In praise of small airports

Thanksgiving 2018 – we travel to Tucson, AZ for a week of sunshine in the South West. Flying out of O’Hare is about what you’d expect the weekend before Thanksgiving – busy, mainly with recreational travelers. That means many, many more “service animals” than you’d see on a more typical business travel day.

Upon landing in Tucson the first impression of the airport is that it’s small – the taxi from landing to the gate is short. Upon deplaning the impression continues – is there simply no one else here on a Saturday afternoon? Everywhere seems deserted, the only cluster of activity being around the only operating baggage carousel.

Bags collected we start the walk to the car hire center, which is onsite within the airport grounds. Other than being clean, flat, and nicely decorated, the walk is reminiscent of Aberdeen. We’re quickly introduced to a Ocotillo growing in an outdoor space between the main terminal and the garage.

Hertz Gold customers bypass the (utterly empty) main rental hall and walk through to the parking area, and a dedicated kiosk. We’re the only customers visible anywhere and, as might be expected, we’re quickly walking to find the car, keys in hand. Complimentary bottles of water were welcome, thank you.

We load up the bags, install the GPS, find something not obnoxious on the radio, and prepare to hit the road. It takes a moment for it to sink in – there’s no exit procedure, we’re suddenly just driving on the public road – I can’t remember the last time that happened!

The return journey a week later was much the same, in reverse. Security was quick, uneventful, though the departures area was much busier than when we arrived. Our flight was delayed an hour by winter storms (elsewhere, needless to say) and so we had extra time to sit and read. While busy it wasn’t hectic, and felt relaxed by comparison with O’Hare, on almost any day.

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