Why I Hate (and Love) Airports

My Mr. Mom week has officially ended.  This morning I drove to Heathrow airport to pick up my wife from her Africa business trip.  As a frequent business flyer for over 35 years (with millions of frequent flier miles) I am usually the one being dropped off, not the one picking up.  So I had to learn a new routine – how early to leave home, which terminal, where to park.  All mundane but important things, especially if you get one of them wrong.

I must confess I have a love – hate relationship with airports.  Let me explain.  There are really two vastly different cultures at an airport.  The Departures “culture” and the Arrivals “culture”.  Both can be accurately described a “scrums” (the word used to describe an event in Rugby when everyone converges on the ball in a writhing mass of arms and legs).

Let’s start with the Departure hall.  This is the part of the airport I hate the most.  People tend to be running late and therefore frantic, pushing others to get in line, short-tempered (that probably started at home and is just intensified at the airport), impolite, and in a general state of angst.  Few are smiling. Quite a number of husband and wives are arguing over who forgot what, and loudly as well. The lines are long.  The minimum wage security staff are either bored or aggressive. And no one likes disrobing in public and being prodded like cattle. (In my mind, the terrorists  have succeeded in disrupting the world now that everyone, everywhere is subjected to the dreaded, and costly security process).

Being a hardened business traveller, I just go through the motions, put my emotions on standby, and visualise the end result, a quiet cup of coffee in the airline frequent flier lounge.

But the Arrivals culture and experience is just the opposite.  I love going to the Arrivals hall.  People are, on the whole, in a very good mood as they wait for their friends, loved-ones and family to come out through the big doors. It’s a happy culture.  Strangers waiting actually talk to each other, asking who they are waiting for, eager to tell all about their arriving relatives.  There are usually three or four groups with big homemade signs, most with big red hearts and “I Love You” written all over them.  People cheer and cry, laugh and hug spontaneously.  It’s a great, uplifting, positive experience. A happy scrum.

So, today I had a positive airport experience.  Tomorrow I am dropped off at the Departure hall for a flight to Detroit and the other scrum begins.  But for every departure, there is also an arrival. Something to look forward to.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress


About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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4 Responses to Why I Hate (and Love) Airports

  1. mimijk says:

    Safe travels John..and hope the security lines are tight (literally) and efficient so you can get to the lounge for a cup of coffee. I know this routine too well…


  2. Raunak says:

    the next time I’m at the airport, will definitely be reminded of your post 🙂
    Departures used to be hell for me. When I traveled in the US, random extra security checks would always mean me. It became so common that soon I would step out voluntarily for that extra check 🙂 I even considered changing my name to “Random”.
    Here’s a post I published sometime back relating my observation of crazy passenger behavior inside an airplane, between the departure and the arrival.you might find it interesting.


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