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Wednesday 9 November 2011

World Class? No Chance (2)

Back in May, I posted on the shortcomings of Manchester Airport, supposedly owner of the title “Best UK Airport”. At that point, I reckoned that it would be difficult to challenge the combination of retail experience overkill, lack of fitness for purpose and general ineptitude thus offered. But the smaller and supposedly leaner and fitter operation at Liverpool has taken up the challenge.

Flying in yesterday afternoon from Madrid’s Terminal 1 – that’s the oldest part of Barajas airport, but all the kit works – the feeling that this was not going to be the happiest of terminal transits started as the aircraft, instead of turning right onto the apron at the east side of the terminal building used exclusively by EasyJet, carried straight on, and on to a stand needing a bus transfer.

Two modern Cobus shuttle vehicles awaited disembarking passengers. What could go wrong? Well, after over 80 bodies crammed on to the first bus, what was already wrong became apparent: the vehicle had been sent out with a soft tyre, which promptly went flat under load. A substitute bus was provided, but had rather less standing space. A tube-style crush ensued.

It got worse: the queuing space available for punters waiting at the “UK Border” sign wasn’t enough for just 130 bodies. So many passengers had to queue outside for a couple of minutes. Fortunately it was merely damp and windy. The time taken to process a flight of almost all EU citizens was around quarter of an hour, and to what point? We’d all shown our passports in Madrid already.

Then some bright spark thought it A Good Idea to have anyone passing through the Customs “green channel” run the gauntlet of a sniffer dog and its humourless handler. Again, to what point? We all got security scanned before boarding. The only thing with the same danger level as a Class A drug likely to be inbound from Madrid would be a bottle of Chinchon from the airport duty free.

But the icing on the cake came outside the terminal. Liverpool Airport does not have a rail link, but there are frequent bus services to nearby South Parkway station, from where there are direct trains to Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, and, yes, Crewe. So I headed for the bus stand that was clearly marked “Rail Link”, only to see no sign of the timetable for the direct rail link bus (Service 501).

And then a 501 drove past without stopping. The duty Arriva bod explained “it can’t use this stand, it’s a bendy bus, it’s too long, so it has to use Stand 1”. Then put that information somewhere on Stand 4, which you marked “Rail Link. And no, I don’t care if it’s Arriva’s fault, or Merseytravel’s, or the Airport’s. This is a basic error of clown proportions.

Fortunately I caught my train (just). But sort yourselves out. It’s not good enough.

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