Thursday 10 May 2007

With the A380 experience approaching, Michael Hammond asks, “are we destined for an ever decreasing quality of travel as the scales tip relentlessly towards volume?”

Personal space is a somewhat overused and hackneyed expression, but whilst on one hand it’s a very intangible or “fluffy” notion, if it impacts on you, then it suddenly becomes a very real experience and can ruin a moment, your day or even the enjoyment of your home, our ultimate sanctuary.
Nowhere tests our personal space boundaries more than urban travel and top of the pile must be negotiating today’s busy airports. Here we are subjected to increasingly personal humiliations and undignified security “processing” which we must not only endure without complaint as it is “for our own good” but even worse, we must now also feel guilty about our trip. The dark carbon cloud over our heads being clearly visible for all to see.
I read with dismay this week at the airlines’ plan to start incorporating a number of seats facing backwards (and worse, towards other passengers) to cram more seats in. The thought of having to avoid eye contact for a seven hour transatlantic flight would I think be sufficient provocation to make me switch airline.
The discomfort of course starts well before you board the plane. Traffic volumes are increasing at a relentless pace, this month alone, there will an estimated 2,513,642 flights worldwide. London’s Stansted Airport designed by Norman Foster was handling less than one million people per year at the time of opening in 1991, but is now bursting at the seams pushing 25 million a year through its doors… The quality of the passenger experience there can only be imagined.
Europe’s largest and busiest airport, London Heathrow, to many, the gateway to the UK is also struggling to cope. Having evolved in a haphazard manner since ..............

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Main image: Passenger interchange for the new terminal
Thumbnails from left to right: T5 Airside departures south square, T5 Arrivals hall, T5 Baggage reclaim, Passenger interchange for the new terminal, T5 Departures check in.

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