I’m by no means a busy traveller – I’m not one of those people who can take their entire family to the moon and back on the AirMiles they collect in a year – but I do fly at least once a month, and frankly it’s getting me down. When God designed hell, he almost certainly modelled it on Heathrow: alongside the busiest motorway in the country (so that every journey requires a six-hour contingency in case of jams), with numerous terminals (making it highly likely that you will go to the wrong one), all with claustrophobically low ceilings and jaundice-inducing yellow lighting. Heaven, on the other hand, is where you’re sent if London City Airport is full – which it never is. What a joy: there are always more seats than passengers, and free wifi everywhere.
When I first started using it, my “local” airport Stansted was more LCY than LHR. Let me take you back [wavy lines and tinkling bells, please]…. Stansted’s high ceiling, its sail-like lining designed to minimise sound, allowed light to stream in to the refreshingly empty concourse. A few flights an hour passed noiselessly through the system – for once upon a time, Stansted was a tannoy-free airport, with flight updates on screens only. You could drop off your loved just outside the terminal, so that they could walk under cover into the building, and after a quick jaunt through security they would head off into the clouds.
Back to today [wavy lines, etc.]…. The ceiling is still high, but every available inch of floor space both landside and airside has been crammed with retail opportunities. The smell of clashing cuisines fills the place, against a background soundtrack of those racing car games in the arcade. To get the message across over the cacophony, repeated announcements are made about it being the “very last and final call for the three remaining passengers to somewhere ghastly”. The security queues snake endlessly, and quite how far down you need to strip seems to depend on the mood/masochism level of the person manning the conveyor belt. And worst of all, they have just introduced a £2 fee for dropping off at the terminal. At London City, not only is there no fee, but a man in a top hat opens your car door. Sheer heaven, I tell you.