Monday, March 3, 2014

Heathrow People Watching

If you want to people watch, you need to fly out of an international hub, like London Heathrow. I had the opportunity to have a 6-hour layover at Heathrow this week. After rechecking my luggage, my first flight was separate from the rest of trip, I crashed for awhile outside security on a convenient bench at a food outlet that was not busy at 7 am. What a shock.

When I decided to go through security in Terminal 3, I found a crush of people waiting in the seating area before the gates. London Heathrow has a nasty habit of not letting you know what gate your plane will be at until 50 minutes before departure. That way everybody is forced to wait by the big screen for their gate to be announced.

Conveniently, for them, quite a few stores have opened around the seating area, just waiting for the bored, or guilty feeling, traveler to stop in. There are stores that will sell you about anything you could want and carry onto a plane. Everything from Harrods to WHSmith Bookshop. Fine dining to cold sandwiches are available, for a price. Forget to buy your significant other a gift? No problem.

And then there are the people, thousands of people, it seems. Every nationality, every skin color, all waiting on the standard uncomfortable airport seating. You name the language, I'm sure it is being spoken somewhere around here.

The reason why is the possible destinations out of Terminal 3. Chicago, Singapore, San Francisco, Miami, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Washington DC, Istanbul, Bangkok, Tokyo, etc. Those actually were the flights listed in order of boarding while I was waiting for Dallas/Ft. Worth to show up.

Business travelers with their briefcases and laptops, kids with their dolls, teenagers with their iPods, even a farmer with his iPad, all waiting for their gate to show up on the big board.

It is easy to spot the traveler who missed his gate being posted at first for they are flying through the crowd trying to get to their gate in time. That is because it is a 20 minute walk from the waiting area to some of the farthest gates.

So if you really want to people watch, just plan a long layover at Heathrow. You will definitely get your wish granted.