home of the madduck/ blog/
Bangkok: your new door to the world?

"Your new door to the world" — the slogan for Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi airport tries to get people to stop-over on their trips between Europe and Asia. The airport's webpage claims that the airport currently handles 45 million passengers per year, but that it would scale up to 110 million.

I don't see this happening, at all. Today, leaving for Melbourne, I waited for an hour in the security queue, as four flights were leaving concourse E (which has 10 gates) at once: around 500 passengers were queueing to be scrutinised — for explosive liquids and other stuff a real terrorist would never consider smuggling on a plane via the standard passenger processing theatre — in four lines behind four security checkpoints (in fact, that's how I confirmed my estimate: around 30 seconds per passenger (I timed it), it took me one hour, that's 120 passengers per queue, so about 500 total, at once).

Four lines, one hour? 45 million passengers. 110 million passengers? Six lines (there isn't much more space), so 200 passengers per line, 1:40 hours? My new door to the world? Bangkok?

Of course, this is in large part because of idiot passengers. While I was waiting in line, they came three times (every 20 minutes) to empty the garbage can where potential terrorists have to dump their drinkable explosive fluids. We've had this ban for over 1½ years, for crying out loud! Sure, some people don't (get to) fly a lot and a few may really not have heard about dangerous liquids yet (I felt really sorry for an elderly couple who had to ditch pretty much all their toiletries leaving Zurich for Madrid and wondering how they would survive there), but then at least open your eyes and turn on your brain, please.

Unfortunately, the typical Bangkok/Southern Thailand tourist probably hasn't got brain cycles left between walking and carrying luggage. If you don't believe me, stop-over in Bangkok and look around: anything with legs in shorts and flip-flops probably fits right in, any obscenely and annoyingly loud group as well. For instance, this circus of 10 en route to London, who joined the end of the queue (read: about 1 hour to go) after their flight's final call with millions of shopping bags. They furiously tried to raise hell, but failed and probably missed their flight.

Observing all such episodes around me made the hour go by fast — I also had ample time left before my gate would close. There was one situation, however, that made walk over and complain to the supervisor (the one with the walkie-talkie): a couple from Canada were similarly faced with the final call for their flight to Toronto and walked straight up to the top of the lines — outside the ropes. After a short discussion, one of the security attendants escorted them to the gate without subjecting either their bags or bodies to the ever-secure screening process.

The supervisor (the one with the walkie-talkie) didn't speak English. All she did was smile and make motions with her hands which suggested that I should join the end of the queue.

As I said before, I don't believe that the (minimal) added security we have at airports today corresponds to or justifies in the slightest bit the shit we have to go through these days to be airborne. However, if you make rules, then stick to them and don't open gaping (= inviting) security holes.

Fortunately, the Canadians later had to surrender their weapons of plane destruction since, on every gate, another party of security attendants glove-hand-searched every bag a second time, with the previous security checkpoint no 100 metres behind.

I don't see Suvarnabhumi as a successful or scalable airport. If Bangkok wasn't such a great place ?to kill a few hours (especially compared to e.g. Singapore), or the (best) entrance to Southeast Asia, I'd probably avoid it in the future.