Have you visited your airport recently?

Not for anything to do with travel, but just to hang out. Because the clever airport rebranding folk have come up with The Airport Visit as something to do. Just for fun. I kid you not. Actually, there’s quite a bit to be said for it. More interesting than a day in Sockburn and cheaper than a trip to Phuket, an airport is a bit like a mall with benefits.

But what’s it like to be at an airport with no travel purpose in mind? It certainly enhances the appeal of the book  100 Places You Will Never Visit. But, no matter what, I love airports. Alain de Botton beat me to what could have been my dream job when he landed the position of Writer in Residence at Heathrow for a week. But there’s nothing to stop me from blogging from Christchurch International Airport, so here goes.

You’ll be spoilt for choice insofar as cafés are concerned. I settled myself in with my cappuccino and got right down to my favourite airport activity – people watching: retired travellers endlessly checking boarding passes, harried mothers with overexcited children, cool businessmen praying they don’t get seated next to them on the flight. And weaving their superior way through this mêlée are the pilots, co-pilots and flight attendants. Perhaps not quite a glamorous as the Trolley Dollies in the latest TV series PanAm, but surely free of suspender belts at least!

Air travel is a peculiar beast – lacking the romance of train travel or the languor of a cruise, it has failed to generate a body of literature to commend it. My best find is the evocatively named Airports and Other Wasted Days. But sitting in a terminal, you have to marvel at how much air travel has changed. Time was when people dressed up to fly overseas, like the passenger in this old Christchurch Airport 1950 photo who is wearing furs and a hat and is surrounded by men in suits and uniforms. Now it’s baggy pants and Crocs all the way.

Now I know that a trip to the airport is not going to be an easy option to sell to the kiddies (some of whose friends have parents who are actually going to travel with their children) and I never said  an airport outing would be cheap. All I’m saying is: you too can get that travel buzz, buy chocolate coated “Sheep Dropping” raisins at a Duty Free, smell of three conflicting perfumes, wave to a pilot, misidentify jets to trusting youngsters and do it all on a spectacular caffeine high.

And what’s more, not once in the whole outing will a whining child say to you:

“Are we there yet?”