Thursday, December 07, 2006

One Country, Two Airport Systems

It would be lovely to think that one of the things that might have come from Hong Kong's return to China in 1997 would be some of the best practices.

There's no wonder that Hong Kong airport keeps winning 'World's Best Airport' awards - it's certainly in my top 3 along with Singapore and Copenhagen.

Chinese airports, and not just the airport but the entire system, is far from ideal. The levels of pointless bureucracy and lack of inter-agency cooperation serve to make the life of the international traveller more miserable than necessary. That's before we get to the issue of the airports themselves being amongst the most tedious airports in the world.

Hangzhou airport is miles outside of town. I'm sure there were good reasons to choose farmer's fields that they did to build the airport on, rather than the farmers fields that you drive past for a full 25 minutes before you arrive at the airport.

Arriving at the airport this morning we couldn't get up the 'departures' ramp because of a taxi slowly discharging its passenger, the cacphony of car horns failing to disturb the two adjacent policemen from the chat.

Then the outbound paperwork. You have to fill out the customs declaration - in theory you fill out two identical copies if you're taking valuables (laptops are specifically mentioned) out of China that you intend to bring back. This morning, I had to explain to the customs officials that they're supposed to stamp one and give it back for use when I return as they merely tried to relieve me of both copies. Invariably, if I fill in one copy I get the 'jabby finger' that points to the fact that I should have filled in two.

That done, there's the departure card and (from time to time when they feel like it) there's an outbound medical questionnaire.

Return is the same - customs declaration, arrivals card and this time definitely a medical questionaire. You can't help but wonder as you sit down and write your name, address and passport number down for the umpteenth time, just why the relevant departments can't at least cooperate and give you one form for all 3 purposes. What on earth do they do with them all anyway?

Hong Kong manages to get away with a single form - with built-in carbon so you don't have to fill in your personal details twice.

I sail through immigration with my 'Frequent Visitor Card' (a far cry from arriving in Pudong airport where all the European flights arrive almost simultaneously so you just have to join the herd), bag on the conveyor by the time I get there and straight onto the waiting airport express train.

Please, Hangzhou and Pudong airport officials. Go to Hong Kong. Watch. Learn.


blind teddy said...

We dont want to hear this. We want to hear about Frankie and YY!! Patrick has apendicitis.

HistoryElephant said...

I agree, we don't want to hear this, but equally we don't want to hear about F and YY - there's nothing more boring than listening to excited parents droning on about the cute things their kids have done (OK there is something more boring: droning on about Chinese airports).

DB said...

BT - Sorry - multiple audiences to cater for. One of them does seem to care about the odd China-related observation.

HE - Given your recent rate of zero comments on your last 6 entries, I'm closer to hitting the mark than some. I accept that 'gosh, isn't she beautiful' type blog entries are going to turn readers away so you won't find many of them here, honest.

Anonymous said...

We like the Chinese remarks, like them very much!