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Welcome to the UK (well Heathrow T3 and Sainsbury’s)

Over the last 24 hours I have passed through three airports, in order, Tampa International (main concourse and hub F), Miami International (concourse D) and London Heathrow (Terminal 3). The difference in attitude between the first two and the latter in terms of their people and, to a degree, the facilities is significant.

Tampa is one of my favourite airports. It wasn’t the first American airport I passed through, that was Atlanta during its rebuilding in advance of the ’96 Olympics. I saw little of it, just enough to start running through Airplane gags with my daughter as we waited for our connection to Tampa. We aquaplaned into Tampa as it was getting dark, and I decided that I was too tired to face an hour’s drive in a strange car on strange roads. Despite the late hour the information lady at the airport was very helpful in getting us a hotel for the night, and that impressed me.

Over the 18 or so years since I’ve flown in and out of Tampa a lot and have grown to love it. It isn’t too big, but it is well provided for and the people there are great. You get free Wi-Fi  and there are all sorts of little touches with the decor and services that make it a pleasure to travel through it.

Miami’s Terminal D is almost complete and is a pleasure to transit through. As an airport Miami is a very busy place and, like Heathrow, very multi cultural. It has a vibrant buzz about it but, despite some of the passengers being ignorant, the people running the place aren’t. It is a joy to have the courtesy bus driver get off and help you on and off with your bags, to have porters there to get you to the check in desk (OK, it’s a buck a bag, but so what?). Everything is geared around service, from the concession coffee bar to the executive lounge.

So, after eight and a half hours or so on a triple seven it’s welcome to Heathrow, and what a welcome. They’re remodelling, so fair enough, but the first issue comes with the exit from immigration. You now emerge into baggage re-claim by carrousel one instead of down the other end. So where are all the baggage carts? Down the other end. Enquiring of one of the group of workers earns a shrug before they resume their conversation and sterling efforts to stop the wall falling over (at least I think that must have been why they were leaning on it).

My female colleague wants to use the ladies restroom. She emerges nearly 10 minutes later looking somewhat ashen – I don’t ask. We collect our bags and emerge out into the open to catch the bus out to the long stay car park. The area is festooned with No Smoking signs, but they are hard to see through the clouds of tobacco smoke – why is this not being policed? There is a smoking area for them to use, but no, they have to share with the rest of us. Waiting for the bus is no pleasure in that environment. Fortunately the nice people at Business Parking save the day to some degree, as always cheerful and efficient.

On the way home I stop off at Sainsbury’s to pick up a rotisserie chicken. There’s no sign of an assistant so I ask the lady at the adjacent meat counter if she can help. “I don’t do that section” she says and resumes tidying her display, ignoring my needs. Oh well; welcome home John.

  1. November 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Hi just thought i would tell you something.. This is twice now i?ve landed on your blog in the last 3 weeks looking for completely unrelated things. Great Info! Keep up the good work.

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