2016-10-22 Sat

Airport Delays

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I don’t believe at all that airport delays are costing economy, unless by “economy” the writer means Economy of Speech, and by “costing” they mean something like Trying My Temper.

When we see a short article like this with a photograph of a Member of the Suffering Public, we know that The Local Paper is about to embark on a spirited campaign.

There are delays when you are on your way to board a plane, and there are delays when you are on your way off a plane. The delays are numerous, and they include the line-up waiting to use the automated check-in machines, much like the line-ups we used to have to talk to the booking agent.

Delays getting off the plane include waiting for the people next to you to stand up, waiting for them to pluck up the courage to butt into the line of people shuffling past long enough to retrieve their wheeled suitcases from the overhead bins, waiting for them to set the cases on their seats and repack their handkerchiefs, waiting for them to pluck up the courage to butt into the line of people shuffling past, then of course, you have to get up, wait to butt in, wait, and eyeball the people arriving from your right for a little old lady who looks as if she won’t put up much of a fight.

Then you stand still for a while, shuffle forwards, stand still while everyone ahead who was sitting down gets up to retrieve their suitcases ...

Mercifully there is no delay while you walk past the stewardess and you say “Thank You” and really mean it and she replies “You’re welcome” for the two hundred and forty seventh time in fifteen minutes.

I need not go into details about the scramble to beat the family of five to the moving walkway or the agonizing decision of which of the eight line-ups to enter for whatever comes next, but for sure they aren’t wearing navy-blue uniforms so we aren’t at customs yet ...

But none of all that has ever stopped me from going to France when I want to go to France.

I’d rather NOT have the delay, and I know this to be true because the last time I went I took both my Canadian and UK passports, and when we landed at CDG I stood behind two other people in the EU line-up, rather than stand behind three hundred Canadians.

Airport Delays

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And here is the North American response to most problems: Throw Money at it!

Oh, right, the French response?

Well, here is my experience on passing into and through CDG-2 last Month.

I walked in from the RER train clutching my Canadian Passport and the sheet of paper with my booking confirmation. I generally feel a little scared at this point, scared that I might have brought the wrong piece of paper, or perhaps neglected to retain something from my inward flight.

Counters, snake-like line-ups and general hub-bub surrounded me, as happens at every airport.

I approached someone in an airport-staff uniform and ...

CDG is super-efficient. The first person I ask for directions has equipment to scan my passport or document, so I am probably announced as "en route". I am directed to a luggage check-in with four desks, for people with no luggage. To my left is a set of two desks where people who are super-important can check in. There are no super-important people, so a clerk directs me to be super-important for a few minutes.

The name of the game for these terminal staff seems to be to advance people along the way in any way possible, and that lines were meant to be emptied and filled as soon as possible. Border Collies could probably do a better job, but it would be a close-run thing.

I now possess a boarding pass, which means I can drop myself into the hands of personnel who will shepherd me to where I should be.

A consequence of all this is that I am still two hours early for boarding at gate 40 at 10:10, so I seat myself by a window and watch people and cars and buses and aeroplanes. I munch some Gruyere left over from yesterday, nibble a few grapes, and ruminate on the wisdom of telling my smart phone that I am back in Toronto as far as time zones go. Is my phone smart enough to use its GPS-wossit and reset my position to France until I leave?

It seems to me that the ground staff, the foot soldiers, are empowered to do everything to move people through. It is as if their supervisors were prowling around looking for bottlenecks and firing those responsible. It isn’t that way at all, quite the opposite, it seems to me. It is as if we don’t need supervisors as long as staff are trained to “move people away from you any way you can” with grace and dignity.

I cannot fault my passage through CDG, but it did not depend on money; it worked through the smart use of people.