Cancun airport

on 09 November, 2012

Going to the airport is a generally depressing experience these days. We only do it because either we have to for work, or we’re off on holiday to somewhere far, far better...

After the usual rigmarole: endless queuing for ticketing (heart in the mouth in case you are over 23 kilos), then security. It’s enough to make you turn back and sit in the garden.

So, imagine turning up to Cancun airport in Mexico and feeling uplifted. We were met by the soft tones of the Flower Duet (or Sous le dôme épais) the famous duet for sopranos from Léo Delibes' opera, Lakmé (the British Airways’ theme music for those of us not opera inclined).

Anyone who doesn’t find that uplifting must have hearing difficulties or is ‘musically challenged’. We pressed on round the usual arrays of perfumes and spirits and then came across a couple dressed in what one can only assume is the Mexican national dress, dancing and having their pictures taken with travellers. They didn’t appear to be selling anything.

The whole place seemed to have a buzz about it. The departure lounge was pleasantly dressed, lots of natural light and there was an eclectic food offering that further added to the welcoming ambience. Also, there was a good array of shops for ordinary people. Not the usual phalanx of empty designer shops just for the wealthy. We ended up doing more shopping at Cancun airport than we did in 12 days in the resort (the bit of downtown we saw was scruffy and uninteresting and the shopping malls were like Heathrow Terminal 5 – one expensive designer store after another).

Next stop was Miami International. Horrendous. You think the country that put a man on the moon could work out how to get passengers in transit through the airport and onto their connecting flights with the minimum of bother. Not the US of A. You have to queue to go through immigration, even though you may only be there an hour, assuming you make your flight.

Anway, it went from bad to worse as American Airlines had problems with the Heathrow bound aircraft. Someone said it, or its replacement, was then sent to Spain and an old 767 was hauled out of a hanger. We were delayed for hours while they sorted out catering, security, airworthiness and Lord knows what else. The captain come on to apologise for American Airlines’ “incompetence” as he was just waiting for some paperwork to be signed off. We taxed out and then the captain said a fuel warning light had failed to go off. So much for pre-flight checks then. We taxed back, sat for an hour and then they decided to cancel the flight.

It goes on but I won’t bore you. If I never see Miami International again, it will be too soon. We have vowed never to get connecting flights in the US, certainly not through major hubs like Miami and JFK. Direct flights, preferably midweek and avoiding the likes of public and school holidays, Thanksgiving, President’s Week, may also help in making flying and the queuing at airports vaguely tolerable.

I recall a year or two ago at the TFWA Cannes conference, the head honcho at L’Oreal predicting that airports will become “sky cities” where people will go for the day, hours in advance of their flight, to relax and enjoy the facilities. That seems like a pipe dream after our recent experiences. I’d rather get a train, cruise ship or just drive.

Anyway if you wanna see how it could be done, visit Cancun airport.


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