The best of the rest

Unlike the celebrated Iranian refugee Mehran Nasseri whose botched Paris transit in 1988 resulted in an 18-year residence at Charles De Gaulle airport, most air passengers would be quite happy if they never had to deal with airports at all — whether it be lumpen security officials, overpriced food, sloth-slow immigration or taxi rip-offs.

 

Some places like Sanya Phoenix International Airport, unburdened by WiFi or air-conditioning, further discourage lingering travellers by actually closing the airport and fastening a chain around the entrance doors when there is a lull in flights. At airports like New Delhi’s once-acclaimed Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3, arriving passengers often cannot physically leave on account of the taxi mayhem outside and the lack of call cabs. This facility like many others wrongly believes that transport is something ‘outsourced’ and not part of the airport ‘experience’. Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi meanwhile serves up a security screening as epic and white knuckle as any Die Hard sequel.

 

Yet, as airlines push for more slots and fewer airports impose night-time curfews, travellers are milling about hubs and spokes at all times of day, often on do-it-yourself adventures on a budget that involve lengthy layovers. And it has dawned on savvy airports that this captive audience is ripe for the picking. Airports have responded with loungers, massage chairs, green oases with water features and benches, seats with views of aircraft arriving and departing, and even hotel rooms or beds by the hour. What’s tops?

 

Far and away the comfiest pick in Asia is Singapore’s Changi Airport with the new Terminal 4 upping the ante for transit passengers, no longer the walking dead but now transformed into somnambulist spenders. Think gaming stations, complimentary movies, unblemished interiors where you could lick your food off the floor, transit tours of the city, and mini hotels like the Aerotel in Terminal 1 with rooms by the hour, a fitness centre and an outdoor pool with a Jacuzzi. It’s not mean with facilities either. A double-plus room offers 20sq m of space with an en suite bathroom, power shower and hairdryer. Changi has transit hotels at Terminals 2 and 3 as well where a budget room may set you back US$60.

There’s an Aerotel at KL International Airport too. The delightful slick-grunge capsule transit by Container Hotel is not airside alas and is about a 15-minute walk from the arrivals area at KLIA2.

 

Weary at New Delhi’s T3? Try a colourful and private sleeping pod with WiFi at SAM’s snooze at my space. A three-hour kip for one costs US$36 while a 12-hour sleep with beer and a meal is US$115. Mumbai’s posh, spacious, and easy-to-use T2 has a Niranta with rooms by the hour or overnight. Even the much-lambasted Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok, has its Miracle Transit Airport with private rooms, spa facilities, massage, WiFi and more while Dubai International Airport dishes out somewhat overtaxed rest zones, more comfortable sleeping pods (Terminals 1 and 3) and a transit hotel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hong Kong International Airport, which describes itself as ‘the airport that never sleeps’ where 72 mn passengers pass through each year, does not offer any transit hotel though it does boast an IMAX theatre and other diversions.

 

Seoul’s Incheon International Airport is popular with travellers with a compact design that eliminates excessive walking, selection of transit tours, comfortable lounging chairs for a night’s stretch, movies, and a transit hotel with WiFi, en suite bathrooms, TV and tea and coffee making facility in-room. Tokyo’s Haneda Airport is another good choice with welcoming staff, thoughtful facilities, lounges, massage services, and a plush transit hotel run by The Royal Park where an 18 sq m double room promises Grohe showers, TV, WiFi, and an electric kettle.

 

In Europe, mid-size and hugely popular Munich Airport fares well on passenger-friendly stats serving up an 18 km bicycle path that runs around the facility through verdant grasslands, tennis matches, annual indoor surfing contests, carbon emission offsets, free WiFi, an 18,000 sq ft VIP relaxation area with sleeping suites, and Airbrau, an in-house microbrewery. ‘Napcab’ cubes in T2 offer pod sleep-ins with work area at 10 Euros an hour (10pm-6am) and Euro 15 daytime. WiFi at the airport is complimentary. Mehran Nasseri should have picked Munich.

The author is a Hongkong-based journalist and Editor, SmartTravelAsia.com and AsianConversations.com



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