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Top 10 airports… for something

Beijing Airport / PEK – Foster and Arup’s sweeping, cathedral-like ceilings are large-scale public architecture and engineering at their best. Too bad the food, service and shops are rubbish. Still, if you have a hang-over, you can get a frappucino followed by noodle soup. Also, getting picked up by a driver airside and rushed through Customs is fabulous. Sigh…

 

Burlington, VT / BTV – quick, friendly, central, they don’t lose luggage, and the security people are friendly. There’s a decent waitress-with-a-blonde-bun restaurant with a great view of the runway and surrounding scenery. If this airport had good coffee (and no, Green Mountain Coffee doesn’t count when it’s badly made!), it would rock. Look at this photo – nobody there! and it’s always like this.

 

Chicago / ORD – The heaven that is great airport delis and natural light, the hell that is Concourse E/F and ORD security. I have been more miserable here than at many other airports, but happier too. Getting stuck overnight (not uncommon) means you can visit Chicago! Screw the airport hotel and live it up in town.

 

Denver Concourse B / DEN  – Another great one for light and space. If you need to get the blood moving again, stretch out on the bouncy moving walkway. Do NOT get stuck here overnight. The nearest massively overpriced box motels are 8 miles away, at the edge of the weather-cursed no-man’s land of the airport zone.

 

Grand Junction, CO / GJT – like Burlington, easy in, easy out, and a hell of a flight over the Rockies from Denver, so maybe not ideal for the Gravol crowd. Still, the planes are small, so they tend to avoid the worst – except sometimes the tarmac. You can get there in 1h15 from Moab, Utah if you really need to.

 

Irkutsk, Siberia / IKT – that really is the entrance, or at least the one we used. What I don’t have a photo of is the wooden baggage chute from the tarmac into the terminal, really a shed where you were advised to watch your luggage. I understand they’ve renovated it, but they said that before we arrived too… Excellent.

 

 

Reagan National, Washington DC / DCA – practically in town, great services, human-scale architecture by Cesar Pelli, this is a lovely airport. It also seems uncrowded and flows well, partly since it doesn’t do [most] international arrivals and much of its traffic is business and government shuttles to NYC and BOS. Apparently there’s a great sushi restaurant; something to look forward to.

 

Sucre, Bolivia / SRE – what this photo can’t show is that the airport is at 9,527′ in the Andes, in a sort of trough surrounded by peaks. The weather closes in often and there are instrument issues, so pilots have to fly by day and time their approach just right. Despite turbulence and tight turns, stewardesses serve the whole time. These airlines are the real pros. If you miss a flight, however, they won’t tell you until the end of the day, which could mean a hair-raising, $500 12-hour peak-skirting single-lane race through the Andes at night, with a coca-chewing, frog-eyed driver and logging trucks barrelling down on you through the mud and rain. I don’t have a photo of that either, more’s the pity ;>

 

Telluride, CO / TEX – At 9,078′ elevation, this is North America’s highest commercial airport. The ramp up to nowhere is a heart-in-mouth experience, but if you did crash, what a way to go, eh? Serving a gorgeous location, the strip mainly exists to serve celebrity and other VIP jets, though many of those homes stand empty much of the year. I wonder if Oprah closes her eyes when the cliff ends?

 

Ulan Ude, Siberia / UUD – where NOTHING is in English and you have no idea what’s going on, but somehow it’s all okay. This city, free of foreigners into the 80s and pretty remote from Moscow’s grip, is not easy but is a great stop-off for visits to the Lake Baikal area, and much easier to be in than Irkutsk. You can also go via Trans-Siberian Railway.

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