Writing from London -- When I arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport earlier this week for my United Airlines flight to London, the check in agent had bad news; while a reservation appeared in her system, the ticket processed by Lufthansa, had not been generated. To fix this, I'd have to walk to the next terminal and get Lufthansa to sort it out.Forty-five minutes later the problem was solved. Only the exceedingly pleasant demeanor of the United agents mitigated my frustration at the disconnect between these two airlines, who are supposed to be thisclose under the Star Alliance.
Explaining his decision to place a large open "plaza" at the center and make retail shops less conspicuous, Vidal insisted that airports should think of themselves as the first and last impression of thecity. I heard that before when California's tiny Long Beach Airport underwent a renovation that tacked an open air bistro and passenger waiting area behind the airport's historic art deco building, to great effect. Small or large, making an airport into a welcoming place is a wonderful concept but it's not so easy to achieve.
Sprucing up an airport isn't like installing a Jacuzzi where your 1950s-style tub/shower combo used to be.
International are two others that come to mind. Next week I'll be touring Doha's Hamad International which will be getting its first true workout with the arrival of airline executives from around the world for the International Air Transport Association annual meeting. (Then there are the airports like New York's JFK that don't even try.)
The difference between those airports and Heathrow's ambitious remake of all of its terminals is vast. Heathrow is old and size restricted. The controversy over adding another runway is so heated, a final decision has been put off until after the 2015 parliamentary elections. Wait too long, some British tourism and commerce officials say, and the booming airports in Asia and the Gulf could siphon away enough of London's transfer traffic to make a new runway unnecessary, to the great economic disadvantage of the country.Despite, or perhaps because of the challenges, Terminal 2 will officially open with great fanfare. Queen Elizabeth will cut the ribbon on the 23rd of June just as she did 60 years ago. (Click here for some wonderful photos of that event.)
In the meantime, United will be first to shake out the glitches when it begins to use the terminal on June 4. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, its fair to expect it will be "seamlessly" checking in customers whether they booked with United, Lufthansa or any other of their roommates in London's new Star Alliance terminal.