Monday, April 07, 2008

Is Terminal 5 really as bad as they say?

So I'm flying to Hong Kong today via Heathrow. At Manchester airport, I sighed when I saw that I'd be flying from the dreaded terminal 5. After all, it's been in the news every day with a steady parade of incompetence and lost luggage. "Has my plane been cancelled?" I asked. "No, it's still running," said the ticket seller enthusiastically.

The flight to Heathrow was delayed by an hour, and when we arrived off the plane, we all walked towards a sliding glass door marked "International Departures". However, someone in a yellow fluorescent jacket said "You can't go that way, you have to go the other way." So we went the other way, and were told by someone else "You can't go that way, you have to go back the way you came." So we bounced back and forth between the two places, neither which were going to let us in and were adamant that we had to go in the other direction. At this stage, some of the business class flyers (especially the men under 5' 8') started to get a bit stroppy, making comments like "Couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery!" I've never had that kind of breakdown of protocol in an airport before, and it was quite interesting - like how I imagine the first 5 minutes of the end of the world would feel like. I actually got a bit scared, and ended up stammering when I spoke. If you can't trust people to tell you what gate to go through, then can you trust them to fly your plane properly? So we waited and waited. A female employee started telling us that "they'd had a security breach yesterday and it was a code 97" or something - why on earth would we be expected to understand?

Finally, I got bored of waiting and wandered off in the opposite direction. I passed some British Airways stewards who looked expasperated "Well, it's not our problem!" one of them said. And they got back on the plane. Fortunately, it seemed as if the "gatekeeper" at the other gate had simply given up, so I ran towards a pair of sliding glass doors - escape was in my sight!

The glass doors suddenly closed on me, incredibly quickly and I was trapped. Another female employee in a headscarf, aged about 14, came towards me. I expected she was going to admonish me for trying to "breach code 97", but instead she swiped a keypad with a card - she was actually trying to open the door for me...

However, it didn't work. There was something wrong with her card. She tried again and again. Finally, the doors wheezed open a couple of millimeters. Then, ever so slowwllllllly, almost spitefully, the doors opened by about 10cm, not enough for me to get through. The woman in the headscarf sighed and gave the keypad another swipe. Finally, reluctantly, the doors rasped open fully and I was able to escape inside terminal 5.

So what's it like? Well, it looks like a futuristic domed city filled with fancy flatscreen technology. If they ever refilm Logan's Run - they could do it here. As I sit typing this, I keep hearing that flights are being cancelled. It looks like I might be here for a while.

1 comment:

KAZ said...

Lubin (sneaky giggle) I'm sure if anyone can look cool when stuck in a pair of sliding glass doors it's you