17 Hidden Airport Secrets from Around the World You Need to know!
Following years of travel, we can say air travel can be the most stressful. More so with the increasing number of security threats and scaremongering, its ridiculous what’s going on. Still there are a number of Airport secrets we would like you to know so you can have a less stressful time as you head through one airport or another.
These are a result of years of regular travel and some expert tips from other frequent fliers!
The tips are a must know, especially if it’s your first time flying!
I don’t know about you but we used to enjoy the airport experience here in UK! We’d, get thru check-in, go browse the duty free stores, buy a few luxury items esp. perfumes or bottles of alcohol…(Don’t judge) as we waited for our boarding call.
Today, we are lucky to catch our breath between check-in, crazy queues through security, and a mad dash to get to our gate as the boarding call was 15 mins ago…
Even though most airports have redesigned Duty free stores as part of the pathway to your boarding gate, you are lucky to have 5 mins to browse! The scenery of the shops, is lost, the architecture falls on glazed eyes! Yet…
Still, allow us to share a couple of secrets about airports that may have you stop and think before your next hiatus…
Airport Secrets You Never Knew
Airport Secrets #1. Leave valuables at Home
Okay, unless you are heading for a Royal Ball of mega proportions, I say leave your valuables like jewellery, at home where you are insured.
Instead take costume jewellery and definitely have it in your hand luggage. Talking of costume jewellery, Guess what…
Our Julie has entered the hall of fame…She has a jewelry set named after her, stuff made of movies. So, do surf by the online boutique and grab you or your loved one a set of this gorgeous rose gold leopard print jewelry Julie set right here for Christmas
Super cool or what…Anyway…
Back to your packing list and airport Staff with long fingers…! Yes, that’s where I am going with this.
Its common knowledge in East Africa that if you can, do not fly via Nairobi International airport. Why?
Because you may find some of your stuff missing from your checked luggage and no signs of a break in.
It’s not just Africa, in USA, research showed that between 2010 and 2014, more than 300,000 passenger stuff disappeared from checked baggage while the rest apparently vanished at TSA checkpoints.
Airport Secrets – Pilfering Passenger Items by Airport Staff
That’s why we suggest, you leave your valuables at home or have them close in hand luggage!
Airport Secrets #2 Perfect Luxury Items Shopping time.
If you get to the airport early and check in fast, you will be top of the queue for security. Then you will have at least 40-60 mins of time to browse the Duty-Free stores. These shops have stocked on luxury items because they target Executives who travel often and love to buy their better halves or family luxury items.
This time between check-in and boarding is called the “Golden Hour” and retailers Want Your Dollar. So much so, they are willing to offer freebies to make it happen. At London Heathrow these perks are timed at certain flights landing and take offs…
Qatar’s new Airport is claimed to have 25,000 sq. metres of shopping awesomeness. And Heathrow T2 is all about the shopping experience.
Some high-end stores like Hermes boutique will offer you a glass of champers while you browse and grab that snazzy scarf, handbag or whatever!
What can we say, learn more about the golden hour with The economist and how big brands are targeting your wallet big time via air travel. It was predicted by a consultancy Verdict Retail, that…
“Sales at airports alone will grow by 73% from 2013 to 2019…”
Did you also now that you can earn points when you shop in certain airports? Check out Heathrow rewards next time you fly through and be sure to utilize the shops and restaurants!
Shopping has become an integral part of travel…and it is not just us. Celia Brown seems to have the same thoughts in her article on airport retail for Forbes magazine!
So, all this security is really pooping on all our parades! Talking of security…
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Airport Secrets #3 Most Airports are Understaffed!
Okay, frankly speaking the only reason you end up in crazy queues at security is because they simply cannot afford to pay any more staff. Not even the American Transport Security Administration (TSA).
In the developing world like Uganda, it’s even worse, you find just the ONE security check point, serving a couple of flights and still its usually mayhem…
They will do their best to simply get you thru! Because if you miss your flight, you are snookered…Otherwise they don’t care that the security checks got you late…In most cases they simply delay the flight to wait for the passengers to go thru security…That’s why we prefer to use the VIP lounge…there is hope for being part of a VIP Tribe.
Most pre-check programs do not work. You get to the airport and still have to line up with everyone else checking in, it’s crazy! The TSA $85 pre-check program failed to lift off as expected and so all those machines sit in airports as people queue up for ages…
Here is more about the TSA Pre-check for our American audience:
Application costs $85, which includes a criminal background check. Travellers who qualify for it do not have to remove belts, shoes, light jackets, watches etc. Nor do they have to remove laptops or liquids from bags, means a faster security process. Precheck status is valid for five years. It is definitely a good deal for frequent fliers in USA.
This is a pet peeve…We have no idea what online check-in is for apart from saving airline a few bucks. Here is why; again, you still have to join the long ques to check in…Well, have your luggage weighed more like!
And many airports are Under-equipped. When we flew through Kigali Airport, the check in staff were using their Androids to actually take photos of passenger documents and using WhatsApp to God knows who…
It was such a process that had a Brussels Airlines staff erroneously decide that our son’s visa was not valid…Even when he was informed this young man was actually a British passport holder, he chose ignore all that!
It was the worst 48 hours of his young life as we got sent back to Uganda and had to pull all stops through our contacts to get us back to UK. To-date Brussels airlines claims it was the right thing to do…what a pity! Read more about that here!
So, our Pkjulesworld advice is get there early, get checked in soon as the desk opens, whiz thru security before the “queuemageddon” appears and go browse those duty-free stores!
Airport Secrets #4 Are You Really Safe?
The thing is, in the country that claims the best security measures, in 2015, TSA agents failed 95% of security tests run by undercover Homeland Security agents.
Apparently 67 out of the 70 agents failed to find weapons, including a fake explosive device strapped to an undercover agent. So, we say Be on alert, and Trust in your God or whatever you believe in and just go Travel!
Airport Secrets #5 Who told You Duty Free is Cheaper?
We used to think it was actually cheaper, after all its “duty free” right? Wrong!
So many items are way overpriced because brads know you are stuck in this building until you get on your flight, remember the “golden hour”?
Pro-Tip: I normally check online stores and local boutiques for items I plan to purchase during Airport visits or transit…I have come to realise that sometimes, its cheaper to order it online or buy local!
So that’s why I stopped believing in Duty Free grail. And my findings were confirmed in a 2015 Independent report;
“Boots Airport Stores ripping off travellers! Also, various “duty-free” stores were caught out charging more than they should! It turned out, retailers failed to adjust prices after getting Tax relief on them, they simply charged retail or even more and pocketed the difference.”
To be honest with you, apart from alcohol, perfumes and for the smoker cigarettes, most other items at airports are just not value for your dollar!
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Airport Secrets #6 Your Missing Luggage is Someone’s Gain!
Well if your luggage is not found and returned to you, where do you think it ends up? Same goes for all that stuff and fluids that you leave behind at security checks?If your luggage is lost and not found, where do you think it ends up?Click To Tweet
Airports all over the show hold auctions for “Unclaimed or Orphaned Luggage” where people purchase your luggage without knowing contents in a bid to find some treasure!
In the USA, your lost precious bra may have found itself
on auction at the “Unclaimed Baggage Centre” found in Scottsboro, Alabama
The thing is sometimes you did claim it…but hey once it gets there, you are done for! So learn more about lost luggage and don’t get caught out.
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#7. Find your Zen at the Airport
Following your crazy queuemageddon, why not head for a zen yoga studio or prayer room in some airports? Other airports have free rest pods for fliers esp. long layover travellers. If you don’t ask you don’t get, so ask airport staff!
Over years, we’ve found the following airports have some truly cool spaces including, prayer rooms, spas, play-spaces, even breweries lol!
- San Francisco Airport – Has a Spa where you can have a full bath and massage during your long layover.
- Schiphol Airport Amsterdam – Has free chill-out zone by the D Gates for long transit resting! If your transit is loner than 6 hours, why not book yourself into the Yotel Schiphol airport hotel?
Schiphol also has an amazingly cozy airport library that has a free reading hall to use. Go grab a book, settle in and wait for your next flight in relative comfort! It’s truly a unique airport in Europe! We have been told that Incheon Seoul Airport is amazing, we can’t wait to see that, a #TravlelBucketList item for sure!
- London Heathrow Airport – This is our playground and it has a great play-space for parents with little children 0-7 years by Terminal 5.
- Munich Airport – Is one of our most favorite airports. It was created with the traveller in mind, with various rest pods, WiFi zones for your pleasure and a specific rest area for long layovers all for free!
And for the beer lover, Germany is your country and you will love the Airbräu Munich’s very own open-air brewery… An attraction in itself snuggled between Terminals 1 and 2! You can have a tour between $8-10 and enjoy the unique beer experience!
- Barcelona El Prat Airport – Head to Terminal 1 and enjoy Spa moments if you have an hour or more in transit or before your flight takes off! And Have you got a puppy?… You’ll love this one
- Frankfurt Airport – Yup, this airport has got a doggy hotel! You read that right. So, no need to leave your fur baby behind on your next holidays. Drop them off at the dog hotel ad pick them up on your return!
- Chicago O’Hare Airport – Children Play area. Our children are now hormone filled teenagers, but they loved this airplane play area when we flew through Chicago. And there is a great sitting area where we picked up some food right next to it.
- Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport is Simply beautiful, with amazing art all over the show. Great for calming the mind and of course lots of sitting areas to rest between long flights. It’s a huge airport so it can be a great way to exercise lol!
- Vancouver Airport – Was amazing for a brief 3 hours stop over. Its green, with lots of artwork, totally mesmerising for children. And you absolutely should go check out the 114,000-liter aquarium in the international terminal atrium. Insta-moments galore!
- Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport – I love India and Mumbai Airport is one of my favs. This airport has an “Open Museum” in Terminal 2. With some of the most amazing artwork, some dating back to the 11th Walking and feasting your eyes on this art will while away the hours and fatigue between flights!
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Bonus Super Cool Airline Secrets:
We aren’t sure if this still works, but we learnt that if you have a flight with the Armrest TV screens, you can swipe pretty much any card with a magnetic strip. (E.g. Tesco Card, Boots Card) and you’ll get to watch free movies and TV for your entire flight. (Only if they charge for entertainment.)
If your flight is cancelled or overbooked, don’t join the queue of stressed Travellers harassing the gate attendant. Instead, call the airline’s 800 number and the operator can and will do just about anything the gate agent can and save you the stress!
A few times, we’ve walked past a line of disgusted people, waiting to see what the agent gate can do!
Word to the wise: How about you call the 0800 number while in line. Remember a few others could be calling too. Might as well stand in line while you’re on hold. And if you stay in line and get to the top, be sure to be patient and polite the gate agent. They have to deal with all the other angry passengers too. And your politeness could bag you an upgrade, or a stay in a snazzy hotel, while the grumpy Joe’s end up on the airport floor!
If you have never travelled to the USA, DO NOT put a padlock on your check in luggage. It will be broken, sometimes along with the zip and cello tapped back for you with a little note inside from the “Homeland Security” letting you know it was a random check! With security as it is, we totally agree with them…On the other hand Don’t ever leave your suitcase unlocked when travelling through Nairobi!
Don’t say you weren’t warned!
And we did say this in our post on how to have the Best Flight experience…But it’ good to say it again. If you are finicky about which seat you get on a flight, check which seats are the best for every airline and plane type on seatguru.com
Airlines and Airport Secrets, It’s a Wrap
You know we live in a smart digital era, right? Cool, then get typing on your android or iOS and download the airline’s free app.
That airline you are flying. All updates will be there in case of any problems! You will be sitting pretty while everyone is stuck talking to the gate agent! Its great to be ahead of the game connecting via the app and getting moved, accommodation or upgraded! 😊 Happy Flying!
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Dr Paul Kalungi
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