#100 Airport Lounges
Whether they’re en route to the site of a recent mega disaster, slipping out for a few days of R&R, or heading home to find themselves, today’s well-traveled veteran Expat Aid Worker loves and, yes, even looks forward to Airport Lounges.
Within minutes of the news of a new crisis breaking on BBC or Al Jazeera, EAWs the world over will begin planning air travel, based at least in part on the best progression of decent airport lounge options from their points of origin to destination. Headed from Europe to southern Africa? Make sure your layover is in Johannesburg (the lounges in Addis or Windhoek or even Nairobi are best avoided ). Stuck someplace that ends in “stan”, but headed to a life-saving conference in Europe or the USA? Avoid Karachi and Mumbai. Bangkok and Istanbul will do just fine. Dubai and Singapore are solid gold.
Savvy EAWs who have been around a little longer will know, for example, that they need to fly into/out of Heathrow, rather than Gatwick. Or that if they arrive into Frankfurt’s Terminal A, it’s really just better to just use the Senator Lounge, then to mess around with security and passport control getting to the Red Carpet Club in Terminal C. Anyone unlucky enough to layover for more than a few hours in Los Angeles or Newark needs to come prepared to fight for a power outlet, and probably a seat, too.
Yes, airport lounges are the home away from home away from home for the itinerant EAW. Whether they’re just heading out for “the field”, or beginning the process of decompressing prior to re-entry into the land of mammoth SUVs and over-priced lattes (and no, I’m not talking about Port-au-Prince or Kabul). They are places where you can simultaneously slum it, thereby accruing more airport horror stories, and build field cred (especially if you find that one corner in the Jakarta departure concourse were you can pick up free WiFi). They are office, home, dining room, and pub, all rolled into one. Few things are more comforting after a hard deployment of coordination meetings in some godforsaken place than finally making it through check-in and security and sitting down in the familiar strangeness of an airport lounge. Dingy or luxurious, it doesn’t matter. Airport lounges are the EAW’s oasis between the idiocy of where they’ve just been and the lunacy of the place they’re going next. Airport lounges are the EAW’s Zen gardens where things make sense.
Of course the really savvy EAWs will have accrued enough frequent flyer miles on the right airlines that they can get business class lounge access for free. The awesomeness of this is hard to overstate: you can get more work done than you could sitting out amongst the swirling hordes; you can eat for free (hello, stewardship – lowers overhead…); and the possibilities for feeling ironic are practically endless (snack sandwiches in an overstuffed lounge chair while contemplating the latest FEWS data, anyone? Care for a gin & tonic while thinking deep thoughts about the inherent benefits of disaster mitigation?).
Yes, we know – the comments thread below will very quickly fill up with paragraphs of righteous indignation coming from those keen to make the point the they are not that kind of Expat Aid Worker because they are hardcore nomads who endure hardship living and only ever travel to or from places notoriously bereft of modern conveniences through places also bereft of modern conveniences. Well, you go on with your bad selves, then. Book travel so that you overlay in Urmqui or Naxcivan or Bamako, if that makes you feel better.
And when you come around, I’ll buy you a round… maybe in Narita. Or Tegucigalpa…