Thursday, February 19, 2009

Travel Post 1 - The airports

After the great passport fiasco of 2008, the time came for me to strap on my parachute.

My itinerary was JKIA - DXB - LHR.

Its been said time and time and time again (often as you'll notice by Cold Tusker) that JKIA is a hole. It is. There's no other way to put it. It is dark, cramped, shabby and really quite dirty.

Yes..the airport is old and we either need an upgrade/expansion/renovation or a whole new airport but I personally do not think that we are making anywhere near the most of what we do have at the moment. For example, there is no reason whatsoever for the place to be so disgustingly dirty. The fixtures and fittings are of the very lowest quality and standard and are falling apart, the place is packed with many tiny shops that all seem to do the same 2 or 3 things....alcohol, perfumes, chocolates, curios (and often have no staff manning them), at arrivals passport control there were boxes and other crap spilling out of the some cupboard off to the side...I mean its just generally terribly shabby and tacky...there's a real low rent feel to the place....from the wobbly writing stand provided for filling in departure cards to the 'burglar proofing chic' look that seems to have been the design brief for the place. Its a sad and pathetic airport that conveys lack of care, planning or any sort of ambition.

Oh my wow! One thing that you definitely cannot say about Dubai airport is that whoever it belongs to is lacking ambition. I did not think that the old terminal (Terminal 1) was anything to scoff at, but the new terminal (Terminal 3) is phenomenal..if only for its sheer size. I walked over to Terminal 1 and by comparison it now seems small, stuffy, crowded and very underwhelming. Of course with Dubai, there's often the impression that they have perfected the art of the super glossy veneer that hides a fairly average if not tacky underbelly (and there are hints of it when you peep into certain nooks and crannies) but all in all it is a very nice place to transit through.

The shops are huge, the staff are plentiful and super attentive and the selection of certain things (alcohol, fragrances to name a couple) is just confusing. Nice space, seemingly well thought out, well planned, well trained and ample staff and a feeling that all aspects within it work in airport management, airline management and duty free management.

London impressions...nice lights illuminating their Terminal 3 building (also has a nice exterior quadrangle) and crowded.... Badly crowded and quite cramped.

Its not as bad as JKIA in that the shops are pretty okay and presented well and it is not as (evidently) filthy but it also gives the impression of being an airport that is stretched to its very limits.


  1. JKIA is a rural airpport for real! That one for Mombasa I have no words. Is it an international airport by the way? When you are there you feel like you are in ushago!

    LHR need to refurbish terminal three for real, its a really dirty shitty place for a first world country in my opinion. (JKIA is dirtier but we're in the fourth world). The escalators and the paths leading directly to the underground make me feel like carrying my suitcases for real! They better get themselves some better cleaners than those people you see there idle chit chatting the whole day in foreign languages (you know which ones).

    Well the new terminal 5 is marvellous I can tell you that, it doesn't have as many shops as T3 (at least it didn't by the end of last year) but those people knew what they are doing when they constructed it! For some reason or the other I have never been to DXB, but I have heard its praises from far and wide. think ......what would I go do in Dubai? I need a plan (and money!)

  2. Mama:

    I haven't been to T5 at Heathrow. Its really that good? My impression was that it wasn't that great..probably because of all the teething problems they had.

    Re: Dubai
    Emirates have the cheapest fares generally so if you're willing to take an 8 or so hour detour it's not a bad plan for travelling to the UK. They also have some stopover packages that are pretty reasonable. Plus..they have the new A380 on the Heathrow route now....I didn't get to travel on it but some day soon my money tree may sprout me a harvest to go again and I will definitely be booking to fly the beast.

    And no..I don't work for Emirates nor am I a shareholder.

  3. LoL Mystery shopper, I know the feeling. I also feel like I advertise for people on my blog when I praise them! Some people have even asked me to ask for payment for my advertising I just praise a good thing when I see it.

    T5 is great maybe simply because its very new, everything sparkles, modern stuff and all (generally things I like).

    Yes, Emirates fares are usually cheaper, though not by so much IMHO, I prefer to go directly coz I really fear losing my luggage, I need to get over that.

  4. I find waiting in Dubai very boring.
    Heathrow gets too cramped especially now with the extra security checks...
    JKIA-tumetupa basic courtesies..

  5. MainaT:
    I actually agree with you about boredom but for me that's pretty much across the board with all airports. Anything over 2-3 hours spent in any airport starts to get torturous. I once had a 7hr 55 minute stopover in Dubai that was hell. It was actually an 8hr 5 minute stop but the airline had a policy where they put people in hotels for any stop over 8 hours so the rascals were sidestepping that by fudging the arrival and departure times for certain ticket classes.

    As for security checks..we seem to be heading to a time when all passengers will be required to fly in those tight, one piece jumpsuits that they wear in futuristic shows/movies like Star Trek and The Island. Either that or more likely X-ray walkways like in Total Recall.

  6. Let's hope the Phase 2 picks up pace. The parking situation for both cars and planes is atrocious. KQ plans to double its fleet in 5 years and with JKIA the only hub, I see problems.

    The 3rd phase (or new Terminal) might break ground in 2012 but that is a 3-year project. Not sure who will fund it.

    Kenya needs a larger airport to sustain its tourism industry and status as a hub airport.

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