Being a long way from anywhere else can do odd things to your sense of belonging, and it stands to reason that Australians have good reason to feel special about the notion of ‘coming home’ as they’ve invariably travelled a pretty long way to do it – whether domestically or internationally.
This was made clear to me the first time I visited Australia, back in 1999. As we crossed an endless, parched looking coastline, stretching left and right of the aircraft, the pilot, with a sense of occasion, announced that passengers could get their first glimpse of Oz by glancing out of the windows. After a suitable pause, he added: “We’ll be landing in Sydney in approximately five hours.” It’s a big old place.
National airline Qantas has cottoned on to the sense of occasion that Aussies feel when coming home by theming their recent ad campaign around the concept, with posters and TV slots pulling at heartstrings by portraying long distance reunion after reunion, all made possible thanks to the flying kangaroo.
Ads are one thing, but as I was about to board a flight of my own back to Europe for a homecoming of my own, I saw something that I hadn’t noticed before, and which is alien to anyone who has visited an airport in Europe in the last 20 years – Aussie airports let non-travelling family members go right to the gate to wave off or welcome home their loved ones.
In the UK, even for domestic flights, ever tighter security measures mean you’re hard pressed to drop someone off at the terminal these days – and are often charged for the privilege of a simple ‘kiss and drop off’ on the terminal’s forecourt.
As I sat waiting for my flight from Canberra, I watched reunion after reunion take place at Gate 11 and it felt like watching a series of snippets from various movies, or Qantas ads. Either Way, it put a broad smile on my face and made me realise that sometimes it’s those little touches that make the world a better, more human place for all of us – long may it continue.