Posts Tagged ‘airport’

The Tegel Comeback

I’m writing this at Berlin’s Tegel airport, waiting for my flight home to Heathrow. Only I shouldn’t be here. I should be in the new, gleaming Brandenburg International airport on the other side of Berlin. Only I’m not, because the 2nd. of June closure date for Tegel has come and gone and Brandenburg still isn’t finished or open. This isn’t the first time Tegel’s doom has been postponed, the airport was originally slated to close in November 2011, only it didn’t because Brandenburg wasn’t finished or open. Currently Tegel is slated to close sometime in March 2013, whether that comes to pass or not is a matter of speculation.

There’s a lot to like about Tegel; it’s small and efficient, each gate has a security and passport control section and you can get from plane to taxi in under a minute on a good day; try doing that at Heathrow.

As Hans Krause, an associate of David Chipperfield Architects in Berlin puts it …

It’s a unique concept that avoids so much of what irritates people about other airports. It has a clear structure, extremely short walking distances and makes great use of daylight. As a concept, it works incredibly well.

Amen to that sentiment and, coincidentally, the postponement of Tegel’s closure has caused Amen, one of Berlin’s many tech startups, to feature the airport in one of their ad campaigns, calling it the best comeback this year.

I also managed to get a very Tegel specific souvenir on this trip, from April’s Pro Race TXL, a speed walking relay race, with suitcases, around the airport. I kid you not. This is Berlin after all, where quirkiness is almost mandatory. In a nice twist on the I Heart style of tee-shirt, this is an I Hex TXL tee-shirt.

Which makes sense if you’ve ever been to Tegel and if you haven’t, a satellite view of the terminal will explain the hexagonal connection.

So whilst Tegel’s demise has merely been postponed, it’s good that the airport still lives and breathes, for now at least and as I wait for my flight home I can almost believe Pro Race TXL’s hyperbole laden pronouncement that it’s

astonishingly efficient and a structure of geometric beauty, Flughafen Tegel is known among Berliners and international travelers as the greatest airport of all time, space and dimension

Amen to that too.

Written and posted from Berlin Tegel Airport (52.5545447, 13.2899969)

Airport Security X-Ray Oddness

Since I started my role at Nokia in Berlin in May of last year I’ve swapped the daily commute from home to work by train to a weekly commute by plane. This means I have to pass through airport security at London’s Heathrow and Berlin’s Tegel airports around twice a week. I tend to travel as light as I can, with a hand baggage sized suitcase so I can get off the plane and out of the airport as quickly as I possibly can, something Tegel airport excels at.

Taking the law of averages into account, I should be subject to random additional security searches and although the law of averages is generally considered a fallacy, about once a month my hand baggage gets that extra special level of attention. But it always seems to be for the same thing.

These Are Identical ... To Airport Security

The security staff at Tegel are terribly polite and ask me in the nicest way possible whether I wouldn’t mind if they took a look in my suitcase (of course, although it’s phrased in a way that appears I have a choice in the matter, I really don’t). Whereas the staff at Heathrow are a lot more brusque, with the conversation much more along the lines of “open your suitcase please Sir“.

At Tegel, the security staff at least tell me what they think we’re looking for … “do you have a can of drink in your suitcase?” … something I don’t try to carry onto a plane as it’s not permitted under the current “100 ml of liquids and gels in a clear plastic ziplock bag” rule. At Heathrow, they merely frown and poke around in my luggage.

So at both airports, the X-Ray machine seems to show a can of drink in my suitcase. But why? Each time this has happened the root cause is the same; a small, rectangular plastic box which holds my spare business cards, which when found in my suitcase elicits a confused frown, a brief inspection and muttered apologies and I’m sent on my way, sometimes with a “have a good flight” (Tegel) or a curt “thank you” (Heathrow).

I wish I could understand why a small, rectangular object should be mistaken for a significantly larger, cylindrical object under airport security X-Ray, but I can’t. Oddly enough, this never seems to happen with airport security in the US; maybe they have different X-Ray machines.

Photo Credits: Vicchi on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Schönhauser Allee, Berlin (52.5308072, 13.4108176)

The Airport Security Ritual

Post 9/11, post the Shoe Bomber and and post, for want of a better description, the Pants Bomber I’ve had to travel to the United States in the aftermath of a security incident and have had the dubious privilege of witnessing at first hand the incrementally heightened security procedures that have been put in place. Witnessed as a passenger I might add, so I can only pass comment on what I’ve seen and not what may or may not be going on hidden behind the scenes and out of site of me and my fellow passengers.

Even pre 9/11, airport and airline security seemed to rely on a degree of ritual, of knowing the right incantations and of knowing the right answer to give to certain key questions; “is this your bag?“, “did you pack it yourself?“, “could anyone have tampered with your luggage?” and “has anyone given you anything to carry?“. Answer the previous questions with “yes, yes, no, no” and you would be granted the honour of being able to check in and pass to the mysterious land of “airside“. Answer them incorrectly or get the yes’s and no’s in the wrong order and your life would become very interesting.

At Heathrow yesterday morning, prior to getting on my (much delayed) flight to San Francisco, I remembered to give the aforementioned answers in the right order (this is critical to success), took off my belt and shoes, took my laptop out of my bag, put the whole lot in large grey plastic trays and while they passed through the x-ray machine, I passed through the metal detector with nary a beep.

Lulled into a false sense of security (no pun intended) I made it to the departure gate in time, to be greeted with a large, slowly shuffling queue with the prospect of a bag search and a more personal search when I reached the head of the line. Now granted, the personal search of my person was thorough, verged on being ticklish and might have been liable to cause offence to other people but my bag search was a search only in the loosest possible sense of the word.

A nice security lady (I know this for a fact because she had a badge on saying Security) opened my bag, took a cursory look inside, commented “that’s a lot of computery stuff” and then proceeded to not actually search my bag at all. More ritual one assumes, the mere act of presenting my bag for a cursory poke and prod being enough to satisfy this particular one.

I was asked to empty the pockets of my jacket, which yielded an iPhone, a BlackBerry and my wallet. These weren’t checked or looked at and neither was my jacket looked at to make sure that I had indeed actually emptied the pockets. Yet more ritual; providing something from my pockets seemed acceptable and left me wondering what would have happened if I actually didn’t have anything in them.

Did any of this make my (much delayed) flight safer? Maybe, it’s difficult to tell. But overall the whole experience seemed to be about doing something for the sake of security and being seen to be doing it.

So has any of this made my travel to the US any different? It’s certainly made it slower, more intrusive, more frustrating and more laden with things I’m not allowed to do and not allowed to travel with. But has it made it any more secure? Taking the evidence of both the Shoe and Pants Bombers into account, both of whom made it through security and onto a plane which subsequently took off, it doesn’t really appear so.

This ritual of security isn’t restricted to the airline industry. Last year I paid a visit to UK headquarters of a technology company who were hosting an event I was to speak at. Half way through security, I was asked to sign a non disclosure agreement, which required me to promise not to reveal anything I heard or saw whilst on the premises. Which seemed a bit pointless seeing as I was one of the speakers; did this mean I wasn’t allowed to repeat my talk ever again? The security lady was insistent. I wouldn’t be allowed into the building without signing the NDA. Heels were well dug in by this point and I refused to sign it. She didn’t bat an eyelid and rather than being escorted from the building I was handed a security pass. More ritual, the point of which seemed to be that she had to insist about the NDA and then hand me a security pass regardless of whether I signed the NDA or not.

But existing rituals had been satisfied, and new ones called into being, so I guess that’s something.

Photo credit: Ned Richards and Milo Willingham on Flickr.

Written somewhere between LHR and SFO on BA285 and posted from the Sheraton Hotel, Sunnyvale, California (37.37159, -122.03824)

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

Delicousness: iPhones, boarding passes, Cult of Mac, nerd subclasses, Snow Leopard and weird ads

The end of the week, semi regular, hand selected, carefully edited snapshot of what made it into my Delicious bookmarks this week.

  • Last week I blogged about my experiences with an electronic boarding pass, hosted on my iPhone, while travelling home from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport. Cult of Mac came across it, liked it, and used it as a basis for an article. Which was nice.
  • Remember those Venn Diagrams you did in maths class? Now you can use one to work out which of the subclasses of nerddom you belong to. Naturally I place myself in the geek with a life subclass, which is strangely absent from the diagram.
  • At the weekend I upgraded my work MacBook Pro to Snow Leopard, Apple’s latest version of the OS X operating system. And then 4 days later I downgraded it back to Leopard.
  • Want to buy used toilet paper, a used tombstone or a rottweiler called Mr Giggles? Some people think you do.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous