In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Heathrow’s Games Terminal will disappear after three days
The project will cost 20 million pounds, process 37,000 bags and deal with 10,000 or so athletes. But don’t blink, because you might miss Heathrow’s Games Terminal: After three days, it will disappear.
So why would Heathrow build an expensive special terminal whose only goal in its 72 hour lifespan is to send Olympians on their way home? It isn’t as if Heathrow doesn’t know a thing or two about crowds. This is Europe’s busiest airport, after all, and one of the busiest on the planet.
But research suggested that departures – not arrivals- are what cause problems for Olympic airports.
That’s because athletes filter in over time, arriving for training and acclimation sometimes months before the games. But the bulk of them leave Aug. 13, the day after the Closing Ceremony.
First and foremost on the minds of organizers is security for the athletes. Then there’s the athletes’ needs: It just didn’t seem right to have Olympians wait in line like the average frequent flier.
“Athletes are at the top of their professions,” said aviation industry consultant Chris Yates. “Do they really want to be hanging out with you and I?”
But there’s also just the crush of everyone racing for the doors once the party is over. Heathrow could have lumbered along- processing as many as 137,800 passengers, athletes included – but doing that would have increased the burden on everybody leaving after the games.
“It’s not just about the athletes,” said Nick Cole, who’s heading the Olympic project for the airport. “We want everyone using it to have a fantastic experience.”
Mr Cole, a former army officer, has been building his team and vision for the last two years.
It wasn’t all about construction. He’s spent a lot of time persuading the 200 or so companies at Heathrow to meld their operations, if only briefly.
Liquids ban should not be lifted next year, say UK airports
British airport operators claim plans to scrap limits on liquids in hand luggage by 2013 will cause chaos and confusion.
A European ban on airline passengers carrying liquids in hand luggage should not be lifted as planned next year, British airport operators have warned, because a relaxation will trigger “chaos” in terminals.
Brussels has set a deadline of April 2013 to scrap regulations that have become the bane of air travellers around the world, limiting liquids in carry-on luggage to containers no larger than 100ml. But the Airport Operators Association, which represents Heathrow and other major airports in the UK, said passenger security should take priority over “arbitrary” deadlines.
“The latest significant trials show that the technology is still not mature enough to handle the vast numbers of passengers travelling through our airports,” said Darren Caplan, chief executive of the AOA. “If implemented as things stand, there would be chaos and confusion in airport central search areas. As well as being bad for passengers, we believe that it will put security at risk.”
Airport scanner companies argue that the technology exists to detect liquids in carry-on luggage, which has spurred speculation in some quarters that airports’ main concern is over cost. However, Heathrow’s owner, BAA, said last night that it supported the AOA’s call.
The Department for Transport said: “We are working with the European Commission, member states, industry and international partners to assess the feasibility of meeting the April 2013 deadline. As with all security procedures, the safety and security of the travelling public is paramount and we will not allow it to be compromised.”
The liquids regulations were imposed in 2006 after the foiling of a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners travelling from Heathrow to North America. Introduced overnight at the height of the summer travel season, the regulations caused chaos and initially brought Heathrow to a near-standstill.
The restrictions forced UK airports to spend at least £100m on extra security lanes and guards, while passengers endured long queues at security gates.
Belgium’s Antwerp is an artistic port of call
Antwerp is a city where medieval, Gothic and art deco buildings mingle with modernist and cutting-edge architecture, where music lovers can attend world-class opera performances and underground electronic music gigs. Sophisticated, quiet, it’s an ideal city for aimless wandering throughout the historical centre, the port area and the Zuid, or south, where students and artists live.
An historical port and a centre of the Flemish Renaissance, Antwerp became the mercantile capital of western Europe by the end of the fifteenth century thanks to the lucrative spice and sugar trades. It came under the rule of the Franks, the Spaniards and, after the Twelve Years’ Truce signed by the rulers of the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands in 1609, the city flourished with the help of the diamond trade and the city’s legendary printing houses. In the late 19th century, Antwerp became the third-largest port city in the world after London and New York. Its Red Star Line steamer carried millions of Europeans to Ellis Island to start a new life in America.
Antwerp remains sophisticated and creative to this day. In the 1980s, a vibrant contemporary art and fashion scene emerged, which includes Dries Van Noten and Martin Margiela.
A comfortable bed
The sleek boutique Hotel O (www.hotelo.be; 00 32 03 292 6510), decorated by architect Jo Peeters, features back-lit reproductions of historic paintings and a view of the Beaux-Arts architecture of the South District. The Philippe Starck bath tubs are deep and relaxing, while the bed induces immediate slumber. For those who do wake up, Café Nero in the lobby serves light bites in an elegant decor. Double rooms cost from €165 (Dh766) per night.
On a quiet but central street, Hotel Les Nuits (www.hotellesnuits.be; 00 32 03 225 0204) is a luxurious b&b decorated with objects from the Flamant store in the same building. Antiques from the Far East bring a touch of warmth to the stylish all-black rooms, while large windows offer sweeping views across the city. Double rooms cost from €145 (Dh673) per night.
Double-decker bus makes Baghdad comeback
More often seen speeding past Trafalgar Square, British-style double-decker buses are making a comeback in Baghdad, the latest sign that Iraq’s capital is on the road to recovery after years of war and sanctions.
Once a common sight during Saddam Hussein’s rule before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq’s old red double-deckers all but disappeared from use when looting, sectarian violence, and attacks engulfed the Iraqi capital at the height of the war.
Baghdad is still chaotic, with traffic crawling along rubble-filled roads and through security checkpoints that protect government compounds. But the new air-conditioned buses are a relief for long-suffering residents.
“They disappeared after the occupation, but it’s good to see them back,” said passenger Basil Hashim, an Arabic language teacher taking one of the new routes in central Baghdad. “It makes it feel like Baghdad is like any other capital.”
Iraq’s transport ministry says 60 new double-decker buses, made in Jordan, will start running this week on state-run lines. The 500 Iraqi dinar (40 U.S. cents) ticket is half the price of a ride in one of the city’s often dilapidated, packed taxis.
Nine years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam, Iraq’s capital is still messy. Residents rely on generators to compensate for patchy power service, infrastructure is crumbling, and violence remains a constant risk with Sunni Islamist insurgents fighting the state.
Iraq’s government has ambitious plans for major projects from a high-speed train to a metro line. But in a city where corruption is rife and paving a single main street can take years, many Iraqis dismiss those plans with skepticism.
Still, as attacks and bombings have ebbed, Baghdad is slowly coming back to life. Along the Tigris river in the city’s Abu Nawas street, playgrounds, football pitches and restaurants selling Baghdad’s famous fish dish Masgoof thrive at weekends.
City officials have started taking down many of the tall blast walls that once made Baghdad a maze of concrete.
Baghdad’s old double-deckers, were either stolen, or gradually fell into disrepair, as Iraq struggled with the violence that erupted after the invasion. More than 300 old buses were dumped in a north Baghdad scrapyard.
Bringing new buses back to Baghdad has not been without its problems. Speed bumps at security checkpoints and the make-shift electricity wiring that crisscrosses in low-slung webs across many Baghdad streets has proven tricky.
A mortar attack a few days before the buses started running killed one person and wounded six people along Sadoun street area, in a reminder of the fragile security.