Having spent last New Year’s Eve at London’s Heathrow Airport, fitfully dozing in a chair as Big Ben chimed in 2010, I was quick to explore a Web site that I tumbled onto the other day.
The Web site, started in 1996, is the creation of Canadian Donna McSherry. She was quoted by the Aussie paper as saying that the site is “aimed at people who have to sleep in an airport because they are stranded or have an early flight and don’t want to pay for a bed.”
Airports in the wee hours are as dreary as shopping malls on a weekday morning, especially when nearly everyone else is celebrating the new year. But because of a very early flight on New Year’s Day, it made sense for my wife and me to spend New Year’s Eve at Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Very few travelers were about at that hour, and we were able to find a Delta lounge with some couches and armchairs, our dozing interrupted only by a cleaning crew and a couple of courteous police officers.
But overnight stays at other airports, according to McSherry’s Web site, can be far less pleasant.
“Charles De Gaulle in Paris was voted the worst airport, receiving savage reviews,” said the story in The Sydney Morning Herald. “The most common complaint was about rude, arrogant staff. One reviewer complained that the cleaning staff drove their electronic floor sweeper straight at him. Moscow’s Sheremetyevo was voted second worst — dirty and chaotic — while New York’s JFK was third worst.
“Singapore’s Changi got the nod for the best airport last year, as it has for the past 13 years,” the story said. “Budget travelers like the snooze chairs and the 24-hour massage stations. South Korea’s Incheon and Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok came second and third.”
The ratings, said to be based on more than 65,000 reviews, seem to have an air of subjectivity. One traveler may have a pleasant overnight experience at a given airport. For another, such a stay may be a nightmare.
Of Singapore’s Changi International Airport, for example, one traveler wrote that he’d spend the night at the airport even if he had the cash to spring for a hotel in Singapore. But another wrote that all the airport’s chaise longues were occupied by airport staff “who were sleeping either on or off-duty.” And yet another “got nudged with the tip of a machine gun in mid sleep and had to show my passport. ”