Terry O'Connor

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Changing planes



Jazz singers, especially those nostalgically inclined or of an earlier generation, get their kicks on Route 66, the eponymous highway that slices through the heart of the USA. However, for the weary traveller killing time at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Gate B36 is definitely the place to be. This desirable refuge lies at the far end of one of the culs-de-sac that make up Schiphol’s extensive footprint. Being at the tip of the toe, there is no through traffic of people and their wheeled cases. The moving walkways do not extend this far: to get to B36, you need a good reason, and you have to walk. In place of human conveyor belts and a thronged concourse, there are numerous seats, more than enough to ensure a quiet snooze or some undisturbed reading. To complete the idyll, a small snackbar has coffee and rolls. One could almost take up residence, or at least peacefully draft an essay.

Just occasionally, a flight will board from B36. The number of people rises gradually from a handful to a modest crowd, though without filling every seat or disturbing the reverie. Announcements in Dutch and Engels alert the crowd, and they flow chatteringly away, coaxed and discreetly marshalled by the blue-clad functionaries of KLM. Peace returns to B36. Elsewhere in Schiphol, life is going on at a near-hectic pace. People arrive, consult vast departure boards, scurry off towards this or that gate, present passports for inspection, re-check the gate, change direction, then realise that they have two hours to kill. Along concourses A and C to E, there are just too many people for the ambience to be other than busy. Too many people, and too many retail outlets. Much of Schiphol is a retail maul of shops selling perfume, high-end men’s shirts and, regardless of season, tulip bulbs. People flow, cash flows, and the purposes of commerce and transport are served.

Not so at B36. Apart from the useful coffee stall, this restful corner eschews retail temptation. Broad windows give a fine view of taxi lanes and runways, with their gleaming line-dance of Boeings, Air-Buses and Embraers, and attendant trucks, mobile stairways and even actual people. Gate B36 offers the authentic experience of air travel without the overtones of doing the Saturday supermarket run. In fact … no, they are calling my flight. You will have to visit Schiphol Gate B36 and write the rest for yourself.


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