My sympathy to all those travellers stranded at various uncomfortable airports over the weekend.
But as the nation echoes with complaints about the difficulties involved in getting from Point A to Point B, I can’t help but wonder whether our expectations about the ease of flying are becoming a tad unrealistic.
After all, air travel is supposed to involve gross inconvenience and burlesque mishap. That’s air travel’s job. And no amount of insurance, meticulous advance planning or industrial relations tranquility will protect you.
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You would think after the recent happy news that Osama bin Laden had been shot, placed in a bag and thrown into the ocean that the world might have lightened up a bit. Sadly this does not appear to be the case. In these troubled times the price of freedom continues to be eternal pedantry.
A clean-living colleague emailed on Tuesday asking whether, as a smoker, I knew whether it was permissible to board a plane with a cigarette lighter on your person. It was, I replied.
His curiosity was piqued by the fact that he had just been accosted by security guards at the Melbourne Airport for having a miniature can of shaving cream in his hand luggage. Not the big type you’d use for school muck-up day or to shave a mammoth, just one of those tiny travel cans.
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The worst place in the entire universe is any of the smoking rooms at the otherwise spotless new Hong Kong airport. In these tiny glass cells, dozens of travellers squeeze in for a desperate last puff before they fly out. If you’re foolish enough to step inside, you emerge instantly reeking of ashtray. Bleah.
As these loathsome smoky dens are to Hong Kong airport, so is the airport to the wider world. Airports themselves are captive hell holes, where we can no more escape the check-in queues, the over-inflated prices and the smug frequent flyers heading off to their poncy “lounges” than a smoker in the Hong Kong cubicle can escape the smoke cloud.
And Australian airports are among the worst, as a “leaked” survey yesterday confirmed. Leaked schmeaked. Like that was some kind of secret. Anyone could have told you our airports are shocking. All airports are shocking, even the supposedly good ones. Quite rightly, we hate airports… but not as much as we secretly love them.
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In his great book City of Quartz urban geographer Mike Davis describes the lengths to which the City of Los Angeles has gone to make life difficult on its own people, reaching its zenith with the creation of “the bum-proof bench”, a specially-designed park bench which is curved so that homeless people can’t sleep on it.
If Mike ever comes to Australia he won’t have to go very far to find a similar level of designed hostility towards the public - he’ll have landed right next to it.
Already voted the worst airport in Australia, Sydney Airport has just become a whole lot more unpleasant with its management closing a turning lane for motorists – forcing them to use the exorbitant Macquarie Bank-owned carpark, or exit the airport altogether.
Without any public announcement, Sydney Airports Corporation has placed yellow road blocks and a no-exit sign on what for years had been a public turning lane which let motorists do a lap as they waited to pick and family and friends whose flights had been delayed.
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