Saturday, December 19, 2009

The New Gateway to Barbados

For the nine years Philly and the World has been visiting Barbados, Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) has been under different states of construction. It’s just the way things are done in the Caribbean. The renovation is yet to be finished, as jetways are planned. And like the airport, its official Web site is still a work in progress.

Grab a Banks beer beneath a tent canopy and flying fish before heading into the departures terminal.

But much of the work to the main structures is finished. You can argue with the time it took to renovate the the main gateway to the island nation, but one would find it difficult to argue with the results. The redesigned airport manages to enhance its status as a major Caribbean hub while maintaining its small, more humane scale that defines most airports in the region. (Above is the ticketing area.)

The tent, concrete and steel-beam structure brings the tropical
Barbados weather into much of the building. It is most evident in the airy departures area, where beneath large canopies (and an additional concrete roof as you continue inside); travelers can get their tickets, grab a seat, shop, get a beer, and chat with family and friends without ever feeling like you’re indoors. Maria swears that bird sounds are piped through the terminal’s speaker system. I didn’t notice it. For those driving to the airport, the parking lot is steps away from the terminal.

Two views of the of the public area of the airport. Notice the kit-like material on the ceiling.

You are not actually inside the departures building until you get to customs. Once past customs, the new terminal includes a modern food court, shops that sell local and brand-name products (that are sold in nearly all airports), and a small bar. The actual waiting area is a large single-story horizontal room. Large window walls and a concrete and tent roof allow plenty of sunlight and provide a front row seat of the arriving planes, which taxi just outside the building, and a view of the passengers headed to the arrivals terminal.

The departures waiting area (left) and the food court.

As mentioned, there are no jetways. Planes load and unload on the tarmac in front of the departures building, allowing those of us who are leaving to have one last shot of Caribbean sunshine before boarding. I hope they never build the jetways. The arrivals hall is in a separate building next door, which used to house arrivals and departures. The extra space was desperately needed, as most of the North American and European flights arrive at the same time. According to some people, it can still take up to two hours to get processed, although this hasn’t happened to us.

Two views of the shops inside the departures terminal.

More than 20 passenger airlines and four cargo airlines use Grantley, making it one of the busier airports in the Caribbean. Now it’s also one of its most user-friendly and attractive gateways.

Arriving passengers from a Virgin Atlantic flight.

A water element on the way to the plane.

Our chariot awaits.

No comments:

Post a Comment