In fact, with hectic travel schedules, whether work or play, a major part of our time is spent inside airports. The thought came to me as I stood in an unending queue for security amidst chaos and frayed tempers at Goa’s new airport soon after it opened. Which airport ticks all the boxes as one we would most like to be stranded at, like Tom Hanks in The Terminal?
My guess is, probably none. But what if we had to pick? I called a few frequent flyers for a dipstick survey and unsurprisingly, most mentioned Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport. Version 2.0, of course.
I’m not surprised Goa struck out. The new terminal, though large and with the appropriate amount of steel and glass, lacks the finish it should have for a destination like Goa, a fact bemoaned by Goan celebrities like designer Wendell Rodricks, who posted on Facebook: “Why did they open an airport that needs completion and a thorough cleaning inside and out?” Ditto that Wendell. Already, it looks a tad worn and truth be told, I miss the kitschy plaster fisherfolk you’d bump into at unexpected corners in the old airport.
I caught brand pro Harish Bijoor disembarking at Delhi’s T3. What makes an airport special? “The presence of nature amidst all the steel,” he replied. Here’s where Bangalore’s airport, with its greenery and inquisitive, friendly sparrows, notches up points. “There’s twitter here – the real kind,” he says. Birds apart, he enjoys South Indian coffee, kuttu parathas and chicken Chettinad at Malgudi Tiffin Centre in the domestic terminal. The new five-star lounges feel “far from the madding crowd,” with hot dosas and efficient internet: oceans of quiet with the lure of massages at the spa and hot showers for the travel weary. Next, he says, is Delhi T3 for its bits of greenery and overall efficiency, despite its treadmill-like corridors. Cutest airport? Bhopal, which reminds him of a flying saucer. Most ethnic? The low-rise Kochi airport with its tiled roof.
Bangalore airport has improved vastly, is almost “swank and spiffy”, says sports commentator Charu Sharma. His biggest airport grouse? Bottlenecks at security checks. “What’s the point skating through airports only to get stuck in long, daunting queues at security checkpoints?” he asks. For foodie Aslam Gafoor, Bangalore’s KIA clearly “takes the cake”. Easy check-ins, soothing colour schemes to ease traveller stress, and friendlier security staff. The variety of 24-hour kerbside eateries means he needn’t head home hungry after a long trip.
Our old airport seems a lifetime away as we sit sipping espressos and eating quiches at KIA’s Café Noir at 1 am. Yes, things have changed for us travellin’ Bangaloreans. Add dedicated airport taxis and direct buses to Mysore, and a meet-and-greet service for your VIP visitors, and things are looking up. Oh, and have you tried the southern tadka French fries at Bar380 at the international departures terminal? I’m told it’s BIAL’s best kept foodie secret.
Ruma Singh, a Bangalore-based lifestyle writer and wine blogger, presents an (independent) column on observations, insights and what’s buzzing in the city.
—Ruma Singh (firstname.lastname@example.org)