HARASSMENT – Heathrow, and we are strictly speaking as a passenger here, must rank prominently, if not vying for the top spot, in the Passenger Harassment Competition among the world’s airports.
Apart from the fact that its terminal facilities are as outdated, inconvenient and shabby as 30 years ago when we last had to travel through London because other connections to European points were unavailable, the incompetence and gruffness of the people who are supposed to work there, has reached unimaginable levels.
The security paranoia that has already swept the airports in the United States and some other airports on Europe’s mainland, has been solidly copied, nay far exceeded, by the Heathrow folks.
Under the pretext of “we care about your security”, staff are bent on making your stay at the airport as unpleasant as possible with incomprehensible directions, instructions and directives.
Mind you, we are not alone in this rather sad assessment. Most of our British colleagues and friends who are forced to use the airport’s facilities, be it car parks, check-in counters, passport control or the outrageously expensive duty-free shops, not to mention the dreadful restaurants, are unanimous in their advice: “if you can avoid Heathrow, just do it”.
LLL – Still on Heathrow, or rather the airline that has its home base there, British Airways, we were hardly surprised to hear last month that this carrier has managed to reach the top spot in the “Lost Luggage League” or LLL, with an astonishing 28 percent of its passengers’ luggage being lost, misplaced or misrouted.
The lame excuse for scandalous record?… The earlier mentioned security measures, which force passengers to check in every piece of baggage under the so far unexplained and most inconvenient “one piece of cabin luggage only” rule. Asked to explain how and when BA would get out of the top spot in the LLL, a spokesman could utter only: “we’re working on it”. Better watch that bag disappearing on the conveyor belt, folks, it may be the last time you have seen it.
AIRBRUSH – And now for some Airways. We hear that the airline in its continuous battle with close competitor Virgin Atlantic and its high profi le chief, Sir Richard Branson, has airbrushed a scene of arch rival Branson out of its in-fl ight James Bond movie “Casino Royale”.
The Virgin Atlantic boss is briefl y featured in the original 007 fi lm at an airport security scanner, but can only be seen from the back in the edited version. According to sources, shots of the tail fi n of a Virgin plane have also been obscured.
A spokesman for BA (probably the same who commented on the LLL) said only that it “previews fi lms before they are screened on our aircraft and regularly edits fi lms” on the grounds of taste and suitability.
Virgin appeared in the fi lm, according to media reports, because it had helped the fi lm’s producers get a plane to Prague where some of the scenes were shot.
Nobody from Virgin Atlantic was immediately available for comment, but one source said you could hear the thunderous laughter at the Virgin headquarters when the airbrush story broke.
HELL IN THE AIR – The threat of, what one of our friends describes as “bringing a new dimension to hell in the air”, or more precisely the “in-fl ight use of cellphones”, has apparently ceded a bit following the recent decision by the US Federal Communications Commission to offi cially ground the idea of allowing airline passengers to use cellular telephones while in flight.
As everyone knows, existing rules require cellular phones to be turned off once an aircraft leaves the ground in order to avoid interfering with cellular network systems on the ground and with the aircraft’s navigation and communication systems.
We’re not so sure, however, whether this will mean the end of the dreadful idea to allow the use of mobile phones during a flight.
Too many carriers, including Ryanair, Qantas and quite a few others, are just fi xated on the huge earning potential and, aided by phone companies, are developing systems that will allow nut cases sitting next to you to shout to their wives that they will soon be home.
HUMP – We hear that under a Russian special-purpose programme “Social and Economic Development of the Kuril Islands for 2006-2015”, an international airport is constructed on Hump Island, which is part of the Kuril Islands.
Once the 1.2 billion roubles project will be completed, Hump International Airport will launch air service to Sakhalin, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok and Japan.
That could be quite a bumpy ride at take-off from Hump.
PIY – Back to the immense joy of air travel. A friend of ours recently purchased an electronic KLM ticket from Singapore to Amsterdam and after receiving her confi rmation, she found to her delight that she could print her own boarding pass with seat number and all to speed up the check-in procedures at Changi airport.
Simple, speedy and convenient and one less waiting line at an airport counter.
Since she was travelling with cabin luggage only, she proceeded straight to the departure hall at Changi airport, where she happily handed her print-ityourself boarding pass to the airport police.
Suspicious looks at the, admittedly, simple-looking boarding pass were followed by a curt instruction to go to the KLM counter and get the “real thing” as the PIY boarding pass was not allowed because of security regulations. Our friend has meanwhile decided to avoid new electronic gadgets offered by the airline industry and reluctantly has joined the long queues again.
DANANG MOUSE – Talking about delays and queues, we hear that a small white mouse running around a Boeing 777 delayed a recent Vietnam Airlines fl ight to Tokyo for more than four hours, newspapers reported.
A passenger saw the mouse on the aircraft, which had arrived in Hanoi from the central city of Danang and was scheduled to continue to Japan. The report said that technicians were sent “to seek and kill the mouse on the Boeing and this task lasted for over four hours,” according to one report in the online newspaper VietnamNet.
The report and others in state-run newspapers said the passengers went to a hotel and luggage was removed during the search for the mouse. The rodent was found early the following day and the aircraft took off…….without the mouse.
Vietnam Airlines employees said they suspected that a passenger brought the mouse onto the plane and it escaped. The lesson here, boys and girls, is to never bring a mouse to an airport, let alone take it on board a plane. After the liquid ban, we can do without strip searches for mice!