Thursday, 25 July 2013

Security breach puts travellers in airport lock down

Brisbane airport - 24 July 2013
© divacultura 2013

This is what confronted me when I arrived at Brisbane airport last night to catch a flight home to Melbourne.  As I walked across to the terminal from the train station, I saw hundreds of people in the terminal and immediately knew something was wrong.  The only time I've seen an airport as busy as this was at about 5:30am over in Perth.

This was different.  For a start everyone was facing in the one direction.  I soon discovered they were looking at the departures board.  The departures board had a list of flights with no departure information.  Definitely unusual.

I approached two women and asked what was going on.  They told me there had been some kind of security breach.  I asked a couple of others and found out that someone had walked back inside the secure zone after they had left.  This meant that everyone who was inside the secure zone had to be evacuated to the non-secure side and go through security again.

I checked my bag in and found a spot on the floor and took a seat.  I was booked on a 7:10pm flight so I wasn't late, but I needed food.  After a day feeling unwell, I hadn't eaten anything and was just starting to feel like something plain - like toast, crackers or a bowl of rice.  The closest thing I could find was a bag of chips in a vending machine, but the vending machine only took coins or a $5 or $10 note.  I had a $50 note in my wallet.  Down the other end of the terminal I found a machine that took credit cards.  I swiped it.  It didn't look like it worked so I swiped it again.  I ended up buying 2 packets of chips.

Settling back on my spot on the floor, I listened to the announcements.  A woman's voice explained that they were now going to call particular flights.  She pleaded with us to wait if we were not on the flights called.  She reassured us that everyone would be called through and no one would be left behind.  A flight to Tamworth was called and a huge crowd surged forward.  It seemed like an awful lot of people travelling to Tamworth!  Soon another announcement from the same woman asked again for ONLY the people on flights that had been called to come through security.  She sounded frustrated.  I looked up and there she was standing beside me.  She looked stressed.

When she finished speaking I said thank you to her and told her what a great job she was doing.  She rolled her eyes and said how awful the afternoon had been.  I repeated that she was doing a great job.  She looked grateful and seemed amazed that anyone would notice and take the time to compliment her.

Another woman then walked through the crowd and started giving contradictory information calling out flight numbers that weren't up on the screen and hadn't been called out by the amplified announcement.  A passenger walked up and said something to this woman.  She didn't look happy.  The staff member gave some directions; the other woman shook her head and sighed.  As she walked away she shook her head and was muttering under her breath.

These scenes were repeated in little clusters across the terminal.

My flight was called and I walked through to security.  The staff there were working very fast.  I said hello and asked them how they were going.  They looked pleased to be acknowledged as human beings as most people going through looked grumpy.

As I made my way to the gate, a man walked beside me muttering about his flight being closed.

"My flight's &%^$ing closed!"

"It won't be closed.  You'll be okay."

"It says it's closed!  I won't be happy."

"You'll be okay," I called to his back as he rumbled down the concourse.

It's interesting to watch people get worked up about something that they have no control over.  Why yell at people who are doing their best to manage in the circumstances?  And why spend time getting worked up about a flight that might be closed instead of spending the time getting to the gate?  Strange.

In the end, my flight was only 10 minutes late.  I was very happy to sit on a seat - airport floors are very hard and cold!

What's your plan  when things don't go to plan?

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