Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sleeping in Airports

There is a website, Sleeping in Really! Lists and grades airports all over the world. JFK is one of the ten worst and Changi/Singapore one of the ten best. Some of the others I’ve slept in aren’t listed.

I didn’t think JFK was that bad but certainly, Changi is that good. As is Dubai, at least the main international terminal; can’t say that much about the secondary terminal where I waited after a Kam flight from Kabul. Most of my overnight stays have been at Heathrow, as I go yearly from there to/from Amman, then catching flights to/from SF. The timing is ok coming but way off, returning - I come into LHR afternoons and then fly out the next mid morning. The best timing is with British Air.

There have been three past stopovers at LHR. The first one was bad! While the lighting was low and the loudspeakers at a minimum, the cleaning crew was busy and the air conditioning was blasting away. So between the noise and the cold, I got little sleep even though stretched out on a bench.

The next year, there was a system. All the overnighters were corralled at one of the gates with chaise lounges and various vending machines. And at about 5 AM, staff came with tea and coffee. The same routine happened last year only no tea and coffee in the AM. Two of the sleepovers were very hung over Russian seamen, frightened they would miss their plane. I ended up herding them from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5, where the three of us were scheduled on our respective flights.

JFK’s system is similar. One terminal is assigned to house the overnighters. Again, there are chaise lounges and benches for sleeping, vending machines and, as I recall, one fast food stand was open. It worked for me. It wasn’t a bad set up.

Moving on to Changi: the international terminal has about everything you could want., including a hotel where rooms can be had by the hour - which I have done. In fact, I must admit my two overnight stays there were at their hotel - so perhaps I shouldn’t count that one. It wasn’t truly an airport overnight camp in.

There is a hotel at Dubai’s main terminal, but it is expensive and was not considered. The first time, I slept in chaise lounges and on the carpeted floor with many others of all shapes and sizes. As I was on an Emirates connecting flight, I had a chit for a meal. The second time was even better: there was a separate dining room for transit passengers, so I camped out there for a good part of the night. I was offered a free room off grounds as again, I was on a connecting flight, but I didn’t want to hassle with the security in and out of the airport - if it had been the airport hotel, I would have grabbed it. All in all, it was a fairly decent experience, as airport overnighters go.

The secondary terminal was almost the direct opposite. Bare floors, basic chairs. Seated in a line up before closed counters, waiting for boarding passes. If it weren’t for my companion, an ex-Army, contract truck driver, flying home to Texas, I would have gone mad. I might not have agreed with him, but he was someone to talk with.

The other basic overnight wait, has been at the Orange county/John Wayne airport. Several years ago, on several occasions, I combined a family visit with a Performing Arts Center program, flying down from San Jose in the AM and flying back the next morning. I would take the cab to the airport after the performance and spend the night in a metal chair, waiting for the dawn and an early flight out. The first time I was saved by a sometime minister from the Islands, going back to the mid-west to be formally invested; the second time, was with a young guy watching old Westerns on his laptop.

Because of a missed connection, I ended up spending a night in the cafe at a Buenos Aires airport - not comfortable but the inner woman survived.

The most recent over night was in Beijing's new International Airport. Again, I had the choice of a hotel room off grounds as it was a connecting flight with China Air. And again, I didn’t want to hassle. The terminal was a magnificent new one with hourly rate hotel and lounge onsite. And by the time I had decided I would try one or the other, they had closed down. I spent time as I have at LHR, using the free computer and wandering around before lights were lowered, shops closed up, and it was time to stake out a chaise lounge for the night. And I, along with other strays, settled in at our respective gates. It was quite quiet and away from the noise of the cleaners. I would rate this among the top 10, guys!