For complex familial reasons, I’m going to be making a fair few flights over the course of the coming holiday season—and am already feeling faint terror at the prospect of a strike which may shut down Britain’s airports between Christmas and the New Year. In America, meanwhile, the post-thanksgiving travel madness has already kicked off, in honour of which the Foreign Policy blog are directing readers towards their highly entertaining list of the world’s worst airports.
To my surprise, my wife and I have managed to account for three out of the five already (in France, India and Senegal): a triumportate representing around 80 hours of our collective lives. My favourite description, however, has to be that of Mineralnye Vody, in Russia—the airport that time forgot:
Mineralnye Vody, in a war-torn region of the Caucasus not far from the Chechen border, remains a stubborn throwback, right down to the large map of the Soviet Union that hangs in the departure hall. The airport seems to have earned a special place in the hearts of Russia’s foreign journalists, including the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, who wrote in 2005, “Rather worryingly there’s a man selling Caucasian swords and daggers in the departure lounge and opposite him, over on the wall, is a list of local criminals wanted for murder.” Other amenities include snow and ice inside the terminal, feral cats wandering around, and Brezhnev-era copies of the Kama Sutra in the gift shop.
Of course, anyone who has taken an international flight flight recently could be forgiven for thinking that most of the world’s air transport hubs are evolving into a succession of mini-hells: crowded to the gills and manifestly unsustainable. Then again, air travel has the magical property of vanishing into anecdote soon after it’s over, as if all that discomfort took place in a parallel (albeit massively inconveniencing) world. Neither Dakar or New Delhi have put us off flying again, and I imagine they have few others. Which begs the question—as far as flights are concerned, how inconvenient is too inconvenient?