I spend a fair bit of time at airports. That is even due to the fact that I travel a lot but more because I hate being late or even just on time. I will rather spend useless hours sitting around than run the risk of being 5 minutes late. Sometimes to my detriment. Like when you know you are flying business class (thanks, Finnair!) and can use the lounge, but the check-in counter works on Asian time and only opens an hour and a half before take-off. An hour and a half!!
Mind you, most of my airport layover time in recent months was spent in security lines at various airports. Hours of packing and unpacking my laptop and wondering if being patted down by security personnel was the most action I was going to get. That was usually followed by hours in uncomfortable metal chairs waiting for my flight to board. Meh.
I decided to investigate some more exciting options on how to spend long airport layovers and even started to include a stopover here and there to break up the trip. Let me share my wisdom (lol)…
When I need to get quickly from A to B I chose the connection with the shortest airport layover possible. Mind you, airports like Dubai are huge and you will need to go through security again and possibly take a train so anything under 1,5 hours doesn’t cut it. That is of course without shopping time which you may want to calculate for here.
For me, the ultimate advantage of sticking to one airline and collecting miles are things like lounge privileges. As a silver member with Emirates, I used to have unlimited lounge access in Dubai the reason I would choose Emirates over any other airline for a long time. Their lounge comes with unlimited Moet & Chardon, a decent size buffet, good wifi, a Costa coffee kiosk, and best of all – showers!
After a year and not enough new status miles, I was downgraded and with that my lounge access was gone. And while Emirates now offers lounge access for anyone for $100 for 4 hours I cannot – to my own surprise – drink enough champagne to get my money’s worth.
There are a few alternative lounges though and I recently tried the Marhaba Lounge in Terminal B. While I was happy for a place to chill, have breakfast, and read Arabian Vogue, I don’t think it was worth the EUR 50 (shower would have cost extra).
Mind you, I was delighted to come across the Concordia Lounge at Makassar airport the other day which only cost EUR 8. No alcohol but drinks, some food and wifi and really comfy chairs. It is worth poking around even some abstruse little airports. For example, airports that you can reach with Bangkok Airways will have a beautiful little lounge for all their customers. In Koh Samui that means free wifi and a free popcorn machine – hurrah!
However, most lounges these days charge for a certain amount of hours (usually 3 or 4-hour intervals). If you are not going to make full use of it, I doubt you will get your money’s worth even if you eat non-stop and download porn. If you are spending a full 4 hours at a lounge it might be well worth it. Airports are expensive and especially in a place like Dubai you can easily spend a small fortune on a snack.
With apps like Lounge Buddy and Priority Pass you can get access to different lounges all over the world. Either for a smaller fee or for free depending on your membership. I can’t justify the expense quite yet but if I am starting to spend any more times at airports, I may very well put it on my Christmas wish list. Anybody got experience with them?
If you argue that nothing will make the airport a happy Disneyland-like place you are probably right. Especially during the night, I try to avoid long layovers but if it cannot be helped I will get a hotel. I know for some it is a budget question but I will never be one to sleep at an airport. Many airport hotels will allow bookings for a few hours (and nothing shady about it!) or you can rent a sleeping pod by the hour. Much more comfy than those metal chairs and for me worth it – have I mentioned how much I like to sleep?!
If you have even more time to spend you may want to make it a proper stopover as in actually leaving the airport.
Places like Dubai are perfect for that as the airport is only a short taxi ride from the city center. A great opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing especially when your luggage is being checked through.
Many airlines that frequent big stopover hubs offer free stopovers for a night or two and immigration usually allows for a short visitor’s visa for many passport holders.
On a recent long distance flight, I decided to take advantage of this and actually break up my trip by a mini city getaway. Dubai is perfect for that as there is much to see and do however I personally cannot afford to spend more than a weekend there.
I stayed at the Rove City Center which was perfect for a night. For lazy people like me, it offers everything that I needed for my stay: a short drive from the airport, extended check out time, a view from my room, a pool to do a few laps, a camel to remember that I was in Dubai, and an awesome breakfast. For those who are less lazy, it is a great place to venture out as it is located right by the Dubai Creek.
Either way, the perfect way to break up a long trip and to get a 2-in-1 holiday feeling!