Faith in small airports restored

After a stressful afternoon trying to leave from Cardiff Airport to get to Chile, I decided that I wasn’t a huge fan of small airports any more. The idea of a quieter start to the journey, where there’s no queue for security and the gate is a 2 minute walk away, no longer seemed worth the convenience if you’re not let on to your planned flight. Finding an alternative from the same airport is extremely difficult, so you might end up having to go to the monstrously large Heathrow airport anyway.

My experience taught me to always check in on-line, and avoid flying from small airports, even though you have to allow extra time for EVERYTHING at big ones.

However, if you want to fly internally in Chile you don’t have any choice as all the regional airports are tiny. My winter holiday in July required a flight if I wanted to escape the freezing temperatures of the far south – I only had two weeks and I wanted that to be away from snow for as long as possible.

My new local airport in Punta Arenas only has three boarding gates, and everything is contained within one building, with a glass wall dividing those who have and haven’t gone past security. Even the cafe is shared between both sides. It’s so much easier to get through everything, it’s simple to get to and you don’t have to walk miles around the airport – you can see the gate from where you check in. Quite a difference from Heathrow, one of six international airports in London, where you have to make sure you go to the correct airport, and the correct terminal too.

Despite absolutely hating the city of Puerto Montt, it was this airport that managed to restore my faith in local airports. It was small, clean and relaxing. Not words often associated with transport hubs. It’s easy to get to by bus from the city centre. Best of all, I didn’t need to worry about losing my passport – I could fly with my Chilean ID! (You don’t know how exciting this is for me!!)

The end of my winter break had arrived so me and Susan went through the usual motions of catching a flight (minus the online check-in I should have done – we don’t always have internet!). We checked in our bags and received our boarding passes. We walked up the stairs to go through security, and I went through all the mental checks to make sure everything was set, like making sure there were no sharp objects in my hand-luggage. That’s when it hit me – I still have my lefty scissors in my pencil case! Yes, I graduated two years ago, but yes, I do still carry a pencil case. 

Only my fellow lefties will understand my worry. Knowing my clumsiness and forgetfulness, if I was lucky enough to be able to check them separately, I’d probably just forget to pick them up at the other end. Let’s hope they let me check that separately because I don’t want to have to attempt to find left-handed scissors here.

So I walked back to the desk, told them I’d forgotten that the scissors were in my carry-on bag. So they asked what flight I was on and what my bag looked like. Simple as that! They promptly radioed the back to tell them what it looked like. The rucksack was brought out, I popped the scissors in an outside pocket and it was put back in the conveyor belt system. Although actually they brought back Susan’s bag, but nevermind. Back up the stairs I went and through security without any sharp objects on my person. I even remembered to take my belt off this time.

Simple as that, and it was sorted. The airports are clearly a reflection on the people – pretty laid back! I can’t even imagine the hassle if that had happened at a London airport. I feel way too over-prepared here. I worry about things I don’t need to worry about because normally when I fly somewhere, it’s from Heathrow. Security is strict. You have to remember which one of five terminals you go to. Then you have to find one of hundreds of check-in desks. All liquids must be in 100ml or less containers and all fit in one clear bag. Blah blah blah. Here in Chile I can take my water bottle through security, and voila, I have water to drink on the other side while waiting for my flight!

Here you only need to check in an hour ahead, but I still find myself thinking I need to be there 2-3 hours before the flight. When waiting here, 40 minutes before the flight leaves and there isn’t even anyone at the gate to start checking boarding passes. In fact the aeroplane isn’t even at the gate yet.

So thank you Chile, and Puerto Montt of all places, for reminding me that there is a bright side to using small local airports, and that they don’t all have to be an exercise in anger management.

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