Friday, September 23, 2011

How to label international airports

I've just arrived back in San Diego after 3 long flights from Santiago.  Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru, to San Jose, Costa Rica and then finally to Los Angeles where we had left the car with some friends.  I got started thinking in my after-18th stage of tired mixed with jetlag about airports.  I had no idea what time it was, both of my phones were on different times than my watch and I had forgotten whether it was the US or Chile that had already changed for the season.  (It was Chile =)

So, I've been in airports in close to 20 countries, in some really small towns around the world and the biggest in the world.  Kosice, Slovakia, another small one outside of Milan that took me to another small one outside of Berlin, on the only SMOKING flight I've ever been on.  I've been to all 3 London airports, I've waiting in line in Seville cursing my brains out with Jefe, and I've gotten a salivary gland infection that caused me to receive a steroid shot in the butt while waiting in Detroit for 10 hours after our 3 flights back to Chicago were delayed, AFTER we had flown (with my mom and sister) from Corpus Christi, to Houston, to Detroit in order to get back to Chicago.  My brother got back from Corpus Christi driving before we made it!

So, my point is, just looking at two things will give you a big idea of what kind of airport/city/country you're in.  This I discovered when walking into the San Jose giftstore recently and was shocked.

#1:  Do they sell wooden structures of native people or metal structures representing buildings? 

#2:  Condition of the bathroom.  Is there a line?  Are the people waiting patiently?  Does the door lock?  Is there toilet paper?  Is it on the ground?  Does it flush properly?  Is there hot water in the sink?  Soap?  Towels or hand dryers?  Finally, is there a DRINKING FOUNTAIN outside. 

All of these factors and more need to be taken into account when evaluating an airport.  I'm going to work on a formula to figure out scores.  I'm sure there is some kind of international evaluation through the UN but mine will be better. 

San Jose was an interesting airport.  In talking with a woman on my flight whose husband has a business there, the people have very low living standards much like the rest of Central America.  However, the airport shows you just how many tourists they get.  In Santiago, Lima, Bogota, Quito, etc, I've never been spoken to in English.  Here, I was greeted in English.  I felt that sense of being attacked you feel in malls when walking into stores in the US.  They sell all the regular drinks, magazines, snacks, etc, as any airport in the US, the bathroom was beautiful, and there was a working drinking fountain.  Now, in order to bring up their scores, they will need a Starbucks in every terminal, wifi throughout the airport, a pet relieving station, a chapel and a prayer room.

I'm back in the boat now and just wanted to share my thoughts during my last trip.  I wish everyone a great weekend.


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