去机场的另一番体验 / Another Trip to the Airport

去机场的另一番体验

坐飞机出国没有从前有意思了。乘客要花更多的钱买机票,要为新增的服务费买单,可享受到的待遇却大不如前。航空公司似乎也很没趣儿,更别提能捞到什么好处了。

总体来说,机舱制造商和航空公司在优化机内环境、改善飞行体验、升级设备及娱乐系统方面做得还算不错。这其中(主要)包括改善机上饮食,至少在远途国际航班上是这样的。

相比之下,国际航站楼的魅力不再。我并非要抱怨安保措施或质疑它存在的理由,但这些措施的确给经常旅行的乘客增添了不少麻烦。

除此之外,在设法提高旅客通关效率方面,国家和国家之间的差异巨大。有的国家甚至还能做到微笑服务,或者至少杜绝“脸难看、话难听”的陋习。

美国航空公司正身先士卒,开发从旅客身上获利的创意。如今,大多数美国航空公司对国内航线的经济舱旅客托运行李都会收费;享用机上小吃、餐点和饮料也必须付费(土豆片的售价是七美元,有人买吗?);有些航空公司连毯子、枕头也要收费(当然你可以把它们带走);更有甚者,有家公司正在酝酿机上如厕的收费标准。一些愤世嫉俗的人不禁问道,接下来是不是要对紧急情况下自动垂落的氧气罩收费了。

最近,我刚从香港赴美国公干回来。趁着记忆还新鲜,我觉得有必要评价一番,好让其他机场和有关部门能从香港的高效率中学到些东西。

下面我就用从香港家中出发、乘机前往东京、又转机飞往芝加哥奥黑尔机场的时间表举例说明。

早7:20 从香港半山的家中出发

早7:30 在机场快线中环站排队购买往返车票(前面有5个人排队,票价为180港币)

早7:35 在机场快线的国泰航空公司柜台处办理登机手续

早7:40 登上机场快线,离站

早7:55 列车驶过东涌快线香港迪斯尼乐园站;途经阴澳湾,那里高高的海浪拍打着红树林的残根;在铁轨和海岸之间有一条蜿蜒的单车道公路,在粉色夹竹桃的掩映下时隐时现,偶尔还可以看到有人在散步、骑自行车、跑步或者钓鱼;抵达机场之前,我还看到一条木制捕虾拖网渔船把网撒到了离海岸数百米远的地方

早8:03 快线抵达机场,我下了车;满眼都是宣传机场隔壁的展览厅将要举办印度家具、时装及配饰贸易展的标志牌和海报

早8:05 逛了逛叶一堂书店,那里有很多中国其它地方买不到的书籍和期刊;之后又到丰泽电器行买了个电源转换插头

早8:10 我出示香港身份证和登机牌,进入“旅客”区

早8:15 完成安检。从四、五条长度相等的队伍中挑了一条(每队大约有十来个人);脱掉外套,取出电脑和手机(不需要脱鞋、解皮带、掏出钱包、钥匙和零钱);安检人员要么面带微笑,要么至少没有摆臭脸或者呼来喝去

早8:16 完成边防手续。在机器上晃了一下我的香港身份证,又扫描了我的拇指指纹;最后又买了点东西,去候机厅休息

观察: 从乘快线抵达机场到完成安检和边防手续,总共耗时不到15分钟。

现在说说返程的情况,好证明我离开香港那天享受到的高效服务并不是因为我命好,或是机场表现反常才发生的偶然情况。

我从旧金山乘国泰航空公司的班机返回香港,飞机大约提前了15分钟到港。

早6:10 下飞机

早6:12 如厕(抱歉,但这一细节对整个时间表的影响至关重要)

早6:20 完成边防手续;进入行李提取区

早6:22 从传送带上拿回行李;办理清关手续;步行前往机场快线车站

早6:25 在快线列车上就座

早6:30 列车驶离机场

观察: 从走出机舱到完成边防手续、提取行李、清关、坐上行驶的列车总共耗时20分钟

早6:55 下车,前往出租车等候站排队

早6:57 坐上出租车回家

早7:05 到家

观察: 从走出返航的国际航班机舱门算起,直到抵达市中心的家里,一共花了不到一个小时的时间。全世界还有哪个大城市能做到这一点,你说得出来吗?

结论: 如果举办一个国际机场奥运会,香港机场准能拿冠军。

Another Trip to the Airport

International air travel is not as much fun as it used to be. Passengers are spending more money on air fares and new service fees, and enjoying it less. Airlines don’t seem to be having much fun either, not to mention much profit.

Airframe. manufacturers and airlines have generally done a good job of improving the inflight environment, experience, equipment and entertainment, including (mostly) the food, at least for longer-haul international flights.

International airport terminals, by contrast, are no longer fun places to pass through. I’m not complaining about security arrangements or questioning their rationale, but the fact is that they add greatly to the hassle factor for frequent travelers.

Plus, some governments manage getting passengers through immigration and customs formalities much more efficiently than others. Some even manage a smile, or at least avoid the routine scowl-and-growl attitude.

U.S. airlines are leading the way at finding innovative new ways to generate revenue from passengers. Most now charge extra on domestic economy class flights for checked baggage; some now charge for carry-on baggage; most now charge for snacks, meals and drinks (US$7.00 for potato chips, anyone?); some charge for blankets and pillows (but you get to keep them); one is even considering a charge for using the toilet in flight. Some cynical pundits have questioned whether the next new charge will be to activate the oxygen bags which drop down in the event of an emergency.

I just returned from a business trip from Hong Kong to the U.S. and back. With the experience fresh in my mind, I think it’s worthy of comment that other airports and related government departments could do well to learn from Hong Kong’s efficiency.

Here, for example, is a time line on the morning of my recent departure from home in Hong Kong for flights to Tokyo and then connecting to Chicago’s O’Hare.

7:20 a.m. leave home in Hong Kong’s mid-levels area

7:30 a.m. stand in line (5 people in front of me) for a round trip ticket from the Airport Express Terminal in Central District to the airport (HK$180)

7:35 check in at Cathay Pacific counter in the Airport Express Terminal

7:40 on board Airport Express train as it departs station

7:55 train passes Hong Kong Disneyland station on Tung Chung Express rail line; then Yam O Bay, where high tide is lapping at the remaining stands of mangroves; the one-lane road between the train tracks and the sea is lined in places with pink oleander bushes and dotted with hikers, bikers, runners and fishermen; just before we reach the airport, a wooden shrimp trawler has its nets deployed a few hundred yards offshore

8:03 I exit the train as it arrives at the airport; signs and posters for a soon-to-open trade show in the expo hall next door featuring Indian Furniture, Fashion, Accessories, etc.

8:05 check out Page One bookstore, which features many books and periodicals not easily available elsewhere in China; and Fortress, where I buy an electrical adapter

8:10 I present my Hong Kong I.D. card and boarding pass as I enter “Passengers Only” area

8:15 exit the security screening process, having chosen from about 4-5 lines of roughly equal length (about ten people each); removing jacket, laptop and mobile phone (no need to remove shoes, belt, wallet, keys or loose change); security staff are either smiling or at least not scowling and growling

8:16 exit immigration formalities, having swiped my HK ID card and scanned my thumb print; off to last-minute shopping and waiting lounge

Observation: the total time elapsed from my arrival at the airport by train, to the completion of security and immigration formalities, was less than 15 minutes.

Now for the time line for the return leg of the journey, to show that the efficiency of Hong Kong’s airport that morning was not a fluke or an exception to the norm.

My Cathay Pacific flight from San Francisco arrived about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

6:10 a.m. exit the aircraft

6:12 visit the men’s room (sorry, but this detail has a material bearing on the time line)

6:20 immigration formalities completed; enter the baggage claim area

6:22 retrieve my bag from the carousel; proceed to customs clearance formalities; walk to Airport Express terminal

6:25 seated aboard the Airport Express train

6:30 train departs the airport station

Observation: total time elapsed from walking off the airplane, completing immigration formalities, claiming bag, clearing customs, and being seated on the moving train: 20 minutes.

6:55 exit train, and proceed to taxi queue

6:57 in taxi, heading home

7:05 arrive home

Observation: find me another major city in the world where you can reach home in the downtown area within less than one hour from the moment you walk off the aircraft on an inbound international flight

Conclusion: if there were an international airport Olympics, Hong Kong would be the team to beat.


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