A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary

by Alain de Botton | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 1846683599 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Tamsine of Strasbourg, Alsace France on 3/3/2014
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This book is in the wild! This Book is Currently in the Wild!
11 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Tamsine from Strasbourg, Alsace France on Monday, March 03, 2014
I put this on my wish-list because I am in the travel industry. I finally came acrosst it at the bookstore and read it right away on my way home. Knowing the author, I should have guessed he'd focus more on the people than the working of the airport , which is fine, as it makes a very pleasurable read

Journal Entry 2 by Tamsine at Finland, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases on Sunday, April 13, 2014

Released 4 yrs ago (4/12/2014 UTC) at Finland, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases


mailed to bookgeo. Hope you'll like it

Journal Entry 3 by wingBookgeowing at Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
This wonderful wishlist book has arrived to Pirkkala, thank you so much for sending this to me. I used to work for the industry, too and just love airports with all their hassle included :). Definitely a book that fits me. This will move to other travel-fevered Finnish bookcrossers after I have finished this. Thanks again, Tamsine!

Journal Entry 4 by wingBookgeowing at Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Tiny book full of interesting glimpses on airport life, always happy to read about this theme. More on the side of facts and technology than entertainment this time. Stories of people met on transit are often fascinating. At the airports I sometimes entertain myself of trying to guess the travel motives of unknown fellow travellers in my head.

Perhaps I'll try The Art of Travel by this same author, too. Thanks again, Tamsine. This book now continues its journey as a wishlist surprise.

Journal Entry 5 by wingBookgeowing at to fulfill a wish, RABCK -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Released 4 yrs ago (5/14/2014 UTC) at to fulfill a wish, RABCK -- Controlled Releases


This wishlis surprise now travels to Piiku via the kind help of Appelsiini, who is couriering this book to Turku meet-up.

Wishing you many fascinating travel moments!

Toivelistakirjojen lukuhaaste
2014 Keep Them Moving # 8

Journal Entry 6 by wingPiikuwing at Parainen, Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland Finland on Monday, May 19, 2014
The book is here, thank you Bookgeo!

Journal Entry 7 by wingPiikuwing at Parainen, Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland Finland on Thursday, June 12, 2014
I also have my airport history; have been working with air freight, and therefore seen "the back stage" of a few airports. It really is fascinating. Earlier I also travelled a lot, and then the hours spent on airports (every week in Arlanda...) were such a pain. Nowadays it's more pleasure than business trips, so it's easier to sit back, relax and enjoy the hassle. I think the author of this book had the same feeling during his week in Heathrow.

I promised to keep this book for sakirmo, I think she might be an "airport person" too :)

Journal Entry 8 by wingsakirmowing at Turku, Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland Finland on Thursday, June 26, 2014
Thanks for the book! My "airport history" consists only of the passengers' side of things but at least there's plenty of that :D Am curious about this book and since it's quite thin, it probably won't collect dust too long in my TBR pile.

Journal Entry 9 by wingsakirmowing at Turku, Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland Finland on Monday, August 25, 2014

Released 4 yrs ago (8/25/2014 UTC) at Turku, Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland Finland


My goodness, what a dull book! Actually a lot more boring than a long layover at Heathrow airport would be. I can't imagine who ever got the idea that Alain de Botton would be a right person to write this kind of a book...

Kirjakko wished for this in my sweepstake a while ago so off it goes. Hope you'll enjoy this at least a bit more than I did!

Journal Entry 10 by wingkirjakkowing at Sipoo, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Thanks Sakirmo, I had already forgotten of winning anything. I haven't forgotten my nightmarish delay and finally cancellation of a BA-flight and my plight at Heathrow a few years back. I avoided my beloved UK for a few years just because I didn't want to end up at Heathrow again and I'll never fly BA which I noticed was first to cancel all flights due to a mere thunderstorm. Most other companies just delayed their flights for a few hours, so I was bitterly watching how Finnair took its passangers home for the night....

I'll get back with the full story when I have more time. Just here to tell the book arrived safe and sound as it didn't travel with BA. Am I bitter? Like a lemon!

Journal Entry 11 by wingkirjakkowing at Sipoo, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Friday, August 29, 2014
I've taken a few glimpses of the book already and I don't yet find it boring. Sakirmo and I both like travel books, but it seems that our tastes differ - I sent her a Dervla Murphy book I could not finish and she thought it was the best travel book she had ever read! It was definately one of my wildest catches as Sakirmo left in Borneo and shortly after a Canadian lady made a journal entry that she had always wanted to read something by this author and she finds it in Borneo of all places!!
I'm making more than just a mental note that this book will go to eponine38's Birthday Packet as it is on her wishlist, but I'll read it first.

Journal Entry 12 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, August 31, 2014
When I sat down (ok, lie on my back) to read this I began to see what Sakirmo meant. I would have taken a very different approach and perhaps had too clear a vision of Tom Hanks living in a airport in that film about the man with no passport.
The book is partly sooo boring as the writer can't describe anything in a simple and straight forward way. Perhaps he thinks that it is not what Writers do. Sorry mate, it's sometimes much better to call a spade a spade. If de Botton had written something about a spade he would probably have said: "This piece of agricultural genious is not merely a symbol of the modern era's daunting technical intelligence, it will stir unfocused images of nostalgia in passangers from Tel Aviv, Tripoli, St Petersburg, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Algiers, Grand Cayman and Nassau..."
But then, when you had began to lose hope, he would write something which woke you up. I'm afraid that Dudley Masters, the shoe-shine man, will never write his memoir working from 8.30. am to 9.00 pm. I would have liked to hear at least one of his stories.
De Botton borrowed something from Bach's Cantana 106:
"Set thy house in order, For thou shalt die, And not remain alive."
Why is that so familiar? I've recently read Helena Anhava's Toimita talosi ("Set thy house in order") which she began by telling it was an expression her father (a priest) often used. It was from the Second Book of Kings, chapter 20: 'At that time Hiskia fell ill and was dying; and Prophet Jesaja, son of Amos, came to him and said: "Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die, and not remain alive." But Hiskia got fifteen more years.' (my translation from Finnish). Bach or Bible, who cares...
I would not recommend this book for people who have phobias about flying as de Botton says in many ways that people who are waiting for their departure could 'fall on their knees and pray to the mysterious forces of fate to which all aircrafts remain subject...' I'm happy to say that I'm not afraid of flying, but I hate all that time wasted on the airports as passangers are required there earlier and earlier, it seems. Well, the Helsinki Airport is an exception, as we nowadays have the Book Swap Lounge where time practically flies when you check what's on offer, leave books there and write down the BCID-numbers of the one's you've merely sighted.
There is one thing I totally agree with the writer. He says that most of us would benefit with a near-fatal disaster to help us to recognize the important things in life. I've said for years that every now and then one should think that she has an illness with poor prognosis. Gosh how each morning looks beautiful, how you start putting things into perspective and how much you achieve by doing things instead of postponing them. You go and meet your friends and relatives and have meaningful conversations. You set thy house in order...

Journal Entry 13 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Wednesday, September 17, 2014
You want the full story of my plight at Heathrow? I'll tell it anyway.
Can't remember the year, perhaps 6-8 years ago. I had just had a wonderful day on a small riverboat on the Thames, got to steer the boat myself and manouver the locks (my first locks ever). I was picked up from Eggham or nearby there and taken directly to Heathrow as our river cruise had taken longer than we thought. Just as we were driving into the parking lot the weather changed completely and it was thundering. I rushed in with my suitcase to avoid getting wet. For some reason my suitcase was not checked in, but I was let passed security check. I was sending SMS' telling everybody about my wonderful day. Little did I know...
Time went by and the row of 'delayed' flights grew on the board. We didn't see outside, but surely a thunderstorm does not last this long? I was flying with BA as it had been a few euros cheaper than Finnair. My face grew longer when I noticed that after a few hours' delay Finnair's flights were boarding and off they went. BA was being delayed and then started to cancel the earlier flights. All of a sudden my flight just dissapeared from the board. I waited for some time for it to reappear as the voice in the loudspeaker just told us to keep an eye on the board. Finally I went to ask from the Help desk. Along with a myriad of other people. I said I would have watched the board but my flight had completely dissappeard. "That's not possible", the help-lady told me. "See for yourself" I said and she was puzzled. She made some calls and said the flight had been cancelled. First flights to Finland tomorrow. "What now?" I asked. She told me to go to a desk to re-book and get a hotel. The queue was about 200 meters by then. It got shorter really slowly and when there were about 20 meters left the desk closed. Just like that. Yes, it was late in the evening, but what were we to do? I had used almost all my cell-phone batteries sending SMS' and I didn't have a charger. I phoned my friends, the same with whom I had been boating earlier on. The husband promised to fetch me and we set a meeting point. He'd be there in 30 mins.
Then started the worst part. Heathrow is designed so that people who go through the security check fly out to the sky. They not try to return. They aren't allowed to return. The personel does not know what to do with people who not leave through the gates. There are no SOPs for a crises like a thunder storm. I was told to go God knows where, but it was far from where I was. I had an old-fashined leather suitcase with no wheels. I dragged my suitcase there and was told to go back where I came from. I went back and was told I can't get out from there. I was given a wave to the general direction of 'there' which was where I had already been. I thought I might have missed some escape there and walked back once again, dragging my suitcase. Nope, the only place I could even try getting out was the place which had turned me back once. Time was running out and my phone was about to die and how would I then let my friend know I was been held up? I stopped a lady walking by with the airport badge on her neck. I asked where to go. She said she did not know. I had a fit: "What sort of a Mickey Mouse airport is this? A little thunder and you cancel all your flights when all other airlines go ahead after a delay. Nobody knows how people get out of here, yet there are hundreds of us trying to get out due to cancellations. This can't be SO difficult. What if you had a bomb alert, you have to have a plan B in case things go wrong!?" I was so mad at her and at the whole stupid situation and most of all I was afraid I would not make it to meet my friend in time. Where would I then go? The lady dissappeared and I was left there angry as a bee. A man rose up - a passanger waiting for his flight - and kindly asked what the trouble was. His wife tried to hiss to him "Don't get involved, it's none of our business", but luckily he did. Faced with somebody nice and helpful for a change I burst into tears and whined that I can't find my way out of this bloody airport and nobody who works here seem to know or care and that I'm soon gonna miss my knight in shining armour as my phone will die any minute. He said: "Hold on", stopped a male walking by with the airport badge on him and said very firmly: "This lady is very angry and upset. Please escort her out of here. NOW." And to my surprise and relief he obeyed and lead me out of there and I found my friend. I could see they had had other plans for the night, but kindly took me in and made the re-booking arrangements for me in the morning. A week later I got a newspaper cutting from them. It read: "Riots at Heathrow - 147 angry passangers arrested!" Apparently I wasn't the only one not getting help and finally the police came and emptied the airport and those people were taken to a jail for the night.
I've once flown with SAS when our flight was late and we missed the connecting flight in Stockholm. It was clear as a whistle for them - very good information, a bus waiting to take us to a hotel, everything went very smoothly.
As I said I avoided Heathrow for many years, but last year I was there in January. To their great surprise, they had snow in London. BA started to cancel its flights already early in the afternoon, but Finnair was merely delayd said my friend who was checking up things for me (the same who had previosly rescued me, but they now lived in Berkshire). So I left for the airport with suspicion building up. Again there were loads of people waiting and some Brits were telling that the airport does not have proper snow tractors to keep the two runways clean as earlier on they haven't often had snowy days. Now with the climate changing they have started to have snow more often and have realized they should be have more than just a shovel and two runways. Indeed! But I was so happy flying with Finnair whose pilots have seen snow before, so up we went when all BA flights were again cancelled. I'll NEVER fly with BA again.

Journal Entry 14 by wingkirjakkowing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Released 4 yrs ago (9/18/2014 UTC) at Winchester, Massachusetts USA


This wishlist book will fly over the pond next. I'm sending it early as so many things can go wrong nowadays with flying - strikes, ash clouds, BA... BA... BA...
Happy Birthday! Can we get to Oxford Convention not going through Heathrow?

Journal Entry 15 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Thursday, December 11, 2014
Wow! This book has had a lot of readers already, and the mixed reviews make me even more curious. Kirjakko, thank you so much for sending this for my birthday! Now I know why you added a sticky note saying, "Down with Heathrow! Down with BA!" You nearly spent a week at the airport yourself.

I think if I do make it to the convention I will look for a Gatwick flight :-). I think Icelandair has both.

Journal Entry 16 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, February 28, 2015
Loved this! Such a slice of life - I especially liked the bit about Dudley, who has been shining shoes at Heathrow for 30 years. I would have thought that was a boring, monotonous job, but as de Botton points out, it's really a psychological study of the reasons people need/want to have their shoes cleaned - and they can be varied!

I've always been fascinated with airports; in my younger years I used to go to Logan here in Boston just as a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. No one I knew was leaving or arriving; I just liked watching the hustle and bustle. Back then, the pre-terrorism days, one floor in the control tower was an observation deck, and I had a special radio that picked up the tower/pilot transmissions. I could watch the planes and hear the conversations. Perhaps my fascination with all this stems from the fact that I'm a terrified flyer. I love everything about planes except being inside of one! (And I did see a couple frightening runway situations in a single afternoon on the observation deck - that didn't help with the fear of flying thing!)

Kirjakko's awful experience was in the back of my mind as I read; so I did, indeed, book my upcoming flight into Gatwick. :-)

This is the first thing I've read by Mr. de Botton, and I absolutely adore his writing style!

Journal Entry 17 by wingeponine38wing at Bookcrossing Convention 2015 in Oxford, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Thursday, March 05, 2015

Released 3 yrs ago (3/5/2015 UTC) at Bookcrossing Convention 2015 in Oxford, Oxfordshire United Kingdom


Included in a box sent to the convention.

Released for Oh, the Places We Can Go release challenge hosted by Secretariat.
Released for 4 Elements Challenge hosted by Yours Truly, for the embedded "air"


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Journal Entry 18 by NowINkA at Oxford, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Sunday, April 12, 2015
A well travelled book picked up from the book buffet table at the Convention. I'm sure it will be an interesting read since I'm actually flying from London Heathrow this time around and with British Airways too!

Journal Entry 19 by NowINkA at Płock, Mazowieckie Poland on Monday, May 04, 2015
I once spent a night at Dublin Airport after Aer Lingus had unexpectedly changed my flight for early morning giving me neither time nor opportunity to book a hotel room. It was a restless night. But at least the flight was pleasant as I fell asleep as soon as I fastened my seatbelt and woke up after landing in Warsaw two hours later! But even taking that into consideration, I'd describe my experience with airports and airlines as a positive one.

The book was my choice for the May 2015 Ultimate Challenge. Theme: travel. It was a quick read but unfortunately, not satisfying enough.

Journal Entry 20 by NowINkA at Płock, Mazowieckie Poland on Monday, May 11, 2015

Released 3 yrs ago (5/11/2015 UTC) at Płock, Mazowieckie Poland


With some other things on my mind right now I forgot to post this book on Friday but off it went to Tizzalicious today as part of the 2015 Wishlist Challenge (5/10). Enjoy!

Journal Entry 21 by MMMaartje at Nieuwegein, Utrecht Netherlands on Friday, May 15, 2015
I am looking forward to see if I am in the group of lovers or haters for this book :) Thanks NowINka!

Journal Entry 22 by MMMaartje at Brønshøj, København Amt Denmark on Thursday, May 21, 2015

Released 3 yrs ago (5/21/2015 UTC) at Brønshøj, København Amt Denmark


This book was different than I expected, I also expected it to be a little more like the movie with Tom Hanks. I still enjoyed it though :)

Now it's going to Ronsar in Germany by mail! Enjoy! :)

Thank you Tizzalicious for this great RABCK. I appreciate it a lot. Thank you also for the bookmarks.

Journal Entry 24 by ronsar at By Mail, A RABCK -- Controlled Releases on Friday, June 05, 2015
After having finished the book, I enjoyed reading all the above comments made by fellow BCers. I had only read De Botton's Love essays before, a book which I had enjoyed a lot. Diaries and travelogues are among my favourite genres and I keep a diary myself as well as a blog. So, yes, I enjoyed De Botton's report of his one week in Heathrow and I liked the fact that he wrote it from an existentialist point of view and not simply as humourous or descriptive. Some excerpts I liked: ...the worlds of commerce and art have frequently been unhappy bedfellows, each viewing the other with a mixture of paranoia and contempt.."
"Like thriller writers, the security staff were paid to imagine life as a little more eventful than it customarily manages to be".
I understand that each one of us would have written this book differently, if we had had the good luck to have been commissioned such a task. For the time being I would like to keep it a little longer in my bookshelf, and maybe write a piece about it on the internet.
Thanks once again tizzalicious for sending it to me.

Journal Entry 25 by Amelie_13 at Wiesbaden, Hessen Germany on Friday, July 03, 2015
Got this book from Ronsar.
I am rather curious to read it because of the different reviews.

Journal Entry 26 by Amelie_13 at Wiesbaden, Hessen Germany on Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Released 2 yrs ago (2/3/2016 UTC) at Wiesbaden, Hessen Germany


Will be released in the Villa Clementine. I started reading the book but it didn't interest me at all.

Journal Entry 27 by Dieva at Berlin (irgendwo/somewhere), Berlin Germany on Sunday, December 10, 2017
The way Alain de Botton writes about everyday situations in this book is fascinating. His words generate a clear picture of the situations in my head. So this book really came to life in my mind.

Journal Entry 28 by Dieva at Arenbergpark in Wien Bezirk 03 - Landstraße, Wien Austria on Sunday, November 04, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (11/4/2017 UTC) at Arenbergpark in Wien Bezirk 03 - Landstraße, Wien Austria



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