Went through Stansted Airport yesterday, on my way back to the squalid MP3 terminal at Marseille, an arrival point which would be an embarrassment in a third world country. The rest of Marseille Airport is fine, but MP3 is a metal box, originally designed for freight storage, which has been converted to accommodate human traffic. At least it has an excuse for its awfulness.
Stansted, on the other hand doesn't. I have been using Stansted more or less since it opened. Once, you arrived in the tranquil surroundings, checked in and made your way to the gate and that was it. There was the drop-off point in front of the building giving direct access to the airport. That no longer exists, the excuse, I imagine being 'security.' The new 'drop-off point,' which is a car park far from the entrance, costs £2 for ten minutes, £3 for 15, except they don't make that clear until the barrier has dropped behind you. One minute over and it’s £50 to get out. That should stop Al-Qaeda.
Arriving in plenty of time, I stopped for a drink and thought I'd read the headlines on my iPad. A message appeared telling me that the airport network was available and I hit the button. I got a message asking for a lengthy autobiography. It was clear that if I complied, I'd be bombarded with propaganda for the rest of eternity, so I vented my feelings by writing this instead.
The culture of fear is big business. With cameras and vaguely menacing signs everywhere telling you what you can't do, it frightens the life out of me much more than any terrorist threat. The thing that really gets me is that Stansted is something of a modern design classic, a machine for travelling which, through no fault of Sir Norman Foster's, has had a spanner thrown into its works, making the 'travelling experience' no better than that of MP3 at the other end. This splendid airport, thought out to the last detail, is becoming more dysfunctional by the moment. It was designed to be calm and efficient. It is stressful and aggressive. All consideration for the convenience of passengers has disappeared in the quest to extort every last penny from them.