Thursday, June 28, 2007
Airport horror in the Sunshine State
I think I may just have discovered the worst airport experience in the US. It is not JFK or LAX (it is fashionable to rubbish them, yet I love them both).

No, this traveling horror goes by the three letters FLL: Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport in Florida.

I passed through FLL en route to the Bahamas last week for a filming trip. Let’s ignore the fact that all the flights were late (that is not the airport’s fault).

Let’s concentrate instead on a woefully inadequate immigration system that has people standing in lines for hours in hot rooms with not even a seat. The immigration room has an overflow for the overflow. When asking one of the assistants if this waiting and queuing was normal he cheerfully replied, “Oh, yes.”

The immigration staff themselves have a look when you stand in front of them that basically says “Ok, you’re up to no good… convince me why I should let you in the United States. “

This used to be the look experienced at JFK, LAX, SFO all the big gateways. These days the officers in those cities are pleasant, friendly and invariably say “Welcome” at the end of the process. I got the decided impression my officer was disappointed he could find no fault. His colleague made up for it by delaying my producer who then missed two flights and had to stay overnight.

Anyway, back to FLL. The signage is awful. Think I am wrong FLL? Pretend you don’t know the place, Mr. FLL Director, come out of customs and immigration and show me where there are decent signs telling you how to make your connection and which airline is where.

Getting from terminal to terminal either involves a bus, which is rarely seen, or a tram that shuttles around the multi-storey car park. The tram is a joke because your luggage has to go into the caboose all of which takes time and effort. The security staff were surly, the shopping miserable.

Oh, I don’t doubt you have your favourite “love to hate” but believe me it will be a very long time before I willingly subject myself to the FLL experience.

(For the record we have sent this blog to the Director of Aviation at FLL and have undertaken to publish the reply).
Monday, June 25, 2007
Playing the numbers game
I am on my way to New York (via Lufthansa with miles going into United Airlines Mileage Plus). I changed planes at Frankfurt – the airport works very well for Star Alliance interchanges, but I still think Frankfurt is an uninspiring place. You wouldn’t want to be delayed there for six hours…

Anyway, my BlackBerry has been buzzing all week with email announcements from Airbus and its PR agencies telling me about the latest plane orders. Every few moments; 20 of this or that plane type was being ordered by one or airline or another. To see the latest order book coming from the European planemaker you’d think they were rolling in orders, which, with the exception of the A320 family, they are not.

Airbus has played its little game again. Whether its Farnborough or Paris, the European planemaker stores up the orders and announces them at the airshow (they do it with even more gusto when the biennial show is in France).

Who do they think they are kidding? We know that these deals were done months before ad then held off for signing so they could trot them out in a glut to make the situation look rosy.

Also, it is almost comical the way the same plane orders will often appear several times in press releases, at different points in the process. Take for instance Emirates with its extra A380s. These were actually announced some months ago when the memorandum of understanding was signed. Then they are announced again when the order was signed without a word being said about the previous announcement.

I think the final total of press releases was over 25.

Boeing has always said it doesn’t play the orders game at the airshows, and they are usually more upfront about it. So why does Airbus bother? Do they think we are fooled by the repetition of orders throughout the process of Memorandum of Understanding, firm orders, rights to buy etc?

Sorry guys, I am not fooled. Give it a break and let my BlackBerry have a rest, too.

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