Air travel and coronavirus: The eight worst things about airports

I miss travel. There we go. Three simple words. Very simple, in fact.

Words that could in no way be described as "unexpected". Words that you would entirely anticipate reading in a newspaper's travel section during a pandemic where nobody is doing much travelling – including a travel writer who had set foot on four continents before the first three months of the year were out, but has barely managed to see four postcodes in the subsequent two.

So yes, I miss travel. I have been privileged to have it as a cornerstone of my professional existence for the best part of 20 years – and its current absence is a sizeable hole in who I am. So let the violins play. Let the angelic choirs sing in sympathy and sorrow. Let the gods look down from Olympus or Valhalla or wherever, and weep their eternal salty tears.

[Sarcastic bit ends]

One thing I do not miss, however, is the airport.

If we were sticking to the standard script of this sort of article, there would now follow a paragraph about how travel is all about the destination and not the journey. Except in those cases – like cruises and road trips and rail holidays – where the journey is the destination. And about how the airport is merely a glorified bus-stop with added strip-lighting. But we'll skip that part. Because you've read it before. And because – obviously – you don't miss the airport either.

There have been plenty of things you have been missing in the last 10 weeks – friends, positive headlines, personal space, haircuts, not having to pretend you are cocooned within a two-metre-square box when you enter any shop – but the big place with the planes isn't one of them.

Which of the following Airport Thingies do you miss the least? That's the question here...

1. Mr Asking The Obvious

"Did you pack this bag yourself, sir?". Well yes, I do hope so. Because if my five-year-old did it, it's going to be very heavy on felt-tips and cheap plastic approximations of characters from irritating children's TV shows, but light on clothes, phone chargers, and all the other things I need to get through the next two weeks.

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2. Ms Everything Is Too Much Trouble

I appreciate airport security is an important task, and that peering into eight bags of other people's underwear every minute probably isn't fun. But do the Pat You Down Crew undertake training courses in being as po-faced as possible? "Don't you dare say a cheery hello while I'm checking if your small bottle of shampoo constitutes an international incident. And woe betide you if I find a mini tube of toothpaste that you HAVEN'T LAID OUT SEPARATELY! Roy, take over. I'm on break."

3. The Fluorescent Maze of Doom

In a rush to catch your flight, madam? About to hyperventilate because the board is already flashing "Final Call"? Absolutely, speed is of the essence. Please negotiate this labyrinth of perfume counters, flavoured vodka, Swiss chocolate and pricey cigars that you know, deep down, won't change your father-in-law's coldly negative opinion of you, now matter how many times you buy them for him. Yes, Theseus and the Minotaur are still here – they're selling Jo Malone over by the cigarettes.

4. 'A Big Discount on High Street Prices'

"Two packets of paracetamol and a bottle of spring water? That'll be $86.26 madam. Cash or card?". Which high street? Rodeo Drive?

5. The Non-Final Final Call

Sorry sir, did you run through The Fluorescent Maze of Doom because we intimated that your flight was taking off in 10 seconds? Ah, bit of a lie. Please grab a seat over there for 40 minutes. You should probably go and wash your face.

6. 'Gourmet Airport Dining'

For people who think that leaving home two hours early so they can nibble at some enormously marked-up chicken alla beige is an excellent idea. 

7. Hunt the Water Fountain

We're trying to save the planet. We've introduced free water dispensers to cut down on plastic bottles. Where are they? Ah, that would be telling. Take the dimly-lit back corridor past the broken service lift, and if you get to the taxi rank, ask Jeff at Go! Cars for further directions. We're all doing our bit you know. Polar-bear emoji.

8. 'Smart' Technology

We've installed 37 auto-readers which can scan your passport in seconds. It will make the arrivals process completely seamless. And in honour of 47 flights landing together in the last five minutes, we've decided to open a random four of them. The back of the line is over there sir. Yes, in the next terminal. Get the shuttle-train.

So yes. Airports. Awful dens of chicanery and spiralling frustration. See you soon. Please.

The Telegraph, London

See also: Fast trains, slow bars: The 11 things from overseas I miss the most

See also: The 11 destinations Australians should be able to visit in 2021

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