The Tribes

The People To Avoid At The Airport

From Mr Business to Mr Lad-On-Tour, the five archetypes you can expect to encounter next time you’re cashing in your air miles

If you were an alien visiting Earth and you had only a single day to learn as much as you could about the human race, what would you do? Visit an art gallery? Attend a political rally? Become an Uber driver for the day? If it were us, we’d head directly and without hesitation to the departure hall of our nearest major international airport. They might not seem like the most natural habitat in which to observe human behaviour – modern ones in particular, with their antiseptic surfaces of steel and glass, hardly even look as if they were built to sustain life – but airports play host to as broad a sample of humanity as you’re likely to find anywhere on the planet.

Of course, what makes them such a hotbed of diversity is that nobody actually wants to be there. Unlike the crowds drawn to a sports game or music festival, the only thing that the transient denizens of an airport have in common is a fervent desire to get out of there as soon as possible, ideally with a bottle of duty-free booze stashed in their carry-on. In that sense, at least, the airport is a great leveller. It breaks down social barriers, throwing together men and women of all ages and from all walks of life. And hidden within this human tapestry, there are a few classic stereotypes that you are almost certain to encounter. Below, we take you through five of the most common.

MR FIRST CLASS

This guy hops on and off planes like rabbits hop on and off… well, each other. (You get the picture.) So while you’re adjusting your tie knot and practising your best “hey, I was just wondering if there were any empty seats in business” smile in the bathroom mirror, he’s rolling out of an airport lounge so exclusive that you don’t even know it exists. Dressed in the standard C-level executive off-duty outfit of cashmere tracksuit, baseball cap, sliders and socks – so much smoother at security – and with his $500 noise-cancelling headphones carefully tuned to block out the world, he looks like an overgrown, expensively dressed teenager who just rolled out of bed. Not that it matters, though, because unlike you, he has no doubt about which way he’s turning when he gets on the plane. In fact, he probably knows which seat he’s sitting in, the vintage of the champagne that’s waiting to be uncorked on his arrival, and the first name – and star sign – of the air hostess who’ll be personally attending to him throughout the flight. No wonder he looks so smug.

MR LAD-ON-TOUR

Yep, there’s always one. The “it’s past noon somewhere in the world!” excuse might pass muster with the barman – who, just to clarify, is being paid to be nonjudgemental – but that fourth pint of lager certainly isn’t impressing the young family trying to eat breakfast at the next table. To be fair to our early-doors boozer, the rules of etiquette governing when it is and isn’t OK to drink can seem a little contradictory at times. Especially when you happen to be drunk. Like, why is it definitely not OK to crack open a beer at 7.00am, but it’s kind of OK if you haven’t been to bed yet? And if it’s normal to have a glass of wine with lunch in France, does that mean you can have a shot of tequila, too? Also, why do your brunch pals look so concerned when you try to order a vodka and Coke with your eggs florentine, but if you order a Bloody Mary they tell you to put it on Instagram? Valid questions, all, and ones for which we cannot provide a definite answer. What we can tell you, though, is that in moments of uncertainty it is wise to err on the side of caution. Or, in other words, just because you can drink doesn’t mean that you should. Have some goddamned dignity, man.

MR EAGER BEAVER

Anyone who has been to an airport before knows that the suggested minimum arrival time – three hours before your flight is due to take off – is only there to ensure that you spend as much time as possible in duty-free buying things that you neither want nor need. This guy clearly didn’t get the memo. Either that, or he just really loves airports. Specifically, queueing at airports. And it isn’t enough for him to be first through check-in: no, he also needs to be first at the gate, first on the plane (thanks to Speedy Boarding Ultra Plus), first to stash his carry-on in the overhead storage locker, first to take it back out again, first at the luggage carousel… It’s almost as if he’s short on time. But if that’s the case, then why did he show up to the airport 180 minutes early?

MR ANGRY

“Look, sir. I understand. Of course I do. Nobody likes having to remove their shoes in order to satisfy the arbitrary legal requirements of an under-qualified airport official. No, I’ve never personally seen a bomb hidden in a brogue, but I’m assured it has happened before. No, sir, that 125ml moisturiser that you forgot to check in with your main bag probably isn’t stuffed with Semtex, either, but we still have to dispose of it. I’m afraid it’s just policy. I haven’t heard of ‘La Mer’. Yes, I’m sure it is expensive. No, sir, you don’t look like a terrorist to me, but if you keep saying ‘terrorist’ and ‘bomb’, you’re going to alarm the other passengers. Please remove your shoes, sir. I won’t ask again. No, I don’t have a shoe horn.”

MR BUSINESS

You know those guys who didn’t realise that American Psycho was a satire on consumerism and corporate greed? The ones who decided immediately after watching it to pursue a career in investment banking because, well, it all looks so super-glamorous and fun? Well, this guy did something similar – only he was watching Up In The Air. This 2009 comedy-drama follows the life of Ryan Bingham, a corporate hatchet man who spends his life jetting back and forth across the US sacking people. Bingham, played by Mr George Clooney, has become something of a role model among image-conscious business travellers, who see in his peripatetic life of luxury something deeply aspirational – so much so that they’re willing to ignore the fact that he is clearly a deeply unfulfilled man. Just so we’re clear, guys: a 10-million-mile air miles account is not necessarily a sign of a life well lived. You’ll be able to recognise Mr Business by his sleek carry-on luggage, his immaculately turned-out appearance – oh, and the thousand-yard stare of his cold, dead eyes.

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