06 May 2008

Architecture by Donkeys

Manchester Airport has been a shambles for years. It's been expanding its premises, re-shaping itself to cope with more traffic, and giving its customers grief in the process. But the latest developments now make it a uniquely depressing experience. All passenger check-ins are regulated by a series of barriers which force everyone into a single file queue which snakes back and forward on itself. Nobody is left in any doubt that they are being treated like animals, herded through stock markets.

Security checks are now a ritual humiliation, with people undressing on the whim of some twerp who doesn't like the look of your face. But the crowning glory of the latest changes comes immediately after that.

When you've put your shoes, your belt, and your shoulder-pads back on, you emerge into a bloody department store. There's no such thing as walking down a corridor with signposts saying "This way to Gates 20-32". No - you emerge into ladies cosmetics, followed by duty-free booze, past trashy holiday 'gifts', then electrical goods, and so on. There are quite deliberately no straight walkways. You have to slalom past islands of commerce with sales assistants doing their best to stop you getting to your point of departure.

It is commercial greed on an savage scale - a vulgar, disorienting, and excruciating piece of organisation, customer-hostile, and bad planning of the worst possible kind.

It almost spoiled my departure for another Andalusian reading week - and I know that there will be the same thing on the way back.

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