By Dan Pigat
It’s been years since I was last at the airport in Stavanger, Norway, but The Huz recently visited for work, and had the craziest connections home. He graciously offered to be Travels with Baggage’s first guest blogger. Here’s a look at his tour of two European capitals within 24-hours.
Traveling through several different airports in one day gives you a range experiences, both good and bad. I thought I’d spread some of the great ideas I saw for making travel more efficient (or at least more pleasant) everywhere.
Table of Contents
Airport Check-in, Stavanger
Checking in at the airport in Stavanger couldn’t be easier. The pictures below are probably familiar to you. Simply print your ticket at a kiosk and drop your bag. The differences are subtle, but they explain why there’s no line.
First, you get multiple flights printed on a single boarding card. (I kept waiting for others to print until I realized I was already holding everything I needed).
Then you tag, scan and drop your luggage. Why wait in line for someone to do it for you?
I had tight connections, but they just worked. I was getting nervous when SAS boarding didn’t begin until 20 minutes before departure, but everyone was in their seats in 10 minutes, and the plane left two minutes early. How did this happen?
One reason is loading and unloading from both the front and back of the plane at the same time. Efficient, easy and easily done. Why don’t more airlines do this?
The food on SAS flights is much better than what you’re served on North American airlines. And it’s healthier, too! There’s more vegetables and for us North Americans, luxe food like shrimp and smoked salmon.
This isn’t design in the same sense as fashion or IKEA, but they took the time and attention to make you smile in the same space and cost that most companies would put an ugly airline logo. And since things taste different under pressure at 30,000 feet, why not design food and drink with that in mind?
Nice messages aside, there SAS offered some very practical twists with their food and drink. Ordering tea? Attach the teabag to the bottom of the cup so you just add water.
Stavanger Airport Restaurants
There were a few options in the Stavanger Airport for restaurants – all much better quality and design than what you’d find in most other airports around the world.
Sushi boat restaurants are very convenient: sit down to a wide selection and start eating in seconds. A big source of airport stress is the risk of missing your flight while waiting for food, so why aren’t there more of these?
Want to just grab and go? Use gravity for your condiments, and lose the cumbersome and messy lids.
Stavanger Airport Bar
This bar was pretty packed. The only difference from North America is that this picture was taken at 10 a.m. Europeans definitely aren’t as uptight about alcohol.
When you’re rushing to catch your flight, the last thing you’re going to do is stop and pick up a magazine or newspaper. Little surprises at the airport like complimentary reading material – right at your gate is what puts Europeans airports like Stavanger at the top of my list.
Why do flight attendants waste their time bringing newspapers to passengers? They usually have one and sometimes two choices, and they either run out (frustrating passengers) or have too many (wasting fuel and paper).
Instead, let passengers self-serve and select from several options – only taking those they’ll read onboard.
Heathrow Terminal 5
After living in London for a couple of years, I developed a love-hate relationship with Heathrow (OK, maybe more hate than love). But this would be my first time through its new Terminal 5, so I tried to have an open mind.
What I found was more of the same – starting with a lack of style and design in the facility itself. You only have to look up the ceiling in Terminal 5 to see what I mean.
Looking up at the ceiling, you’d think they weren’t finished yet. Sure there’s a lot of nice new shops in Heathrow Terminal 5 but if you spend any amount of time in there, it doesn’t look so shiny.
The complications and confusion were contagious from Terminals 1 through 5. As big and as busy as Heathrow is, if you need this many instructions just to get through it, you just may have done something wrong.
I was happy to see my favourite UK chain (Wagamama) with a restaurant in Terminal 5, but my connection was too tight to sit down. The UK is home to several celebrity chefs, and a great alternative was the take-away offers from Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food.
My fellow passengers were a bit jealous when they compared British Airways offerings to this, complete in a reusable lunch kit.
But maybe Heathrow is typical of travel, with both good and bad experiences. Hopefully, the right people are paying attention to the good from around the world (could they start in Norway?), and will bring it closer to home for the rest of us.
What’s the most efficient airport you’ve ever been through?