Manchester Airport, MAN
TK1994 to Istanbul, Turkey
The airport lies a relatively easy 13 kilometres south of central Manchester. Direct trains from Manchester Piccadilly station run roughly every 10 minutes, and take about 20 minutes to reach the airport. The station connects to the terminals via a somewhat convoluted mix of lifts, bridges and moving walkways.
Manchester Airport feels like an unplanned hodge-podge, with extra concrete buildings hurriedly tacked on over time. Terminal 2 has had a recent makeover, but Terminal 1 feels drab and unloved. There's a lack of natural light, with some stains and scuff marks on the floor tiles looking like they're old enough to fly unaccompanied. It'd be tempting to say Terminal 1 has lost its shine, but it didn't exactly twinkle in the first place.
For reasons best known to the airline, I couldn't get my boarding pass online. But the expected long queue at check-in doesn't materialise. It's straight to the desk, and check in with a minimum of fuss. And that's with arriving two hours early, rather than the recommended three.
The worst of those queues, however, has been at security, which is clearly understaffed post-pandemic. Out of 14 scanning lanes, only six are open. The long-standing pernickety attitude doesn't help, either. If you have more than a couple of charging cables in your bag, you're probably going to endure a secondary, manual check.
This time round, it takes 38 minutes to get through security. Which is far from ideal, but better than the horror stories that have circulated in the media about peak period security queues here.
FOOD AND DRINK
The good news is that there are plenty of options. The bad news is that none are especially inspiring. Familiar chains such as Upper Crust, Burger King and Giraffe are joined by Pizza Luce, which offers admittedly tasty-looking pizzas for £10.49 ($19), and the Grain Loft. The latter is your standard open plan airport restaurant, although the pub classics-leaning menu is complemented by an unexpected Middle Eastern kebabs section. Persian chips on the side, anyone?
There's no sense of place in the shopping, with several generic UK high street brands forming the bulk of the options. The general vibe is mid-market – there are Hugo Boss and Timberland stores – rather than designer luxury. You also have to walk a weaving path through the duty free shop to get to the gates, which shows a cynical prioritisation for money-extraction over customer experience.
That cynicism shows again with the gaming arcade open, but the children's zone by Gate 21 blocked off and stripped of any toys to play with. Particularly depressing are the pokies machines lining the corridor to the toilets. Still, at least the Wi-Fi is free, even if seating next to power points is sorely lacking.
Manchester Airport wants to be a world class hub. But it will never make the top tier until it puts keeping passengers happy above making money from them.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE