The Terminal - Trapped in an Airport

Just finished watching Steven Spielberg's The Terminal for the second time on DVD. It's a great little film with a gentle storyline, just as engrossing upon a second watching. John Williams' soundtrack is perfect, a real departure from his more famous fanfares. Inspired by the Merhan Karimi Nasseri 's real-life story of a life lived inside an airport terminal, The Terminal is about Viktor Navorski, a citizen of the fictional country of Krakozhia. A coup midflight leaves Navorski's US entry visa invalid and stops all return flights to the country. As a consequence, Navorski is traped in the transit lounge of the New York airport, unable to leave.

I actually find airports quite fascinating places, though I would not like to be stuck in one for a matter of months. Still, I think that I have written before of the fun challenge of making do with a limited set of selections, such as are available at an airport. Imagine that you are stuck in an airport with no possessions, but that money is no object. How do you keep yourself fed, rested and occupied?

Obviously, the answer depends on which airport you are in. Sydney Airport has no transit or airport hotel so there would be nowhere to sleep, though there are showers. Clothes and food would be okay with access to the public departures area, though selections past immigration are more limited. The book and magazine selections are also good. The only music shop also lies in the public side of the airport, although you could purchase portable CD, DVD and games players past immigration. So far as doing any work on a computer goes, not even PDA's are sold in the airport. There is short term free internet access on public terminals, however. There is also expensive wireless access available, so with a laptop life would be better if stuck in the airport.

Singapore's Changi Airport would be a far better place to be stuck in. There's a transit hotel, beds to lie on, free internet access, including free ethernet ports, and shops that sell computers. Gardens, swimming pool, gyms, hairdressers, a cinema and more. Not certain that you could fin many casual clothes though and the book selection is very poor. Still, there is kueh lapis available at the Bengawan Solo outlets and I couldn't get enough of that last time I was there. An enforced layover at Changi seems almost desirable, though there are many other countries I would rather visit.

The differences between the Sydney and Changi airports is partly explained by their different roles. Changi is very much a 24 hour transit stop, while curfewed Sydney is generally a destination or involving transits on short domestic flights.

I have sometimes considered catching a train to Sydney Airport and sitting in the observation area watching planes take-off and land while reading a book or working on the laptop. There aren't many comfortable enclosed areas in Sydney where you can just sit down and relax. Pity it's just so expensive.