Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Dear Tom Bradley International Airport,
Congratulations! I've just voted you as having the worst International Airport on the Planet. Please don't take this lightly, as I have been through every third-world airport from Africa to Asia.
On the night of January 13, 2008, I arrived at the International Terminal three and a half hours before my flight so I could get a good seat- ha. ha.- What awaited inside tops any bad scene I have ever experienced in 30 years of air travel.
It took over an hour to get my seat assignment. Not due to any inefficiency of the airline, China Air, but because there were about three thousand people in a space meant for a thousand (in section 9). There was no way to get to the counter easily; mounds of boxes, luggage, and lines of angry, screaming people blocked the way. Somehow I got there, got my ticket, got the baggage weighed, and then it really turned ugly...
What's with this policy of making us take our heavy, weighed-luggage ourselves to your special x-ray machine? I mean, the machine I was supposed to go to was literally ten feet away but I had to wait ninety minutes in a vicious 150 foot line to get to it. Aren't there enough able bodied employees in your airport to move the damned thing behind the counter where it's supposed to be? And if you're going to insist on a line, shouldn't there be a clearly defined path to said machine? It was every man for himself in there! The Fall of Saigon was more organized than this!
During my 90 minutes in your line, I had plenty of time to observe: All of your airport personnel are nasty, threatening cretins with a Robo-Cop attitude. None of them will make eye contact with you. There was one young man whose job was to point and say "Line." And that's all he did. I saw several people try to ask for directions and all he would do was shout "Line!" and point in a vague direction. The lady who shoved my bag into the special x-ray machine wouldn't let me put the retractable handle down.
I saw several toddlers get run over by baggage carts. I saw that the baggage carts' pay machine was in the way of traffic, and so was the news stand. Not very safe. Are the vendors more important than the customers? Why do you have to pay for baggage carts in LAX? They're free in other International airports.
What's with the recorded message telling us not to smoke every three minutes? It made me want to smoke. It makes most smokers want to smoke. So we smoke in the toilets. Why not provide a sealed smoking lounge for your international passengers, like other civil cities? Does LAX have some sort of S&M thing going on? Do you like making your foreign smoker guests feel trapped and inferior? Shame on you!
Back to recorded voice on the PA system. The man's voice is banal mantra, and you can't hear him well at all. This is Hollywood- get a celebrity to do the voice overs, like Rick Dees or Cher!
On second thought... don't play the PA system at all. All it does is add to the din. The decibel level of 3000 people all shouting at once.... boxes and luggage being thrown and dropped and kicked... inaudible departure announcements... buzzers, beepers and whistles are more than enough to drive the average Joe to insanity.
Lots of heavily armed officers watched over us. If that was meant to make us feel more secure, it didn't work. In fact, I think their presence increased the anxiety of the crowd. The crowd I was being pushed and shoved with was mostly asian. Filipinos, Indonesians and Chinese were shouting and cursing in their own languages. The lady behind me started arguing loudly with her husband in Tagalog. Children were crying. The frail old asian man in front of me looked so bewildered that I thought he was going to have a heart attack.
The worst came after the x-ray machine. Now it was time to get into the "strip the metal and take off your shoes" line. (Don't get me started about "shoe bombs", but unless somebody tries to board the aircraft with 12 inch platform wedgies, I think any plastic explosive that could fit into most shoes wouldn't do much more than blow a terrorist's toes off.)
That line snaked through-out the lobby and went out the door to the sidewalk! I HAD TO GO BACK OUTSIDE TO THE SIDEWALK!
What a nasty thing to do to us passengers. Then, another one hour wait to get strip searched and shouted at, as if we were going to be loaded in cattle cars and sent to a concentration camp. This was supposed to be a vacation for God's Sake!
Two thirds of the way there to the Gestapo, I hear "Last Call" for my flight. I asked an attendant for help.
The young man shouted "Line" and pointed somewhere.
So I stayed put and prayed. I made it on the plane by running with my shoes in hand and my belt over my shoulder.
I am sure that this ordeal has taken a year off my life. Were I litigateous Californian, I'd be suing by now. In the meantime, until I get my sense of humor back, I plan to tell everyone I know about that hell hole you named after poor Tom Bradley.
I can almost the apologists saying, "Well, inconvenience is the price we have to pay for security!" Oh please! It's been over six years since 9-11. Most airports over-seas implemented better security methods within six months. More non-invasive methods that don't torture the passengers. What happened in Los Angeles? It seems you got caught up in some sort of siege mentality drama with fancy gadgets, ridiculous procedures and strutting soldiers.
And it's all just a dog and pony show. The security and safety of every single person in that terminal was (as is still) at risk. Do the math- if you were a terrorist, would you choose to blow up 300 people on a plane, or, 3000 people in an over-packed airport lobby?
ANYBODY could have walked through the front entrance with a machine gun or a luggage bomb or what ever. No security checks there!
It's just something I noticed while I was standing in line.
Good luck and Good bye Los Angeles. My next trip to the States, I'll fly the long way around and enter from Orlando.