Posted by: Gary Klaukka | June 28, 2009

Airports and Cities; Airports as Cities

I recently starting watching a documentary series on BBC Four entitled “The Secret Life of the Airport.” Quite possibly done by the same team that was behind “The Secret Life of the Motorway,” it explores how airports have developed over time and how they have effectively altered British society. The documentary has a particular focus on Heathrow, which is portrayed as the most important piece of aviation history in Britain. In the beginning, airports linked cities and countries together. In the second part of the documentary series, the airport is shown as having developed into a city of its own. I found the documentary’s somewhat poetic description of Heathrow quite inspiring:

“The control tower is the cathedral spire; the departure lounge is the main street; the shopping complex is Regent Street or Oxford Street; there are the baggage halls, which are the industrial zones; it’s all there.”

I fell in love with Heathrow at the age of 16. It was the first time I had flown alone. I flew from Helsinki to Heathrow (a voyage I have done countless times since) so that I could connect to a British Airways flight to Seattle. I remember being mesmerised by the speed and force of the crowds as I sat in the departure lounge during my layover.

Having a boarding pass in my pocket gives me a feeling of calm. It makes me breathe in deeply and smile. In the end, the amount of time I spend at airports is quite small, but all the more important. Over the years, I have learned the layout of each of the terminals at Heathrow; have got to know the shortcuts and the places about which the everyday passenger knows nothing (and quite possibly could not care less). It almost feels as though Heathrow is one of the few constants in my life. No matter where I might end up living, I will know that it is possible to return there; and to travel anywhere from there. And it will still be there.

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  1. […] flown before most reel with shock having flown countless times before, and I recently read a really good blog post by a friend who is very accustomed with […]


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