My idea of fun is going to the airport. I am going to test our new international airport today. It is due to open this summer. Before that, there are dozens of test runs with hundreds or thousands of volunteers. Today is my turn!
The shuttle bus picks us up at the train station and takes us to the construction site. All of the buildings are there already and I get a pretty good idea of the whole set up. It is a modern, very large airport complex. Nothing like the two old and improvised airports it is going to replace. This one is build for easy access and large crowds, but it is also build as the international gate to the capital city. And it is build with a lot of self esteem.
The test run starts in a drafty tent with long rows of pick nick tables. We are a group of about 200 testers today. We register, get our safety gear and wait for the briefing to start.
The day is organized by the “Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer”-Team. “ORAT” is hired from the Munich airport. They did a remarkable job when the new airport in Munich opened, a few years back. The dividend of the good planning back then are consulting jobs now.
We get “tickets” for two trips. One in the morning, the other one after lunch. Each tester plays two passengers on each of the flights. On the first round I am two friends who are flying to Budapest on Lufthansa.
We are walked over to the terminal building, go through a wooden temporary door and walk up a flight of stairs that still need their finish. The grandness of the entrance hall appears in front of us as we ascend the stairs.
“Will they be ready?”
The main floor of the terminal is about twice as big as a football field and maybe six stories high. There are four majestically high but also surprisingly delicate steel pillars in the middle of the room. Three sides are glass from floor to ceiling. On the fourth side is a high wall with a balcony about half way up. The check-in counters are grouped together in little pavilions on the main floor. Ther walls are dark wood that harmonizes nicely with the cream colored marble floor and brushed steel used for railings and handles.
The first impression a feeling of grandness. This has nothing in common with the two active airports of the city. Maybe its closest relative is the now decommissioned terminal of the former inner city airport which was build in a time in Germany, when nothing could be big enough. The building is impressive, no doubt. It is build by a country that is strong and knows it. It is flooded with light, open, transparent and the smaller structures of the check-in gazeboseffectively counter act the feeling of individual smallness. The architect was trying to impress but not to intimidate. I have mixed feelings about the terminal and they will stay with me for the rest of the day.
One of the other testers looks around and is surprised. “This is never going to be ready in time!” he exclaims. Trust me, I know. They will be ready.
What happens to lost luggage
Before we find our respective check-in counters, we pick up test luggage. The bags are close to the entrance. Piled up higher than a man are rows and rows of bags, suit cases and trolleys. Some of them damaged, many marked with spray paint, all of them seasoned travelers. Maybe ten thousand maybe more. A friendly worker picks out two per person. They are heavy, I get a cart.
The Lufthansa check-in desk is easy to find. Only two of the pavilions are active for the test today. I am greeted by a friendly Lufthansa employee who has one supervisor and one member of the ORAT-Team as observers standing behind her. I request a window seat on the right side of the aircraft so that I would have a view of Budapest on final approach. The Lufthansa lady only hesitates for a fraction of a second before she smiles at me and says “no problem, sir!”.
Security is uneventful. The area behind the check-point is going to be a shopping area. It is probably going to be nice but right now it is a construction site in full swing. Workers are everywhere and it is loud and dusty.
At the gate we gather. We have time to talk to each other before the flight “boards”. I make friends with a student of aeronautical engineering and a travel agent.
After our “flight” we have lunch in the tent together. We are all of the same opinion: The new airport is impressive and we will all be back. For a next round of tests and for an actual trip.
To be continued…
(originally posted on February 10, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/new-airport/)