Flying’s a breeze, the hair-tearing problems come with departure and arrival, writes Linda Thompson.

You know what I hate about travel? Airports.

They've been designed by people who know the ropes by heart, and not with the freshly departing or newly arrived and jetlagged in mind.

Jet noise, rushing people and endless security checks. Airports can get your trip off to a really lousy start.

Running late (thank you Auckland traffic, even though I put an extra hour on expected drive time) I race into the international terminal, leaving grumpy husband somewhere in the car park because he couldn't figure out where to drop me off.

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Limited vision means I can't read the gate number, which is right down the end of the concourse. Fortunately a lovely woman who helps the harried showed me how to check myself in, changed my seat to something less awful and read signs for me.

Arrive in Brisbane, and we wait for bags. A snotty little airport jobsworth sneers "haven't you noticed no one else from this flight looks like you? Your carousel is way down there."

Actually the people sitting next to me were Chinese, so no, I hadn't noticed, you smart alec.

And besides, the sign saying what carousel — a frivolous word for something so vital — was behind us.

A friend and I landed at the stunningly designed Denver airport a while back.

No one said we needed to get on a train to get our luggage. We made the same circuit to nowhere several times before someone told us. How about a sign saying "get on this whizzy little train to where we're hiding your luggage".

Ditto in Hawaii, where no one mentions you need to get on a bus to get to your gate.

When you're leaving on that deadly Air New Zealand flight at 1am, that's a really useful detail.

I can never find the duty-free booze collection point, which doesn't have a sign saying that's what it is, and you need a Customs person to escort you back through the barriers to get the gin.

In Hong Kong, a uniformed man with a gun warned me I had "scissor" (folding ones which barely cut), which he confiscated. A Spanish woman was also accosted along with me - she had "tweezer".

But that airport does have enormous signs saying "north" and "south". Helpful.

Hong Kong lets anyone in with barely a glance. In the US it's "welcome to America. When are you leaving?" and a "please come with me ma'am" for a more thorough examination of your threat level.

And security, where you strip off in front of strangers, get swiped by a whistling wand that doesn't like the metal bits in your hip while you stand like a sacrificial lamb, arms out, almost in your undies, your laptop, camera and spare knickers spread along a bench.

Then there's dropping off a rental car when someone is picking you up. Rental parking is one-way, with nasty little spikes if you try to drive out. And heaven knows where the picker uppers are supposed to go.

Let's not start on parking charges.

Just as you swear you'll never go through another airport nightmare in this lifetime, you arrive back in Auckland at midnight.

There's the sound of a gentle karanga of welcome, familiar birdsong and you walk through a beautifully carved entranceway with the stories of our country along the walls.

Home.