I have a shortlist of airports that I hate. London Heathrow. Chicago O’Hare. Stockholm Arlanda. But my last trip through Arlanda cut that short list down a bit. I now have a winner in the airports I hate list.
Stockholm Arlanda. The worst airport in the world.
I have traveled a decent amount now. I have hit enough airports to make a relatively comprehensive comparison of airports. And Stockholm Arlanda is awful.
The airport is in constant disarray. They say they are improving it and to excuse the construction. Unfortunately, this has been going on for years now and all they’ve managed to do is create a shopping area which is constantly understaffed and low on stock.
The customer service is bad. Even by Swedish standards. And while the customer service can be contributed to the actual companies, like SAS known as the worst airline in the world, or US Airlines, the latest in bad experiences with airlines at Stockholm Arlanda, Arlanda still houses them all under one roof. And so it will take the blame.
The food is overprices and lacking in options. I was delayed and wandering around trying to find something to eat. I gave up after realizing that the one place that actually offered something other than a dry sandwich didn’t have anyone working at it. Despite being lit up and pretending to be open.
Even the security guards leave something to be desired.
Having recently traveled through Stockholm Arlanda, I was reminded just how bad it was.
I found myself in line moving at an average speed of one foot per minute. So I had plenty of time to watch the world go by. I watched a man abandon his bag and cart in the middle of the walkway and come to the line and talk to the woman behind me. They knew each other. He was a talkative fellow. The bag continued to sit in the middle of the walkway. Unattended. You know, just how they warn you to never leave a bag in an airport.
Two security guards came strolling by. One of them stopped. He seemed to remember that taking care of such things was probably part of his job description. His partner, however, was less interested. He exchanged a few words with our concerned security guard. Pointed to a woman standing about 50 feet away, and convinced his concerned partner that the woman owned the bag and there was nothing to worry about.
Now, I knew that the man behind me owned the bag. I was not concerned. Not for that bag at least. Of course, the complete lack of action by two men hired to take care of things like that was a bit concerning.
But not nearly as concerning as the complete lack of any sort of customer service by US Airways.
I arrived to the airport on time. Which is not always easy for me. I made my way to the US Airways counter only to notice a line that stretched at least 100 feet long. And a counter that was staffed by four women and one man. All representing US Airways to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, their best just wasn’t good enough.
My flight was leaving at one in the afternoon. I began standing in line at about 11:20. By 12 I had moved maybe, maybe, 30 feet. By 12:15 I was inside the US Airways ropes. Of course, most flights close check-in 45 minutes before take-off. An at this point it was lunch time. So despite the long line. Despite the worried faces of scores of passengers. Despite the lack of information. Two of the US Airways employees left their counters. God forbid the paying customer actually receive any form of service.
By 12:30, I was nearing the counter and managed to find an Arlanda employee. The flight had been delayed. No worries. Everyone would make the flight. Of course there had been no announcement. The flight board still showed a take-off time of 13:00. I patiently made my way through line. By 12:45, nearly 90 minutes after I first plopped my ass into line, I was checked-in. The man checked my bags, and handed me my boarding pass.
He said nothing. He did not apologize. He did not explain the situation. Hell, he didn’t even tell me the flight was delayed. I had to ask him what time the flight was leaving. He didn’t know. He guessed maybe two or three hours later than planned. Awesome.
That means I had a few hours to kill. I spent my time trying to find exciting things to buy from the tax-free shop. Which resulted in lots of candy and some booze. You can’t really go wrong with candy and alcohol.
A couple of hours later I made my way to my gate. And waited. The flight was supposed to leave at 15:30. And I waited. Arlanda doesn’t really let you in to your gate. They have these sorts of holding room. So you go through passport control and are put in a holding room. You can see your gate but the door to the gate is locked. So you wait.
And the time kept ticking. At a quarter past three they allowed us into the gate area. Remember the flight was supposed to leave at 15:30. Now, I have never worked for an airline. Or an airport. But I do know that it is damn near impossible to completely board a large trans-Atlantic flight in 15 minutes. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry. Because when we made our way into the gate area we waited some more. With no announcement whatsoever.
By 16:00 I was on the plane. I don’t even know what time we actually left Arlanda. It didn’t matter at that point. The airport had done it again. It had defeated me. Sucked the very life out of me and left me deflated. Angry. Sad even.
I still don’t know what the delay was for.
Welcome to Sweden. And Stockholm Arlanda.
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