Travel Comment

Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Diana Balham: Departure hall dash

Those dramatic sprints to catch your lover before they board a plane are best left to Hollywood, says Diana Balham.

Perhaps the airport authority could set aside a special area for wailing travellers who miss their flights. Photo / Thinkstock
Perhaps the airport authority could set aside a special area for wailing travellers who miss their flights. Photo / Thinkstock

Had to do an airport dash lately?

If you're anything like me, it'll be because you fannied around while getting ready and ended up running late.

As you sit in traffic, you know there can only be two outcomes: either you'll just squeak in and clamber on to the aircraft, sweating like a finalist on MasterChef, or you'll miss the plane.

In the movies, airport dashes are so much more glamorous. They never involve forgetting to set your alarm, always involve a desperate chase for the kindred spirit (who mustn't fly off to anywhere without their eternal burning love, it's just occurred to the hero or heroine).

There's an insane taxi ride, a sprint through the departure hall (that always has just enough people in it to make zig-zagging around them look good on film but not so many that it looks like a pilgrimage to Mecca), then some leaping over conveyor belts, accompanied by an obligatory discussion with an official who warns, "You can't go in there!"

Now, it can go two ways. Either your beloved spots you belt through the line of embarking passengers, practically waving your undies to get their attention, or the object of your affection actually makes it on to the plane, and is staring out the window thinking about what might have been, when you storm the aircraft demanding their hand in marriage.

Sub-plots are optional. In A Fish Called Wanda, the lovers flew away together after Ken ran over Otto with a steamroller for eating his fish and then Otto, who somehow survived, was sucked off the wing when the plane took off. Love triumphed. Evil slid down the window like a buttered snail on a car windscreen.

The cinematic sprint for happiness always ends in success. Reality is not always so satisfying.

I once missed a flight to New Zealand from Heathrow because I'd spent all morning travelling backwards and forwards through London with my tea chest (which I'd lugged on ferries and buses from Dublin), while dealing with Tube breakdowns during an impossible timeframe.

I staggered to the airport check-in counter, was told the plane had gone and collapsed into a gibbering heap - whereupon dozens of people walked around me as if I was dog poo on the carpet.

This must happen all the time. Perhaps the airport authority could set aside a special area - possibly soundproofed - for wailing travellers who miss their flights and need somewhere to vent before trying to re-book.

It wouldn't require any extra staff: the left-behinds could form their own instant support groups and mop up the tears, or take turns to slap sense into each other.

Once the rage and frustration is out of their systems they could move on without inconveniencing the other travellers - and reconciling lovers - who are using the rest of the airport.

At the moment, instead of flowing seamlessly from the check-in counter to departure lounge via the bookshop and a quick trip to the loo, the late arrivals clog up the system with their despair and three pieces of luggage.

And since real airports are almost always crammed to the gunwales, that's a lot of weeping obstacles for the rest of us to dodge.

I was lucky that time. It turned out there was another flight from Gatwick later that day with an available seat, at no extra charge.

I picked myself up, pulled myself together and made my way back across the city, arriving in plenty of time to catch the flight.

I probably stepped around several distressed travellers who were disrupting the churn. But I was so stressed after my day from hell that, once aboard the plane, I had to hear about what dinner was like from my nice Italian next-seat neighbour. I was otherwise engaged in a very small room. That chill-out area could have made all the difference.

A handsome guy forcing his way on to the plane and declaring his undying love for me would have been even better, but you can't have everything.

- NZ Herald

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