Ok, call me suspicious, but I actually believe there’s a secret, somewhat clandestine training school, perhaps under a runway somewhere, where all airport staff, including engineers and terminal architects, receive training on how to make life as difficult and complicated as possible for airline passengers using British airports.
For starters there are never quite enough gates for arriving aircraft, so we stumble down the steps from the aircraft to be herded like weary sheep (about to turn into sardines) onto airless buses, eventually to be deposited at the bottom of a flight of stairs leading up to the arrivals area. Now again it may just be my suspicious mind, but I believe these bus drivers are highly trained individuals and that the frequent, heavy breaking which throws several unsuspecting business-class passengers the full length of the bus (giving me secret pleasure) is all part of the master plan!
Where else but at a UK airport would you find specially designed giant pillars strategically placed bang in the middle of a walkway, or just a few random steps specially positioned to trip you up as you stagger off a transatlantic red-eye? What about the escalators that are nearly always out-of-order, forcing hundreds of jet-lagged travellers to drag themselves and their bags up and down steep flights of stairs. Or the elevator doors that slam shut on your trolley (which you’ve just paid a pound for) when it’s only half-way through the narrow door. And their latest trick has to be the automatic doors at Terminal 3 – yes, they really do swing out towards you and, if you’re not fast enough, hit you smack in the face.
Then there’s the music of drills and heavy machinery accompanying us on our walk along temporary, uneven flooring towards security. To help us pass the time in the great British queue, there are numerous strategically placed official BAA notices apologising for the current disruptions and vainly attempting to convince us that it’s all part of a plan to serve us better. A veritable plethora of complimentary reading material, as we patiently wait for the pleasure of removing all but our underwear and passing through scanners which will no doubt beep, subjecting us to a bit of a pat-down from some butch-looking woman not to be messed with. And if I’m really unlucky, they’ll find that extra 5 ml of hair gel I’ve forgotten to remove from my hand luggage and uncover my plans to take over the aircraft by scrunching the captain’s hair!
Of course it’s the baggage handlers that are the most covert in this entire operation. Not only do they remain invisible to the naked eye, but they have the ability to make us stare blankly at an empty carousel for an inordinate amount of time. Then just as the baggage magically appears on the conveyor belt they make some of the bags completely disappear!
I am currently ruminating as to whether ash clouds from erupting Icelandic volcanoes are also part of the master plan!