The blog of a travelling psychiatrist and football lover. Who happens to be a halfway decent photographer. Takes a cynical view of the world

Archive for the tag “BAA”

Scotland from 10,000 feet

Just occasionally a flight is interesting. Sometimes the cabaret that some passengers bring, sometimes the crew but also sometimes the view. Flying into Edinburgh yesterday it was fascinating to see the snow. There was a fair amount from the Borders up to south of Edinburgh and then none at all. Edinburgh seemed devoid of its fair share of snow. Today also driving up to Perth and Stirling, there were areas that looked whited out and areas that were luscious green, that seemed to have also missed the snow. I suspect there are complex geographical reasons that will remain hidden from me till eternity.

View from plane

View from plane

Terminal 5. Border Agency Control. Can I ask you a simple question?

Arriving back at Terminal 5 Heathrow on a tuesday afternoon at around 4.30pm  it took around an hour to get through border control. There are many genuine reasons as to why that might be the case. A sudden flux of planes all arriving unexpectedly, complex cases to evaluate. I have some sympathy. But on this occasion I had none. The delay was caused by incompetence, stupidity and in all possibility deliberately wanting passengers to queue. 

The queue to go through the EU passport section was longer than the other sections and even the Iris recognition queue extended back to the back of the room. 

So having queued I arrived towards the front desks and what did I observe. Firstly, there were 3 desks, all manned for the purpose of dealing with those folks who get rejected by the Iris recognition scheme. This does happen. However I would estimate that the three border control officers saw maybe between them 10 passengers in this hour. They made no effort to call over the people waiting in the queue. 

At the front of the queue there were 2 border control officers dealing with the whole queue, together with a trainee just looking on……..There were at least 5 empty stations. So in total they could have had 10 officers dealing with the queue but decided to have 2. Why? Who plans these debacles? Why can they not change things when they see a huge queue? Simple question but can I have an answer please? Terminal 5 Border control is a poorly run organisation and on tuesday this week had zero regard for passengers and zero leadership amongst its staff to put things right.

Airport Security – what is your opinion?

Over the last 5 days I have travelled on 8 flights through various continents and been subjected to varying degrees of airport security . In general terms it has been tedious with slow queues essentially due to too few people and sometimes too few scanners to walk through. Sometimes the belt I wear sets the alarm off and sometimes not. That is not the reason for the blog. The reason is the security specifically at Newcastle Airport this afternoon. To give context the airport is incredibly busy with folks setting out on holidays and filling the bars beforehand to give them a headstart. I saw a family with two small children, they both looked about 2 in a double pushchair. The gate was unlocked to allow the pushchair not to go through the scanner. Looked sensible to me overall. I then saw a male security guard ask to frisk the children. The girl was taken out and given a totally perfunctory patting down because she was howling and trying to reverse rapidly away from this man ( totally predictable and understandable). The boy remained asleep in the pushchair during his also somewhat perfunctory examination. He was not moved so actually anything could have been underneath him. The parents and grandmother seemed not to object. My conundrum is that I would have objected if this had been my youngsters on a number of grounds. Firstly if the exercise was in airport security, then ” nil points” as any item could have remained undetected. Secondly it did all seem so unnecessary. We really have to use some common sense in security and mostly this seems to happen. I tweeted this story and Newcastle Airport tweeted back and to their credit send an email address to where a complaint might be made. I am not going to make any complaint as this did not happen to my children and presumably the parents will not either.

A Final View on South Korea from Sherlock Holmes

There is no doubt that I would like to come back here. Based only on two days I would say that this is one of the most polite and pleasant nations I have visited. I saw no aggression nor irritation with two exceptions. A Korean man trying to check in for his flight before the counter was open ( the clue for him was a huge queue and the massive sign saying opening at 14.50) and a Korean man paying his executive level room bill with wads of cash. No smile, no communication. Deadpan face. No thanks either and no bowing. Everyone else in Korea bows to everyone else on every occasion. Let me give you an example. When the check-in desks did open at 14.47 the whole team of 7 check-in staff, stood up, said something together to the waiting travellers ( rather like one might address a church congregation ), bowed to us all, and then rapidly motioned for us to come forward. I will not criticise British Airways for not doing this, but maybe a smile instead of a bow? And not one of those sour mouthed ones either.

The other learning in South korea is that in two days with mostly affluent doctors and other souls, I saw only two overweight people ( out of hundreds if not thousands). One of these was a morbidly obese Korean man in the hotel ( BMI>30, maybe >35), and the other a slightly overweight young woman (BMI maybe 27-28). Why? Easy. They eat less. How do I surmise this? Am I Sherlock Holmes? Well, maybe….

The portions served at mealtimes are much smaller than western sized portions. The meal last night in a grand hotel ( Lotte Busan, if you want to look it up. It has a casino and theatre etc, to give context) was 4 courses. Four small courses. Fish as a starter with bread roll about half the size of UK bread rolls a la Co-Operative. Third of a bowl of asparagus soup. Small steak with side salad, other vegetables and small amount of potatoes. Dessert a small slice of a sort of light cheesecake. No alcohol served at all, and in fact only water and coffee. This was a meal served to a group of top physicians in Korea attending an important annual congress. My second observation was actually a secondary one. I was trying to work out why the airports function better and quicker than UK. The answer is essentially no shops ( certainly no unnecessary ones) and few restaurants. So the whole area is not clogged up by people rampaging for their ninth meal of the morning. Compare and contrast with any USA airport where it seems de rigeur to eat a massive meal even though one is going on a 1 hour flight. So, simple deductions,Watson. Eat less and do not get overweight.

I would definitely return here both in a professional capacity and for a holiday. And in fact I am quite taken with South Korea and shall be cheering them on in the olympics!

Busan from the 33rd floor

Heathrow airport is the Worst Airport in the World

This is becoming like a mantra. Each time I visit I forget how foul the whole experience is. This ranges from the awful signage, the expensive food, the sour-faced staff, the delays but mostly the cynicism of it all. Today I saw a huge advert outside a currency exchange bureau that said ” great exchange rates”. This intrigued me as in the pharmaceutical industry where I work, this kind of claim would firstly not be allowed but if it ever were watered down, there would have to be clarity over what exactly ” great” meant and compared to what. On my I-phone I have been following the euro exchange rates as soon will be heading off to Spain. Recently the rate is around 1.22 euro to the pound. This “great” exchange was more akin to the great train robbery, if I were to give them 1.38 euros they would kindly repay me a pound. However if I were to give them a pound they would give me 1.11 euros. A disgraceful exchange rate that does not even stop there as there would be a minimum £3 commission. This equates to something like a 20% mark down in their favour. This is not great and in fact should be considered illegal practice. The end result as usual is that not only would I not ever make this exchange at any UK airport but feel the need to stop others. It is the same story with the food, expensive prices for ordinary dross. Long queues to get what most travellers want, a cup of tea and sandwich, but no queue for the silly restaurants with stupid names like ” giraffe”. The staff generally are miserable and unfriendly, the queues for security are somehow always longer than their alleged BAA surveys claim. Today there was a grand claim on the departure boards that 95% ish of people clear security within 5 minutes. This is clearly not true. The only way to achieve this would be to pole vault over the top. End of rant. In contrast today, Glasgow Airport. Civilised, tidy and what I wanted was readily available. Result,  I spent money there. 

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