Friday, 2 May 2008

Above all, the Roof

Planes: check. Over-priced cafes: check. Big swoopy roof: check. The BaiYun GuangZhou airport (built 4 years ago replacing the old BaiYun airport) ticks all the right boxes with a modern spec and obligatory flowing roof over a vast space. China has plans to build 800 new or upgraded airports in the next few years, a figure that is hard to understand even when you know how big the country is.

The draconian, post-911, post-shoe-bomber, post-liquid-plot security regime is in force here causing a micro drama at an overloaded and anxious security checkpoint. It's hard enough trying to explain the complex rules about carry-on items to educated business travelers but when it's applied to elderly, working-class Chinese with their vast armfuls of bags, it can degenerate into farce. In this case, an old chap ended up clutching his possessions to his chest, pressing himself defensively against the X-ray machine as all 6 security staff tried to explain what he needed to do while trying to avoid a stampede from an audibly restless and growing queue.

At least they didn't insist you take your shoes off; leaving Heathrow recently I ended up standing in bare feet, wearing a shirt, boxers and trousers, walking through the metal induction loop (which didn't go off) but the security chappie didn't like the look of the passport and boarding pass in my hand and gave them a suspicious, rough bend just to be sure. I felt like checking with lost & found to see if someone had handed in my dignity.

Back in Guangzhou, it's no liquids and everything, coats & all bags, goes through the machine but you have to be quick to retrieve it before somebody else grabs it. Total confusion, not enough space for all the dressing and undressing, capricious rules. Game one to the terrorists.