Always full of drama

Monday, 17 September 2012

No Really - Back in the USSR

My first experience of departing from Kiev's Boryspil airport was not positive. Like much of the former Soviet Union, communist security measures were much in evidence, typically you would have to pass a x-ray security check before checking in then again after checking in and before going through passport control. All in all it was an exercise in how not to run a modern airport. That was 2008. Last year I had to pass though Boryspil international terminal once again. The difference was incredible, despite being housed in the same Soviet era building designed by a man that didn't do curves, the interior had been improved immeasurable, brighter, clearer more space, more seats. Today I am flying back to London using the new terminal F. My expectations were high, a new terminal, European security procedures, and Costa coffee.
Unfortunately it seems terminal F has been designed by the blind brother of Terminal B's architect. The layout of the check in area beggars belief, the departure boards, of which there are only one set, are positioned right above the main and only thoroughfare. In the grand tradition of most airports, people who have arrived six hours early, congregate in front of the departure boards to see which check in desk they need, despite knowing full well the information will not come up for another four hours. Trying to get past these people was like parting the Red Sea. If there had been a Ken Livingston around I am sure he would have charged for congestion, or at least clamped those blocking the way. 
The reason I wanted to get through was to find a seat. When eventually the Red Sea did part, I saw the seats, all ten of them, and all complete with entire families camping on them. They appeared not so much to be waiting for flight and more to be homeless. Eventually I managed to park my bum on a narrow window ledge for a pile inducing three hours. Still at least they had free Wifi.

To be honest, the staff are very good, check in was extremely efficient, security was good and done with a smile, even immigration was painless. Things seemed to improve once into the departure lounge, it was bright and airy with plenty of seating and a Costa coffee. Of course having been on an overnight bus trip, I was by now, dying for a pee, the act of which brought the illusion crashing back to ground. There were three urinals, for the entire lounge, yes, that’s three urinals, not toilets. Fortunately us men can whip it out and do the business quickly and efficiently. The Ladies however who take longer over their ablutions, had bigger problems. The queue was out the door and around the corner. Some of the more Mediterranean looking women had grown beards whilst waiting.

Once relieved, I took it upon myself to refill at Costa, where another shock awaited me. £4 for a small coffee. As it was the only place to get liquid refreshment, and as I had had nothing in 12 hours, I bite the bullet, slightly breaking one tooth, and paid the price.

I would like to say things got better, and for once they did. The flight was uneventful and on-time but arrival in Heathrow’s terminal five was like landing on another planet. I have been through Heathrow many times and although not fantastic it’s functional. Terminal 5 however is something else. It made the Germans look like bumbling slackers. From the moment I set foot off the plane, to stepping outside the terminal was less than 10 minutes. Immigration was both courteous and rapid. When I arrived in the baggage hall, my bag was already there, a breeze through customs and into the light airy and well laid out space that is land side. Of course I had arrived in the middle of the Paralympics, I am sure once the summer’s spectacle of sport is over, terminal 5 just like most of the rest of the UK will slip back into it’s old ways. Hopefully by then though I will be driving through Germany where things are a little more predictable.