At a former job, one of our staff wanted to used a ms surface instead of a laptop. She'd never admit it but it was an awful mistake and awfully overpriced for what you got. And don't think to use it or an ipad for spreadsheets, databases, etc. While my daughter uses her ipad air all the time for presentations and facetime, most of her work is done on a desktop. We have a ipad with a zagg keyboard / case. It's pretty good for listening to books, just like my kindle 7, but at close to ten time the price. For day to day, real world tasks, none of these gloified chald boards cut it. Screen is way to small as is the keyboard. speed is questionable. After a few minutes of using one the screen is a horrid mess covered by greasy fingerprints. And it you don't use the swipes just right the things won't respond. No, I'll stick with a real computer, not a fancy contixo slab.
It seems like some of the issues you encountered are related to the iPad Air’s size: you’d encounter the same problems with the keyboard and Chrome on any small, 10-inch laptop. Did you consider trying the 12.9 inch iPad Pro? Oh, there are plenty of issues with iPadOS that limit these devices’ functionality, but the bigger iPad is terrific for someone who writes or reads all day.
While I will agree that an iPad is not an efficient replacement for a laptop, I think $1,000 is worth the efficiency lost over the course of one day. After all you did leave the laptop home for the trip, so on previous days it was good enough.