Airport Insanity: The Things You Hear.


Airport insanity has a lot to do with the craziness you hear–and I’m not talking about things passengers say. Yet.

Butt first and foremost, I’m talking about what passes for official “information,” and one set of “officials” are repeat offenders:

We’ll remind you of the proper procedure after you’ve successfully accomplished it.

That’s right: it’s the “security” people. And the noise they makes repeats itself throughout the secure side of the terminal, dozens of times every hour:

“All liquids must be in three ounce or less containers . . .”

Plus other “information” the passengers clearly already know–or they wouldn’t have made it through the security checkpoint. Why are we constantly dunned with the instructions we’ve already complied with? Is there just not enough noise and chaos without the irrelevant instructions for what we’ve already accomplished? Where does this insatiable need to tell people what to do after they’ve already done it come from?

Or the other standard announcement, “Passengers should monitor bags at all times to avoid carrying objects without their knowledge.”ย  Never mind the fact that this literally means without the objects’ knowledge, not the passenger’s. Either way you look at it, the announcement makes no sense: if it’s without your knowledge, how can you prevent it?

Excuse me, but are things going on without your knowledge?

Now, on to the airlines.

It’s once again obscuring the significant with the obvious, with classic PA announcements like, “This will serve as a gate change announcement . . .”

Who cares about “this,” when the important information is the not the announcement itself, but rather the information? Is it really vital to describe the medium (see photo above) in order to convey the information? Would the added verbiage be confusing to the average passenger, much less one with language or hearing impairments?

And speaking of excess, here is my annoying favorite: “This is the last and final boarding announcement . . .” Is it just me, or is that kind of redundant kind of–like this sentence? Is there a distinction between last and final that is germane to the information that the aircraft door is about to close?

You were warned.

To summarize, the announcements not only add to the noise and chaos in the terminal, in a real way, they make information more difficult to come by because the user has to decipher the announcement in all of it’s useless bluster from the important information.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the passengers’ contribution to the chaos.

No no--you're not in the way . . .

No no–you’re not in the way. Much.

I guess there are those who are too comfortable with the environment, at the expense of everyone else both in it, and working in it:

It’s not that questions are the problem. Rather, it’s the volume of questions, which can be separated into those that need to be asked and those that really should be understood: there is plumbing in all airports, which includes bathrooms. No one working in the airport except the perhaps janitors might have the locations memorized. Rather, they–we–take on faith that there must be bathrooms somewhere, one as close as the next. But you want the closest, you say? Again, who keeps that information handy and really, does anyone besides you need to know about your urgency? Times wasting–go find it.

And in the interest of complete disclosure, I have to admit that sometimes I’m part of the communications breakdown myself:

I know; I hate when I get like this.

Maybe it’s just the nature of air travel: too much information, good and bad, floating around aimlessly. So I’m going to propose a vow of silence henceforth: no more crabbing on my part about communications, too much info, too little info and everything in between.

Well, maybe one more . . .

You have to admit, there are some things you really don’t want to know.ย  And at the airport, it’s probably best to just find some things out on your own.

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11 Responses to “Airport Insanity: The Things You Hear.”

  1. You have it easy. Over here we get the excess communication in BOTH official languages. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Sheer brilliance, in style and content! That was my first comment. Stand-by for more comments. Are we departing on time?

  3. I love the two minuit message to any passanger who has a pet as to where the doggie potty place is at the main terminal, downstairs, outside the double door marked section a576 q, which can be accessed by inquireing at the information desk at the entrance to the main terminal accross from gate A1……..
    By the time you decipher the damn message, the pet has “done it” in the main aisle…

  4. Capt. Do the electronic devices really interfere with the aircraft’s flight? Not talking cell phones, but even ipod/headphones/camera that is not connected to anything?

    • Yes it’s possible that a signal from a handheld device could interfere with navigation signals or control signals.

      But as importantly, all devices need to be off during critical phases of flight so that passengers’ attention can be solely focused on emergency instructions from the crew as necessary.

  5. Haha you’re on a roll, Chris!

    I’m gonna steal that snappy “We’re over the luggage” retort, lol

    Navigating the chaotic cacophony of the terminal, fending off “Where’s the bathroom? Where’s my baggage? Where’s Flight 424?” reminds me of the hysterical scene in Airplane! of the pilot Kung Fu’ing the obnoxious “Church of Higher Consciousness” kooks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    We have such a luxury, don’t we, of that lovely SLAM CLICK! of the Kevlar cockpit door…

  6. Gotcha! Thanks for the reply!!

  7. I have not flown since 1999 and from what I hear and read, I don’t want to any time soon.

  8. Charlie Jones Says:

    Because I fly often for my job, I’m sure I’ve heard the “look out for unattended packages” warning 1000 times. Once, during a long layover, I noticed that a bag had been “unattended” for at least 3 hours. I figured that it was accidentally left by a fellow traveler and decided I should let the gate agent know. Her response was “OK, thanks for telling me.” The bag then set there 2 more hours, until it was time for my flight. I’ve lost most of my respect for any security warning I have heard since then.

  9. Great post, Chris. Also, I’d just like to add: if the whole flying thing doesn’t work out for you, I think you’ve got a career in cartoons at the ready. ๐Ÿ™‚

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