Saturday, May 26

Rome's Airport - Still Dead on Arrivals

I was pleased to hear that London's dreaded Terminal 5 received the world's accolades for being 'The Best Airport on Earth', especially after its missteps on opening (and even more unthinkable closings due to a few inches of snow this winter).  Nonetheless, people love it.
I was tickled pink when just a few days after that disastrous opening, Rome's airport crowned their own international terminal, Terminal 5.  Simply put, it's a holding pen for people going to the USA where they can go thru U.S. "security", one of the biggest jokes in the age of aviation. [But that's another story - although as a serious frequent flyer who works for our govt put it to me on the plane over to the USA, 'the TSA is terrific about going after yesterday's perpetrators...']
Anyway, my Rome airport experience last week reminded me just how unfathomable it is to witness how we can shuttle people in a tube through the air, but can't get them in and around airports.
It started with the (much lauded, by yours truly) new signage over at Rome's airport. The ADR (Rome Airport Authority) has really made progress in devising ways to streamline traffic so you don't feel so much like a rat in a maze by the time you get to security.  Upon our approach, we were thrilled to find a sort of 'short cut' posted to Terminal 5.  Naturally, the TERMINAL 5: NEXT RIGHT arrow led over to the Cargo Terminal; the correct language being, SECOND RIGHT: but hey, who's counting?!
Rejoicing in our agility in averting the cement outpost while quickly averting that first exit and careening back into oncoming traffic, I started to think better of it.  I suspected there'd be another 8-way roundabout and we'd probably be left hanging as to which way to go.  But before I could finish my "Rome Auditorium theory of sign-posting" , there we were.  We went round and round the roundabout a few times, before determining that the Terminal would not be where one might think it should be.  And Eureka! we followed that hunch right up to the front door.
a case for false advertising:  travel as it was 
and the reality of travel today
First, it was security screening. Where well-dressed greeters simply asked if I was checking or carrying my luggage.  So much for ferreting out shoe bombers.  Line two was an approach to automated check-in terminals, manned by 4 employees for the 12 videos; half of which did not work.  So much for technology saving on salaries.
Finally, I made my way to the third line: x-ray screening. It was my lucky day, because just as I passed through those pearly gates; barefoot and my tablet carefully held against my torso (and feeling an awful lot like Moses), the power went out in the entire terminal.  I looked back to find in my wake ever-growing lines and elevators and escalators ground to a halt.  People in wheelchairs sat gathering like ducks in a pond, wondering just how they would make it up to the shuttle that would take them to the real airport.  I gave a little skip of delight at my good fortune and headed straight for the terminal gates.
I was astounded to think that there was no back-up generator to allow the airport to carry on with their business.  That is, the business of pushing people through to their destinations.  But once inside the real terminal, I found that business was brisk: it just had nothing to do with the travel industry.  All of the shops, despite the black-out, were lit up, cash registers ringing like Las Vegas slot machines.  Travelers may be stuck down in security, but up here, the cash was flowing freely. 
Little by little, hundreds of flyers made their way in, to now wait out the delays due to the black-out.  In waiting rooms that seated 24 people per gate.  The immense transfer desk takes up enough room for 200, and I've only ever seen it staffed by two (with two people queued up for assistance as well).  The crowding just to get down your gangway was nothing short of a run on banks in modern Greece.  
Finally elbowing my way onto the plane, people joked how boarding in Rome was not unlike driving through Italy.  Perhaps when it comes to transportation, it's the only way we've been accustomed to doing things.


Dave514 said...

I keep telling but you wont listen. Bring back IL Duce, he made the trains run on time he'll fix the airports.

You'd better do something in Italy, because you're on the "short list" to revert to type.


Barbara said...

LOL!!! A great post. Wait until next time when you loose luggage and you have to go to the Lost & Found. (Nightmare, nightmare.)

Also, if you accidentally leave your computer bag or carry on in the buses that bring you from the plane to the terminal, they'll refuse to look for the bag.

And then, if your luggage gets lost along your flight and have to call the Italian airlines (that shalt be left unnamed), you'll get nowhere and that luggage will never be re-imbursed.

Just sayin'

linguaggio del corpo said...


JD said...

I don't like Linate - it's like a cattle market on a Friday afternoon. BUT - not as bad as Sao Paolo - this has to be the worst airport I've ever been to. Not remotely funny.

Irreverent Italy said...

I'm from Detroit, of all places - where they used to post pictures of people frowning & smiling to show you that you use more muscles to make a frown...Clearly trying to discourage that after you hiked the miserable mile to the outdoors...
You gotta find humor -- even in Sao Paolo!