the best airline food I’ve had. So far.
Sydney to AKL I was on an Emirates A380, which then became my best airline experience to date. They started by giving us hot towels and a menu-for a three hour flight! The entertainment system was unreal; I thought Qantas was doing well but here I had easily 4 times as many films to choose from. I can’t really judge their onboard catering as we only had a light snack, but I can’t help but wonder what they’ve managed there.
PS: Yes, eventually you do start memorizing airport’s three letter codes.