I cannot remember a time in my life when I thought a layover in an airport was a good thing! And I cannot say that I can remember a time when anyone could or would wax poetic about any airport and the time they spent there. But I am changing my tune. Perhaps, it is because airports are changing… in a good way. Anyone who spends much time flying to destinations in the USA or abroad ends up spending more time than they wish to spend within the confines of an airport. When I was traveling routinely, my personal conviction was that “The only good layover was a short layover.” But now, I have experienced Incheon International Airport and I am singing a new song.
For those of us who travel from Thailand to the West Coast of the United States, there is a mandatory layover in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, or some Asian hub. So, I have seen the inside of airports in Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, and Bangkok. During my last trip to the USA, I spent two such layovers in Incheon International Airport in Seoul. I am now looking at how I can make my layover in Incheon long enough to take advantage of all the wonderful possibilities that airport has to offer. For example, there is a “Movie Room” in the Transit Area that is upstairs, away from the main flow of traffic that has 14 super-sized plush leather recliners. When you sit down into them, you sink down into unbelievable comfort that is yours until your flight time. Just around the corner are six computers with Internet access free of charge (Internet access is free of charge throughout the airport for those with Wifi.) with ultramodern executive chairs to sit in. There is a 30 minute limit, but only if there is a line of people who wish to use them. Across from the computer stations, there are six massaging recliners that have leg/foot massage attachments as well. All of this is free of charge to anyone who is in transit between flights. It is not limited just to the elite who have flown 1,000,000 miles. But that’s not all!!
For the tired mom with little ones in tow, there is a play area for little ones that could only come from a child’s fantasy. In this brightly colored space, there are a variety of toys to play with, things to climb on, things to climb into, and fantasies to enact using child-sized items that a child’s imagination can bring to life. There are also videos to engage those who are less active and quiet spaces for children to sleep. In addition, there is a nursing room for moms who want privacy as they breastfeed their tiny ones. Now, if Mom can convince someone else to stay and watch the kids, there is a small shop right next door that will give Mom a manicure, pedicure, or body massage during the time she has available. OK. So, these last items are not free, but they are available and not prohibitively expensive. But that is not all!!
There are endless places for people to just sit and relax on padded chairs – suitable for both sitting AND lying down. There are alcoves filled with furniture designed for even the largest body to relax into. The furniture faces the glass wall of the second story atrium, but is shielded from the intense glare of the fluorescent lighting by rows of REAL plants – tall, slender potted bushes that create a sense of intimacy and a touch of the outdoors. But for me, the piece de resistance was learning that I could have a hot shower at no charge! Tucked away in this second-floor transit area, there is a room with several modern full-sized full baths – each containing a large granite-tiled shower large enough for five people to shower at once with hot and cold running water. In the same room, there is also a toilet, a sink, and well-lit mirrors to help correct any damage that long hours of travel may have imposed on my unwilling body. A towel, soap and shampoo are provided free-of-charge and, together with the toothbrush and toothpaste I received free on board my flight (Korean Air), I had everything I needed to make repairs and feel like a new woman! After a twelve-hour flight from the USA and facing another seven-hour flight to Thailand, it was just what I needed! And that’s not all!!
Once I had showered and refreshed my makeup, I was ready to explore. Once again, the choices are unbelievable! In the main aisles of the Transit Area, there are dozens of shops offering clothing, cosmetics, household items, electronic gadgets, books, magazines, and so on, that are the stuff of a shopaholic’s dreams. There are restaurants that range from the sophisticated (with linen napkins, wine, and real silverware) to fast-food junkie havens. Every ordinary restroom complex comes complete with a deluxe room set aside for those with disabilities with easy-to-operate doors (electronic), faucets, and other necessities. But what captured my attention was a museum-quality exhibit of Korean art set up in the upper level of the Transit Area (away from the flow of traffic). Here I could spend a good 30 minutes or more learning about symbols of longevity in Korean art – and it was a different exhibit that the one I walked through in the same Transit Area just six weeks earlier! There is more, but I am jet-lagged and too tired to go on. However, I cannot wait to experience another layover at Incheon. There is still so much that I have NOT done that is available free-of-charge to transit passengers. No wonder incidents of “passenger rage” are so low here!
More photos (Click on photo to enlarge):