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5 things I learned from a 3-day airport stay

While travelling the world and seeing more than 20 countries in 18 months, I made my first visa mistake. Without the right paperwork, I wasn't allowed to board my plane to Australia.

Having already been to Malaysia six times in the past year – it’s the hub for Air Asia, after all – and although I loved much of the country, I was reluctant to spend more time there. Taking inspiration from Tom Hanks in The Terminal and Alain de Botton’s A Week at the Airport, I realised that klia2 could serve as a holiday destination itself. Here’s what I learned during my 79-hour stint in the airport.

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It’s hard to eat healthily

While there are plenty of cafes serving snacks and fast food joints offering quick, yet ultimately terribly unhealthy, meals, it can be a chore to find anything good to eat. Despite how modern the airport was, there were very few options to find anything resembling fresh fruit or vegetables. A sandwich chain let me load up on salad items, a pasta restaurant had one veggie option and a smoothie stand offered me fruit (in it’s most sugar-rich form), but mostly my options were greasy, microwaved or nutrient-free.

Lounges have many benefits

As I fly economy and I’m a member of no associations, the only time I enter a lounge is when I fly with an airline like Bangkok Airways (who offer lounge access to all their passengers). On my second full day at klia2, I shelled out for 10 hours in the Plaza Premium Lounge. Over that time I got my three meals, access to unlimited coffee, tea and beer, plus a bowl of fresh fruit. Perhaps the best benefit, though, is that you don’t get the constant security announcements and boarding calls played through the speakers.

Wi-Fi passwords rarely change

Most airports give out free Wi-Fi, but the loading speed while you browse (although not necessarily while you download) can be painful. If you go to a bar, hotel or lounge with its own Wi-Fi, the speed will be much, much quicker. If you’re staying in the airport for a few days, it’s good to know that you can sit nearby and make use of those signals.

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No one smiles

I understand that there is unpleasantness associated with airports – with their last minute stresses and multiple queues to get through – but ultimately it should be a place of happiness. Aside from the business travellers, everyone passing through is either on their way to a holiday or they’ve just finished one. Both are reasons for happiness, yet the overarching mood of an airport is downtrodden and moody.

You never get rushed

Staff at cafes, bars and restaurants in airports are a forgiving bunch. As a reader, writer and daydreamer, I generally spend more time at my table than most people. I’ve felt the glare from waiters wondering when they can get my spot back and the pressure to buy another drink to make my stay seem fair. In airports, no one cares. They understand that you’ll leave soon enough to catch your flight (although I did confuse a few people who asked, in a friendly manner, when I was flying) and they don’t bother trying to hurry you out the door.

All in all, my airport stay was an enjoyable experience. Although I’m in no rush to go back – and I’m ever so glad the old LCCT was out of commission – I’d happily consider another extended stay somewhere. I hear Changi is nice at this time of year.

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If the idea of staying in an airport — including the various onsite airport hotels — intrigues you, Skyscanner can help you save money on airfares to get there. Of course if you’d prefer to leave straight away, arranging car hire can help you begin your holiday in earnest.