This is a photo of the carpet in Delhi Airport cattle holding zone. I stared at this for way too long. Read below to find out why in my three Don’ts of Travel.
Avoid Air China at all costs. The global travel industry is projected to grow exponentially in the next twenty years, turning the global village into a global metropolis. Boeing and Airbus, the world’s only important manufacturers of large commercial aircraft, each project an annual 5 percent increase in air travel, which they say will cause world air traffic to triple by 2030. Imagine three times more screaming babies and three times as many flatulent unwashed hippies choking the cabins of the sky. In this scenario, as in everything else, Asia will lead the boom. Chinese airlines are expected to add twenty three hundred aircraft worth $200 billion to their fleets over the next two decades. This is reason to be scared, very fucking scared because there is absolutely no airline experience as abhorrent as an Air China one. If you can’t imagine a boot stomping on your face from here to eternity then take an eleven hour flight across the Pacific with Air China and you get some idea of the future if China takes over.
At LAX expect lax baggage staff. If you fly through Los Angeles airport then there is a very high chance your baggage will not get to the same place, at the same time as you. Even if you don’t intend on stopping in the United God Damn States of Awesome and your flight is simply connecting through, you will still have to go through border security screening, pick up your luggage and drag it to a hidden baggage drop location in another far off terminal. The lazy baggage staff will look at your bag with as much professional enthusiasm as a trafficked Romanian sex worker. I know this to be true because I’ve watched them numerous times. Baggage handling staff, not Romanian sex workers. Sometimes I’ve asked what the chances of my bag moving further than the drop box before I come through on the return leg of my journey, and all they have done is shrug and get even more snug in their seats. Even if you have hours till your connecting flight the work shy, unionized baggage staff will not be able to pick it up and place it on the correct conveyor belt to get it to your next plane.
LAX also looks like it hasn’t had as much as a vacuum touch it since when the original Battlestar Galactica was on TV over there. It’s a miserable first sight of an empire in decline and you realize that the Chinese could turn up to work only six days a week and they would still be ruling the globe before the end of the fortnight. If the greatest civilized nation on earth only has a passing interest at doing anything other than discussing whether Snooki is worth a poke or not then it is doomed.
Never ever ever fly through Delhi Airport. It’s a pretty new airport – all the signs are in English, there’s two WHSmiths, a sports bar and all the shops and facilities are open 24 hours a day – however, their idea of baggage handling and processing connecting passengers is the most overly bureaucratically mismanaged joke in all of modern travel. You will be lined up in front of one chap who takes your name, passport number and the number of your connecting flight before being told to go to the next line-up where you will be asked the same thing but told there was nothing they can do to process your request for a boarding card. You will be told to try six different lines before eventually you threaten to bite off a tigers dick and spit it in their face if no one can actually help or direct you to someone that can help. All the clerks will bury their heads in the ledgers in front of them and scribble in them with pencils even more frantically. You might be tempted to take a pretty girl hostage and threaten her life if no one helps you out, but I wouldn’t if I were you. I read Shantaram recently and the Indian prisons sound awful. Eventually, someone will tell you that they will process a boarding pass for you but first they need the numbers on your checked baggage because they need to send a small boy down to the runway to find your bag and drag it to some other hidden holding pen. Then the small boy will emerge after a few hours and tell the clerk how much the bag weighed and they will try charging you for it even if you paid excess charges at the original departure location. They won’t take no for an answer so you go to pay with credit card but they tell you they can only take cash. Only Rupees. So you ask where there is a cash point machine (who carries Rupees for a four hour lay over in Delhi? I do now) but they tell you that the only one is just beyond the security check. The problem is that you need your boarding pass if you are to proceed beyond security, but you can’t have your boarding pass till you have paid for your baggage. This means you have to give your remaining US dollars to the clerk who will go to the money exchange for you. However, he needs your passport to do so. You are stuck in a bind so you have to agree to this scary resolution. He takes about an hour so the whole time you are left wondering if your passport is being copied and forged or whether you will ever see this clerk, your passport or your money ever again. The money you have had to hand to him for excess baggage fees is about six months wages. Eventually he returns, with a spring in his step and a nice new suit whilst you are pondering whether a stream of immigrants will be traipsing around the globe with a Dan Barham passport from now on. You pay the fees, he scribbles out your boarding pass with a Biro on a bit of old paper and sends the little boy off to drag your baggage to the right plane now. He scribbles a few lines in another ledger with a pencil and assures you that everything is in order. You don’t feel sure but there is no option so you just have to hope and pray. The only upside to this all is your eleven hour lay over in Delhi has been reduced to just six because of the bumbling irrationality of Delhi Airport procedures.
I recently returned from Nepal so Air China and Delhi Airport are fresh in my mind. I din’t travel through LAX this time but it is charred into my nightmares nonetheless.