TACKY OR TRENDY?

I was travelling this week and was bored sitting in a very average airline lounge. Instead I wondered around aimlessly looking for something to buy in one of the airport shops (which are fast becoming the same shop repeated every 20 metres). Unfortunately I wasn’t in Hong Kong airport with Jimmy Choo at my beckon call, so I had to settle on trying to buy a souvenir for my 3 year old daughter.

Which got me to thinking… what are some of the best souvenirs you can buy at an airport? Here is a list of some of the more interesting ones and you can be the judge if they are tacky or trendy!

Shanghai Pudong Airport
PANDA HAT – a hat and attached mittens (also available a ton of panda-clad merchandise – bags, beer coolers and toys).

Tokyo Narita Airport
HELLO KITTY or ORIGAMI – What can I say, Japan is all things Hello Kitty! A nice alternative is a gift from the Origami museum located in the airport

Cairns Airport, Australia
CANE TOAD COIN PURSE – The perfect gift for someone who has everything.

Stockholm Arlanda Airport
REINDEER PELT – Yes you read correctly. Maybe stick to buying perfume here!

London Heathrow Airport
RUBBER DUCK – Love the Harrods one (my favourite). Of course the usual double decker bus money boxes are available too.
I am yet to see any inspiring souvenirs from the upcoming 2012 Olympics, so would be keen to hear from anyone who has found one.

Los Angeles – LAX
OSCAR – When in LA… how can you resist a fake Oscar statue (quite easily!)

Any USA Airport
CAP/T-SHIRT – Always a great place to buy the local basketball, hockey, football, baseball supporter gear

Singapore Airport
ORCHIDS – Alive and packaged ready to travel. Although check if you are allowed to bring them to your destination.

What did I buy? Pink panda slippers… perfect for a 3 year old!

CRASH LANDING

After travelling last week on holiday it was a welcome experience at an airport (Queenstown and Christchurch, NZ) not to have to take off my shoes, belt, watch and everything else, then go through a scanner. The old fashioned joy of actually being able to say goodbye (or welcome) to someone on a flight at the boarding gate was such a nice experience, and sadly is almost a thing of the past.

This got me to thinking to the other extreme, what are the worst airports out there? Here is a list of the ones to avoid (major airports only).

1. JFK Airport Terminal 3, New York City
In 1960, Pan American Airlines built the Worldport, fifty two years later this is still used by Delta as an international hub. Terminal 3 is the worst single airport terminal in America, and probably in the Western world. It is known for endless immigration lines in a dank basement, for an utter lack of food and shopping options. It seems the cleaning crew gave up in despair a while ago too.
2. Manila Airport Terminal 1, Philippines
The terminal has been a frequent target of criticism with travellers and the business community complaining it is congested, run-down and filthy, and bad toilets. Bribery and theft are also rampant in the terminal. Thanks heavens they are re-building this.
3. Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport Terminal B/C, Russia
Rated terrible for anything where you have to interact with airport staff: their attitude, their language skills, and the speed with which they process passengers. It can take 2 hours to transfer to a connecting flight.
4. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi
Nairobi’s airport was built to support about 2.5 million passengers and now averages about double that.
It’s hot, ugly, dirty and confusing, full of touts and scam artists and perpetually overcrowded. This Third World construction site (a new terminal was meant to be built in 2005) remains a place for travelers to avoid.
5. Paris — Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 3
CDG got the “worst airport” award two years running due to the amount of homeless people there. It is one of the worst terminals to transit in across scattered terminal making changing planes here is tiring, irritating, and sometimes a little terrifying. This being Paris, there is also usually a strike on too.
6. Amman Queen Alia Airport
Amman is just plain bad in bathroom cleanliness, places to sit and service of any kind. Reviews on the Skytrax website make it clear that you may just want to “hold it in” at this airport, as the bathrooms are so disgusting!
7. LaGuardia Airport US Airways Terminal, New York City
LaGuardia was recently rated the worst major airport in America (by both JD Power and Associates and Zagat Survey). It has no rail link and is overcrowded and experiences constant delays. Scary service from an airport at one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
8. Newark Airport Terminal B
America’s worst airport for on-time arrivals , and possibly the most dull airport in the country. Once you pass security there is no food and shopping to entertain you. Seems they didn’t get the memo on the right way to do this!
9. “Paris” Beauvais Airport, France
Fifty miles north of Paris this airport lacks seating, services, and feels like a warehouse. Closing at midnight and with no rail link to Paris if your flight gets delayed you may be sleeping on the floor.
10. Chicago Midway Airport
Chicago’s Midway airport ranked as the nation’s worst for on-time departures

TRAVEL TUESDAY – Taxis


Landing from a long flight and wondering how best to get to your hotel? Well 54% of travellers choose a taxi over getting the train (16%), catching a bus (16%) or walking (2%)

If you are flying into London then you are lucky, the famous black taxis are number one for safety, friendliness, cleanliness, quality of driving and knowledge of the area . But it comes at a price, as they are the most expensive globally.

Best value for money – Bangkok’s infamous Tuk Tuk. But it was also voted worst in the world for ‘Quality of Driving’, poorest cleanliness and safety, so you may want to rethink catching one if you are on your way to an important meeting.

Who are the best tippers? Hong Kong residents are the most generous, choosing to tip at least 20% of the fare or more. Argentinians are the worst tippers, most never tipping their taxi drivers.

World’s best taxis
1.London
2.New York
3.Hong Kong
4.Tokyo
5.Singapore
6.Bangkok
7.Berlin
8.Helsinki
9.Dublin
10.Madrid

Source: Annual taxi report compiled by Hotels.com (5,000 travellers from 23 countries) , a leading hotel booking website, travellers rank Singapore as the fifth best city in the world for taxis.

TRAVEL TUESDAY – Airport Lounges


The quality of airport lounges have a big influence (for me anyway), on how early I get there for a flight. Holidays I always make an effort to make time for a glass of champagne pre-boarding to get into the spirit, but work trips not so much. So which lounges are the cream of the crop and what do they offer.

World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge (as voted on world airline awards)
1. Qatar Airways
Has its own luxury terminal with full spa facilities, martini bar, restaurants, bedrooms, sushi bar, children’s play area… and the list goes on!
2. Thai Airways
Spa, Restaurant, sleep rooms
3. Lufthansa
Restaurants, relaxing areas, bars

World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge
1. British Airways
2. Virgin Atlantic Airways
3. Cathay Pacific Airways

Personally I would add Cathay, Emirates and Qantas to the first class lounge list, as not sure Thai and Lufthansa are that special. Business class – definitely Virgin number one, and from my experience Cathay and Singapore Air outshine BA.

But I will let you be the judge!