The Bombay airport, which includes Santa Cruz and Sahar, is one of the dreariest places to be stuck in during delayed flights or a strike, as it happened yesterday. There is absolutely nothing to do, except to look at Indians going to Dubai or returning from Dubai, and occasionally making way for a VVIP to pass through.
Other airports are different.
Frankfurt airport is a virtual town in itself, with a score of restaurants, a church and sex shop. And underneath the terminal is the railway station from which he Lufthansa Express sets out on one of the world's most picturesque runs along the Rhine on Bonn and Dusseldorf. In the train, Lufthansa hostesses serve you complimentary champagne, they ask you whether you would like to have your champagne with orange juice or plain.
Heathrow is another great airport it is a pleasure to be stranded in. it is the ideal airport to change planes for onward journeys across the Atlantic. There is a very English pub in the transit lounge, you head straight for it and order a pint of bitter. Feel the warm beer going down your throat. There is also a bookshop carrying all the latest books, magazines and newspapers, magazines and newspapers. If you start browsing in it, you are likely to miss your connection.
Heathrow also has its own train in the terminal's basement. You buy your ticket, get in te familiar London Underground and get a confortable ride into the rude taxi drivers, ruder traffic policemen at home.
JFK in New York is several terminals together. It is no doubt a vast complex, but because it is separate units it does not quite impress. Also, as with everything else in newyourk, it is a little seedy. But the seediness is the essential charm of New York.
Airports in other American cities are posh and the airports of even the medium cities in the US are larger and better serviced than Bombay.
I had to spend a few hours at the fog-bound Detroit airport. Time flew, though the planes were not flying. There was a room where you could play chess: seats with little TV sets attached to their and watched video. And there were two IBM computers, programmed, with which you could play on for hours. I did a programme real estate and must have sold millions of dollars of property.
Finally, when the plane did take off, all the passengers were served complimentary drinks to make up for the delay.
There are other airports, Singapore, Hong Kong, even little Bangkok, each one with its own merits.
I have come to the conclusion that an airport is as good as the home airline that operates from it. Singapore and Hong Kong are classy because they are the home bases of Singapore and Cathay Pacific airlines. And Bombay, after all, is the home base of only Air-India. For the airline it represents, it is adequate.