Another luxury travel review for the internationally renown, Paris-London-Whakatu-Wutunugurra based magazine Luxury-Leisurecation .
Yes it’s slightly satirical.
Bonriki International Airport (departures) in Tarawa is an absolute scream, and fully lives up to the high expectations set by arrivals.
First you go into the departures area, a sweeping statement of Kiribati interior decoration and architecture. The customs and check-in facilities are both very handy – no long tortuous walks in air-conditioned banality so often encountered in the West.
The immigration portal is ergonomically blended into the check-in lounge next to the relaxing check-in space.
At first glance, it appears that travelers are free to choose which they do first – check-in or customs – as there is physically nothing to stop you choosing which to do first, however, completing check-in formalities first is recommended. Conveniently there’s a fairly long relaxed queue, so travelers needn’t feel under pressure if they don’t arrive at the airport by the scheduled check-in time.
Once all formalities have been completed, you pass into the executive-class departure lounge. As with check-in, conventional Western pretentiousness has been fully rejected in favor of a culturally rich fully immersive experience; here you are not only free to mingle with local plane-spotters but you have complete access to all of Kiribati, as there are none of the access restrictions so common-place in I-Matang cultures.
Local executives relaxing in the Bonriki international executive lounge.
Kiribati plane-spotting is a very well patronized pastime. There is always a large number of enthusiastic plane-spotters of all ages, calmly passing the time until the scheduled arrival of the next plane: waiting cross-legged on traditional woven mats, enjoying conversation and children running with screaming delight along the concourse.
Early-bird plane-spotters starting to take up the prime spots.
The arrival of the plane is nothing less than an eruption, twofold. First the unannounced roar of the engines as the de-accelerating plane rushes past the panoramic open windows of the executive-class lounge. This is immediately followed by the roar and agile movement of the plane-spotters, particularly the younger less experienced ones, moving swiftly to the windows to greet the plane with gentle words of welcome, uttered in measured 120 Decibel screams.
Having then passed an idyllic hour-and-a-half in the executive lounge (or nearby location of your choice) you are free to pass through security and board. In typical Kiribati style, the original departures area is cunningly transformed into access to the security area – through a door at the rear of the departure area. Here at least the locals have subtly blended in Western décor with the addition of the security equipment and stark walls.
You then proceed across the gently warmed tarmac to the waiting aircraft, where you can prepare for the final stages of your emotional journey before beginning the physical one.