It has been long since I last had a good airport experience, apart from the shiatsu massage (I paid for) in JFK last January.
Airports in western countries have become hostile territory for travelers. I can understand strict rules and thorough controls due to a tense international situation (although I think they wouldn’t be too useful in preventing an “intelligent” terrorist attack) but impoliteness, lack of courtesy and even some abuses are not justified by this!
My worst experiences have been in several US airports…
Japan has been telling me a different story so far: Arrive to Narita International Airport and you’ll be received with a smile and a warm “welcome!”. What about Haneda, Tokyo’s main international airport until Narita opened in 1978 and now dedicated mostly to domestic flights, charters and routes to China, handling about 60 million passengers per year?
I had bought my ticket online (actually the transaction was concluded on the phone as I couldn’t fully understand the payment instructions… in Japanese!) from Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport (JAL 533). I had a numeric code that had to be used on the automatic check-in machines and well… these had only Lapanese language menus (which is strange here). After randomly playing with the touchscreen for a while, I asked for help to a JAL (Japan Air Lines) employee that was passing by (the word “sumimasen“, meaning “excuse me” can work miracles in Japan). She smiled and I inquired in my rudimentary Japanese if the machine had an English language option. The answer was negative and she got interested about my needs (always in Japanese). I said: “I have a reception number” while showing her the code on my phone. She graciously dialed on the screen and my boarding pass and receipt were printed in a few seconds. I then asked what should I do with my luggage and was sent to counter number 72, which I missed by taking the wrong way. A security guy gently indicated me the right place, always with a smile.
Check-in was fast, no dangerous substances packed. Then came security, where they invited me to the control area and, always with extreme courtesy, made me take my laptop out of the backpack and deposit it on the x-ray belt. Zooooom through the metal detector and my stuff was given back… actually I was thanked by the security officer for having controlled my things.
6 people were involved in all my check-in/security experience. They spoke almost no English, nor did the machine. All of them smiled at me and treated me like a human being and thanked me for being at their service… It seems to be it was quite the opposite!!
No English, a lot of smiles and courtesy. Fast, good, by humans to humans. Oh, btw I was flying economic class.
When was the last time you were treated like this in an airport?
Another lovely shocking experience? I was waiting to embark in my flight while another one landed. All passengers came out and then did the captain and his crew. At least 7 kids with their parents were waiting for him to take some photos. He posed with each of them, even offered his hat to the kids, and after the pic he have them a card, I guess it was his business card or something like it. I would also call this “from humans to humans” and a great fidelity marketing campaign!