El Presidente – we salute you! (sort of)

ARFF truck hosing aeroplane

Insider had made a pact with the huge editorial team at Airport Focus that he wouldn’t mention either Brexit or the US Presidential Election in these columns.

The reasoning being that both subjects are worthy only of serious commentary and should therefore be consigned to the front end of the magazine.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control this is no longer possible. Those of you who have been following the election will remember that in the first TV debate candidate Trump made some very disparaging remarks about US airports. He went even further suggesting that the dilapidated terminals and long queues were a symbol of a once great nation’s civil decline.

“You land at LaGuardia, you land at Kennedy, you land at LAX, you land at Newark,” he said. “We’ve become a third world country.” I am not sure what the link is here, but following his election victory two emergency fire trucks at LaGuardia sprayed water in the air over his plane in a “water cannon salute” – a ceremony normally reserved for VIPs and ground breaking new aircraft or routes.

Perhaps they were either “hosing down” his rhetoric or thanking him for the promise of trillions of dollars in investment to make US airports more like the shining architectural jewels he had trumpeted in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and China which he said were the envy of the world.

He may have a point here. No US airport receives a five-star rating from SkyTrax and there are only three four-star airports: San Francisco, Houston and Cincinnati. This is not very good for a continent which has the largest civil aviation market in the world and pioneered many of the services that air travellers now take for granted. Insider was reminded of this on a recent trip to San Diego – a regular and favourite destination for this magazine’s business economy scribbler.

San Diego Airport is quite lovely really. It has almost a European feel perhaps due to the Spanish influences that are prevalent in this sun-drenched part of Southern California.

On the return journey I breezed through its quiet halls with a smile on my face. Then I woke up with a jolt landing at JFK at 6am to connect to a Heathrow flight.

The trudge through arrivals and the transfer to the connecting terminal in a dirty old bus that smelt of diesel felt a bit… well, the phrase would be ‘third world’. I slept-walked to the gate where a very disorganised and confusing announcement was being made about Galaxy 7 phones. Slumping down on rock hard seats we weary London-bound travellers stared at the flickering TV screens showing 24-hour news. There he was, two weeks away from political triumph, ranting on again about dilapidated infrastructure. Some of us didn’t want to look but we couldn’t look away either.

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