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Four Tiny Things Making a Huge Difference at London's Smallest Airport

April 3, 2013 at 10:21 AM | by | ()

How many of London's airports can you name? There's Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, uhhh Luton and....City! It's that last one that's often forgotten because it's the smallest of the bunch and nearest to downtown, though the most innovative (and not just because they offer free WiFi).

We just flew through London-City for the first time and came out of the experience a little more hopeful for the future of air travel. It's true they have some freedom to experiment because the airport is tiny, the passengers are mostly frequent flying professionals, and the flights are mostly limited to Europe, but that's all the more reason to detour away from the mega airports to try City's particularly civilized "boutique" airport experience.

Here's what LCY has got going on that makes it so...so fly:

1. Organization surfaces: It's been a long time since we saw an airport supplying plastic bags for liquids, but here they were at LCY. That's not so much the point as is the availability of a smooth surface to make any final organizing of your bags before heading through security.

2. Informational displays: Instead of having agents barking orders at a line of queuing flyers, LCY has a row of informational displays atop the tables. These were listing the carry-on liquid rules at the time we passed. We found that made us calmer and eliminated the opportunity for agents to make up rules, like what happened to us later at Heathrow when an agent decided bar soap was a liquid and proceeded to spend 45 minutes removing every single thing from our carry-on bag.

3. Self-scan security: Notice how there's no long line snaking through that queue? Notice how there's no agent yelling "have your passports and tickets out and ready!" Once passengers are ready to head through security, they encounter a row of scanner turnstiles. Scanning the barcode of their boarding pass opens the gate and they in the security screening zone. An agent stands by in case of issues or questions.

4. Free WiFi: London-City Airport isn't the first airport to have free WiFi throughout, but their system is one of the more ingenious we've encountered. Logging on, you're met with a sign-up page. This momentary annoyance is worth the fuss, since filling out the form takes you directly onto the network and emails a password to you for future access. Traveling through LCY again and logging into the network means only having to enter that email and password.

Before you think all this can't possibly come to a major international airport, we say it pretty much already has. Look at Hong Kong International Airport, or Tokyo-Haneda, or Seoul-Incheon—all three are dangerously close to perfection as far as large airports go.

[Photo: Jaunted]

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