To function … and beyond

ABU DHABI AIRPORT SERVICES (ADAS) claims to hold a world record for the fastest full turn-around of a wide body aircraft. The record was achieved when a British Airways flight, using a Boeing 777 arrived from London and needed to depart on time.

ADAS staff supervised passenger disembarkation, baggage offloading, aircraft cleaning, loading cargo, mail, loading of baggage and supplies, and outbound passengers in just under 40 minutes – compared to a normal minimum time of 60 minutes.

A large international airport is primarily a functional space – a machine that processes people, luggage and goods onto planes and then away into the skies.

Departing passengers arrive at their plane via a series of stages familiar to both occasional tourist and seasoned business traveller – check-in, border control, security, boarding gate, runway transfer, and so on. When they get to the correct gate, their plane must also be there; it must be emptied of its previous passengers, cleaned, refueled, restocked and loaded with the correct luggage. At the other end, on arrival, they must be reunited with their luggage and processed on to the next stage of their journey as quickly as possible.

In addition to its bread-and-butter functions, the airport performs a host of supporting actions – buses, trains and taxis; it sells aspirational raincoats and over-priced cappuccinos to the masses; it lounges the privileged; it provides dedicated places of worship for the holy and dedicated places of revelry for the sinners.

BRITISH AIRWAYS passengers consume in 1 year:
Chicken 40.5 tonnes
Caviar 6 tonnes
Smoked Salmon 22 tonnes
Chocolate Boxes 557,507
Champagne 90 thousand cases (9 litre cases)

Coordinating hundreds of flights each day – with a narrow window of time at any given stage –requires a logistics system of mind-bending complexity and an army of support staff. Imagine a cross between the Victorian cotton mill, the sci-fi city of the future and an out-of-town retail outlet and you have the aesthetic of many larger airports. Huge celebrations of steel, glass and concrete, passengers and workers are in continual movement, both inside and out. Escalators, travelators, electric carts, shuttle trains and buses help them along the way.

When the airport works efficiently, passengers are unaware of the behind-the-checkout machinations. They move seamlessly through grand spaces filled with natural light. The airport is a place of contemplation as they ponder the journey ahead, the possibilities beyond the horizon.

At worst, travelers stumble through a claustrophobic maze, with little to help them navigate through endless, airless, corridors. A monotonous succession of queues faces them; tempers become frayed, connections are missed. The airport is a source of stress, a stubborn hurdle blocking the route to the final destination.

‘The airport’ goes beyond mere functionality.  It is a unique ambiance, a space apart from normal life. It is a large, anonymous and transitory space, yes. But no matter how many frequent flier miles you rack up, there is still a sense of magic in the airport.

Remember the first time you boarded a plane and hurtled into the sky? The mixture of excitement fear and wonder never completely goes away. And it can perhaps be joined by other feelings – the hope of new possibilities, the sadness of leaving or the relief of return. The airport can represent all of these, or perhaps none.

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A vibrating sex toy in a rubbish bin sparked a security scare and shut a regional Australian airport for almost an hour, officials say.
“It was rather disconcerting when the rubbish bin started humming furiously,” cafeteria manager Lynne Bryant said.
Australia has been under heightened security alert since the September 11, 2001, hijacked airliner attacks on the United States and security at major buildings and transport hubs has been tightened even further ahead of an October 9 election.

Is it at airports that we, Joe Public, come face-to-face with the ‘realities’ of our globalised world [sic].

Here, in the light of the ‘heightened threat’ that we face, we are all now subject to an increasing number of security checks. We have to shed belts, jackets and shoes; we are frisked; our computers and bags are scanned and swabbed; our soft drinks, razors and toiletries confiscated; our destinations and occupations questioned.

Many see these procedures are a necessary burden, but to the conspiracy minded they raise other questions. Are these really necessary? Do they really make us any safer? What else would we willingly and docilely submit to? What else do they use our information for? Can you really make an explosive from two liquids? And why are they looking at me?

But here we also see the positive sides of our interconnected world. Airports – as the connection points for the opposite ends of the Earth – are perhaps some of the only truly international spaces. The departure lounge has a sense of equality and camaraderie that transcends nationalities. For no matter if you are a banker from Manhattan or a backpacker from Madrid, you are all just on a journey. And you all have to wait for the boarding call.

Featured on an American Airlines packet of peanuts:
“Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.”

Airline facts from

ENDS [863 words]

click here for the authors website

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