Sunday, 8 August 2010

Fairweather Friend

I was refreshed by the simplicity of Dublin airport management on Thursday morning. As we got off the plane down the metallic staircase an airport staffer pointed out the terminal building only several metres away and directed us to walk to it. Seemed perfectly normal, the tarmac was smooth, the destination was in range, my bag had wheels. The short walk was rejuvenating actually. Even in early August, Dublin airport tarmac is not exactly T-shirt weather. There was a smack of rain in the air. An airport vehicle thundered across our path, the string of walking airline passengers scattered to let it pass, then again resumed their queue towards the terminal.

It was only later, in the immigration queue, that i reflected on the exact opposite of this paradigm in airport management. Heathrow. We were at the gate, behind the glass we could see the tarmac, a few metres away the aircraft, with its metallic staircase ready for us. As I came through the gate, about to make my way to the aircraft, a staffer sternly barred my way. She made me get in the bus that was waiting - i just hadn't realised - of us! This bus then drove us for 10 seconds and deposited us next to the aircraft. How silly. But how safe! I marvelled at that thought in the queue in Dublin.

A co-traveller I shared the story with commented: in Muscat you want the bus. Indeed, I remembered the times when we have caught connecting flights in the gulf. As the glass doors at the airport gate slide open, a blast of boiling hot desert air hits you. You run on to the bus - its cocooning air conditioned interiors welcome you - as its doors slide shut behind . Near the plane you have to deal with another hot blast as you climb the ramp. Once again within the craft - peace, cool. Safety!

I reflected how in adverse weather we crave the protection and the comforts of technology. Yet at 20 degrees we feel so brave that we commend poor safety practice.

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