The Intrepid Wendell’s Five Favorite Airports

We are all daydreaming about traveling now that we’re stuck at home. To celebrate our daydreams and inspire thoughts of travel to come, The Intrepid Wendell offers this list of our Top 5 Airports.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

This airport was the first in the world to be developed specifically for jet travel. Built in the middle of Northern Virginia’s horse farms, it boasts four long runways and is a hub for The Intrepid Wendell’s most-used airline, United Airlines (UA), and its Star Alliance partners.

Eero Saarinen’s terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport

Washington Dulles makes this list for two reasons. First, it is “home” and a facility that we know like the back of our own hands. Second, the terminal is an Eero Saarinen masterpiece that is built to evoke aviation itself. The concrete and steel-framed building uses building technology that was literally developed on the spot. Although notably lacking in some facilities that other airports consider essential, Dulles means home to us.

Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM)

Located north of the historic center of the city, Mumbai airport is home to a lavish international terminal. Designed by the architects at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago, USA, this airport’s hundreds of thousands of tons of preformed concrete create a concrete lotus pond that is nothing short of breathtaking. Giving honor to a Maratha emperor, even the name is as exotic and formal as the architectural wonder of the terminal appears.

The concrete lotus pond of Mumbai Airport

Aside from the awe-inspiring terminal, the passenger facilities are comfortable for long layovers. With two long runways and plenty of room to roam – a rarity in crowded Mumbai – this airport is on our list of favorites.

Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT)

The Japanese mastery of efficient movement of people is second to none. Masses of people flow through confined spaces all day long in Japan, and almost nobody seems to notice the sheer sophistication of it. Public areas are relentlessly clean, accommodations are specific and well thought out, and nobody is ever late. Or early.

Narita airport is no different. The common areas of the airport are clean. The stores, restaurants, and pubs are efficient. The airside hotel that rents by the hour is a welcome place to lay over for a shower and some sleep after a long few weeks traveling.

Narita Terminal 2 hourly hotel room

Transiting at Narita is awe-inspiring. Once, the Wendell team landed at Narita on a flight that was late. We knew we had only about thirty minutes to sprint to our next flight – and that was our flight home to Washington. When the door to the plane opened and ground staff announced that the computer system in the terminal was down, our hearts sank. It seemed that there’d be no way to make it home that day.

We exited the airplane and were met in the terminal by hundreds of airport staff – all properly uniformed and wearing white gloves – holding signs to direct travelers to their next flights. Nobody was worried; the machine of Japan was holding steady.

We made our flight to Washington with plenty of time.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

This is easily the most convenient airport on the list. Compact, usually full of people but never crowded, and accessible to the populated parts of the island by regular high-speed rail service, Hong Kong’s airport is integrated into the city in a way that makes it feel connected.

This marvel of an airport was designed by the great English architect Norman Foster. It was begun by the British authorities as a grand sendoff to its colony as part of the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong sovereignty to China. The engineering of the place is stunning – the builders took an island in the Pearl River Delta, cut the top off of it, and used the displaced material for fill for the runway beds. The terminal is airy and bright. Furthermore, on the HKG airport campus is the AsiaWorld-Expo, which holds a twice-yearly trade show that we often attend.

The bright and airy Cathay Pacific lounge at Hong Kong International Airport

Polgolla Reservoir Waterdrome (KDZ)

This is the smallest airport on the list. The vastness of the place is made up of a simple set of steps, a floating platform, and an artificial reservoir. Only Cinnamon Air flies here, and the magic of its Cessna airplane on floats cuts the travel time from Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport to our work in central Sri Lanka from 5 hours to just 20 minutes.

The Cinnamon Air Cessna and crew at Polgolla Reservoir

We will all be traveling again. Sooner than we think.

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