Fast planes; slow airports

SO now we have Airbuses.

Or, more precisely, the Airbus 380. They say they’ll have double beds. And gyms.

It’s going to change the way we travel forever. Flying will never be the same again.

I never doubted it. The bit that bothers me is the airports. I can’t see any prospect of them changing. Unless it’s because the staff grow more hostile, the sandwiches more expensive and more disgusting, the shuffling queues more irritating and the luggage more ineffably lost.

The Airbus company reckons there’s going to be twice as many people flying in 15 years, in these double-decker behemoths, which will carry 600 people at a time.

With 216 of them you could empty Townsville in the time it took for them to take off.

Well, not quite, because first you’d have to go through the airport, and airports are a different story.

I see a different future for air travel. In the space of 60 years the aeroplane has reduced one of the most romantic and exciting notions in the imagination of the human race — travelling to unknown places — into a nightmare as big as… well, an Airbus.

They reckon it takes half an hour longer now to fly from the centre of London to the centre of Paris than it did in 1946, when they started – because although the planes now travel several hundred times faster than walking speed, the queues at the airports travel at several hundred times less than walking speed.

I reckon air travel will achieve what the most repressive political regimes the world over have so far failed to achieve – no one will ever want to leave home.

In the Russia of old, in North Korea, in China they work hard to stop people from leaving. Why don’t they just introduce them to air travel? An afternoon at Sydney Airport, or JFK, or Heathrow would cure them forever.

What’s the point in having twice the travellers, unless we can process them faster getting on and off the aircraft?

At the moment, thanks to terrorism, drugs, and the human race’s extraordinary desire to bring sandwiches into the country, the queues are getting longer and slower. The airport authorities are going to have to work harder and faster just to keep the whole sorry mess just as it is!

But it’s not their fault, I hear you say. They have to deal with bombs and drunks and people who pack their passports in the bag that’s just been transferred to the aircraft.

Well, yes, that’s true. But I think the underlying problem is that the airports have no competition. When you check in with Qantas or Singapore Airlines or Japan Airlines they have to be nice to you because might fly with someone else next time.

But when you’re flying from Sydney, or Brisbane, or even Townsville, you’re stuck with what you’ve got. You can’t have a tantrum and give your custom to a different airport.

It just isn’t worth it any more. I’m not that keen to visit Brisbane, or Cairns (especially Cairns), or England.

And not even the promise of double beds on board will not change my mind. Because, naturally, they won’t be supplying double beds in economy class, where I live. It’s known fondly in the industry as cattle class and one day, no doubt, they’ll swap the seats for hay ­– it’ll be easier to clean.

To get that kind of first-class treatment (but still, of course, with a security guard poking your private parts with an electronic bomb-detecting device) you’ll have to travel first class – at four times the price!

I think I’ll stay where I am and spend the money on a glass of wine and a spag bol at a restaurant on The Strand every day for a year.