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A Love Letter To Heathrow Airport

20 Dec

One of my favorite movies is “Love Actually,” released in 2003.  You can read the Internet Movie Database post for details about the movie.  I really love how all the romantic stories are put together, but my favorite parts are the beginning and the end.

Both were shot in London Heathrow Airport and show a wonderful collage of people greeting each other in the arrivals area.  I listened to director/writer Richard Curtis’s commentary on that scene.  He just parked a camera there for a few weeks and edited it down to the collage.  I actually spent Christmas 1998 in London and got to see this play out as I waited for my luggage and my friend.

The Arrivals Terminal at London Heathrow (Photo by Benet J. Wilson)

I am a frequent traveler and one of my favorite thins to do is to watch people showing the love to those arriving and departing.  One time on a trip to Miami in 1985, a very enthusiastic Haitian family mistook me for a loved one. I was startled for a moment, but I still tear up to this day when I remember how loved I felt by these complete strangers until the mix-up was fixed.

And I know a lot of people just hate Heathrow Airport, but I’m not one of them.  My family moved in England in 1970 when I was six years old.  We landed at Heathrow, and I thought it was the most magical place on earth.  Fast forward to 1995 when I flew into the airport to cover the Farnborough Air Show, and I was still transfixed.  I love the proper British accents doing the announcements. I love the myriad shops (Harrods and Boots, to name a few) where you can pick up a piece of the UK.  And I especially love all the airline liveries from around the globe, especially flag carriers you don’t always see in the United States.

I practically fall into a swoon when I think about my time in British Airways’ T5 terminal (you can see my pictures on Flicker).  Yes, there were issues building it.  Yes, the airline was embarrassed when a baggage snafu marred the grand opening (attended by Queen Elizabeth, no less).  But the pieces are in place, and it has become one of my favorite terminals — right up there with Singapore’s Changi Airport, San Francisco’s international terminal and Seoul, South Korea’s Incheon Airport.

So wherever you go during the holidays , I hope you feel the love of the season.  And take a second to let the magic of the airport sink in!

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