Airport Heaven in Schiphol
With apologies to Chicago, a city I love, but it takes some time away and a refreshed eye to realize that the cramped corridors, filthy corners, and lackadaisical employees shuffling listlessly about in certain U.S. airports to make me realize that we could do so much better.
In fairness I’m writing this while the agonizing stories of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 are making news, and the U.S. certainly has some newer airports to be proud of as well: Detroit is a wonder to walk through and extremely efficient. Denver, now 13 years old is more crowded than ever but still maintains an airy, open feel and has plenty of room to grow. And many regional airports are a breeze to navigate and showcase local flavor of their area.
However in contrast many of our international gateway airports like Chicago and LAX appear straight out of the Soviet era when compared to the gleaming gems of other ports. (And I haven’t even considered Asia in this.)
After spending a few days solo in Amsterdam I returned to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to pick up my sister and our guide Lili. Fretting about being late as always I arrived early enough in the morning to wander around and explore the facility. Some things that stood out to me:
This great idea. What’s the first errand you need to complete after a long stay away from home? Pick up some perishables of course. Schiphol has a full supermarket, allowing you to stock up your (tiny European) fridge upon return. And an adjacent liquor store too!
Left: In pier three I noticed dual jetways, although not used for our United flight. These were implemented at a few United gates in Denver for a while last year, but abandoned after a rear portion collapsed onto the wing of a plane. For some reason they work here.
Right: Almost ridiculously large signage everywhere. Arrival areas 1, 2, and 3 all exit into the same central hall, with ramps and elevators to the below train station. After clearing passport control departing passengers are treated to an enormous transit lounge with a plethora of restaurants and shops under one roof.
A personal welcome (with no shouting!) at the KLM first/business class check in. And nearby a small museum devoted to the history of The Netherland’s flagship carrier. That’s a real nose and cockpit too.
And of course – an expected standard in European airports: a train station IN the airport with direct connections to the city.
Since Schiphol is located southwest of Amsterdam it houses a major station with service to nearby Rotterdam and The Hague as well.
If you have time to kill here’s more information about Schiphol, including the in-house Rijksmuseum, how to reach the airport by bike. And the coolest thing for aviation buffs: a detailed guide on where to plane spot. Remember when we could do that here?
The only thing lacking? A smoky Amsterdam coffee house.