Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Phil Hopkins
Arts & Travel Editor
7:00 AM 13th April 2022

Making Long Haul Travel More Fun

When people sigh at the prospect of a long journey I’m one of those who tends to celebrate long-haul flight as a unique opportunity to relax: no mobiles, a chance to be waited on hand and foot, an unlimited supply of films and, of course, lots of snoozes!

So, for me, the journey is as much a part of the experience as the destination itself.

When the Ras Al Khaimah Tourist Authority (RAKTA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) invited me to check out its new sustainability strategy, I knew there was a potentially arduous journey to Manchester Airport before I even set foot in Dubai: could I make it any more palatable?

Leaving home on the day of your flight can be akin to placing all your chips on one roulette number.

Ever thought about travelling the day before and staying at an airport hotel?

Yes, there is a financial cost, however, this pales into insignificance compared with the peace of mind of knowing that you won’t be late for check-in or that all important flight the following day. This has never been more pertinent at the current time in light of all the much-heralded delays at Manchester Airport.

Our Emirates flight to Dubai was due to depart at 2pm Sunday afternoon.

The Trans Pennine Express: a stress free way to get to Manchester Airport
The Trans Pennine Express: a stress free way to get to Manchester Airport
Thankfully we decided to take the train from our Leeds suburb to the main city station the day before, boarding the Trans Pennine Express to Manchester Airport on the Saturday afternoon.

And thank Heaven we did because Trans Pennine staff were staging industrial action the following day! Had we overlooked this key piece of information stressful chaos would most likely have ensued.

In the event we were able to meander into Leeds city station, casually change platforms and, within 30 minutes, were on our way to Manchester via a raft of local stations: about 90 minutes but a pretty relaxing affair and not overcrowded. First snooze of the day!

By 3pm – with just a 10 minute walk from the platform - we had checked into the Radisson Blu Hotel which has the distinct advantage of being connected to all three airport terminals by a convenient covered walkway.

This is where your relaxing vacation should be allowed to continue! If you check in by around 3pm – assuming you have an afternoon or early morning flight the following day - you can take full advantage of some superb facilities: pool... club, beautiful room and, if you are staying on the 9th floor, the Executive Lounge, another place to relax, and feast, other than in your room.

The Radisson Blu has carved out a useful niche, servicing travellers with a turn key offering that is slick and well-rehearsed.

We sampled a few afternoon nibbles in the Executive Lounge before chilling out in the pool and then showering ahead of dinner in the Collage Restaurant, which also doubles as the breakfast room.

Radisson Blu's 9th floor Executive Lounge
Radisson Blu's 9th floor Executive Lounge
It was a relaxing affair. No need to unpack everything, just make sure that you have your night things at the top of your suitcase- jim jams, toothbrush, make-up and slippers, perhaps, so that you can neatly pop them all back into your case before continuing the journey.

Check-out time was around 11am the following morning although no one was breathing down our necks, and by 11.15am we were in the airport and queuing at the Emirates check-in which, in truth, did take quite a while to clear in light of the large number of people that are seemingly travelling at the same time now that Covid restrictions have been relaxed.

Nevertheless another ‘quick fix’ is one of the airport’s Fast Track passes which start at £4 per person but, again, whizz you through passport control and luggage checks in a matter of minutes, avoiding any waiting queues.

That gives you time to relax in the Escape Lounge (circa £30 per person) before your flight: more food, drinks (including certain alcohol) and relaxation.

There’s nothing worse than jostling people in a busy airport and hoping that there will be somewhere to sit in the already overcrowded eateries.

The Escape Lounge, by contrast, has plenty of room, is pretty chilled and it will probably cost you the £30 cover price on spends in the main airport if you decide to give the lounges a miss.

But, beware, no flight announcements are made so the onus is on you to keep an eye on the monitors for your boarding gate and time. The only slight down side for us was that the very busy airport meant slower than usual passport control clearance and, consequently, less time to enjoy the lounge.
So, when you do eventually board your plane, the idea is that you should be comparatively chilled out and, whilst there is a cost to all of this, this should always be weighed against the stress of not opting for such a journey plan: the alternative might be cheaper but, on some occasions, far more mentally taxing!

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