Value Added Terminal


I may be terrible with remembering names and birthdays but if you looked inside my brain you would find airport blueprints.  Well, maps of airports and Chanel boutiques around the world.  I think I’d make a pretty good human iPhone travel app. Give me the airport’s IATA  three letter code and I will recite the ranking of each airport based on check-in  efficiency, baggage claim down time, location/ hours of VAT (Value Added Tax) offices, dining choices, and any other odd services like shower rentals (NRT: Tokyo, both terminals) or foot massages (PEK: Beijing, Terminal 2).   But I know what you really want to know is how’s the shopping…duty free shopping, that is…the tiny glimmer of silver lining for the long, long international flights.


Well, unfortunately for me my first flight this morning pushed out of  Brussels National (BRU) , a tiny airport.  B+ for general efficiency–it picks up the + for processing my VAT refund very quickly even this early in the morning.  But if you have a long wait, bring food and some form of entertainment.  For an international airport in a bustling metroplex, it feels very second rate. This airport, in my own grading system, is barely a C-. But as long as I don’t see human hands sticking out of a window to throw my luggage at me (e.g. RCB: Richard’s Bay, S. Africa) then I won’t rank it as a D.

Anyway, from Brussels it’s a wink of a flight to London, and I arrive at Heathrow’s relatively new Terminal 5, which is so celebrated it has its own website. I give Heathrow an A just for its politeness. In fact, I give all of London an A for this.  Maybe it’s just the English accent that makes everything sound so much…nicer.  I mean, you’re an idiot still means you’re an idiot, but they’ll say it like please, madam, you’re an idiot, thank you. And the insult just doesn’t hurt quite as much.  For this reason I love flying on British Air and connecting through London whenever possible; there’s just a certain polite efficiency that runs through the entire plane ride and terminals. There are signs telling you exactly how many minutes it will take you to get from point A to point wherever so that you could plan accordingly. God forbid you should be late here; it wouldn’t be…polite.  And the shopping! Pure madness. But I’m old school. From T5


I can’t wait to catch my pleasantly narrated shuttle to good old Terminal 3, or what I consider my own version of a Las Vegas “high.”  As soon as I set foot inside T3, my ears perk up like my cats’  when they hear another animal outside the window. It’s a signal from my brain to pay attention.  Something good is happening!  The sound level is as high and the flashing lights as bright as at any casino on the main strip. I literally hear a flush of coins dropping as if from slot machines, when in fact it’s  just the sound of funny money rustling in my pockets, dying to be spent at the Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, et al, boutiques all around me. If they allowed smoking and scantily dressed waitresses to bring you cocktails then T3 would truly be a Vegas experience. Just more pleasant, and no roulette tables unless you consider the boutiques to be just as dangerous.

Anyway, here I am on my laptop writing this after having spent half an hour at the Chanel boutique. It’s a tradition for me to pick up a hat from this terminal’s store every time I pass through here, but the dollar is still being pounded by the…pound, so even though I also spot a bag I’ve not seen in the US, I decide to pass. It’s always easy to spend funny money on the road, until you get the credit card statement later and then it’s no longer very funny.


T3 gets an A+ for entertainment value. Value Added Terminal. Here is where you will find people of all colors, sizes, and personal preferences.  While I am typing this, two young boys are texting in Arabic on their phones next to me. Apparently my glances are not surreptitious enough so they move away from me.  Sheesh, it’s not like I can understand what they’re writing. They may be texting some juicy details but it just looks like pretty squiggles to me.

But as soon as they leave, another family comes over to take their seats. This little boy has spotted my shiny laptop and almost sits on my lap. In seconds his hands are already near my keypad.  I’m amused by his forwardness but disturbed by the tiny grubby fingers so I move them away from the Caps Lock key. He smiles and tries again. I think it’s time to put my laptop away; my gate info has just been posted on the board anyway. The boy pets my laptop when I close it, disappointed. But I manage to get this from him as I get up…


I think there’s still a little time left in my T-3 casino. What do you say, let everything ride on red?


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