I can still remember the first time I ever set foot in an airport almost 40 years on. It was 1976. Elton John and Kiki Dee were trying not to go breaking each other’s hearts. Elsewhere the country was basking in one of the hottest summers on record.
I on the other hand was recovering from chicken pox and still showing the red polka dot tell-tale signs.
We were at Heathrow to meet my Grandmother as she arrived back from a holiday in Germany where she had been staying with my Mum’s long standing pen friend. As she entered the arrivals hall I manoeuvred my small 6 year old frame way through the throngs of waiting families, and airport staff, lifted my t-shirt and hollered at the top of my voice, “Grandma! Look at my spots”
Needless to say utter horror ensued on the part on my parents and quicker than you could say ‘Elvis has now left the building’ we were out of there. In hindsight perhaps infectious diseases and airports aren’t such a great mix.
Luckily the authorities at Heathrow took a lenient view on my exhibitionism that day and have let me back during the intervening years. Which for my part is just as well as I love travelling, especially the excitement of the airport at the start of the journey.
Heathrow in 2015 is also thankfully now a very different place. Gone, or going (at last), are the concrete, drab monoliths that once used to pass as airport terminals. Rising up in their place are fabulous new shiny cathedral like steel and glass structures which in 2014 delivered a ‘congregation’ of 74 million* travellers to all four corners of the globe.
Based on what the experts are saying it seems these numbers are only set to increase. And as much as I love the airport experience, my excitement evaporates faster than the froth on my Terminal 5 Costa cappuccino when delays occur. Manufacturing bigger, quieter and more fuel efficient planes will of course help but the real nettle we need to grasp is to find the collective will to allow airports to lay more tarmac where all these new aircraft can land.
And we need to do is sooner rather than later. Otherwise without the extra runway capacity, delays will surely start occurring more frequently and take longer to clear which isn’t good news for my frothy coffee! So if only for the sake of all those dedicated coffee baristas across Heathrow, let’s get on and build that third runway.