Almost a year now after some $200 million was spent to "redevelop" the Cairns Airport domestic terminal, two recent visits to collect visiting rellies have offered a good opportunity to look around the newly-rebuilt terminal. And it's led to a startling realisation:
THE AIRPORT WAS REBUILT BY MORONS.
As you approach the airport, you'll discover that the actual entry to the terminal area is a SECRET. There are virtually no signs directing the public into the domestic area of the terminal, and cars can be seen routinely entering the taxi and bus areas (which have been given preference) and then needing to turn around when they discover they're in the wrong place. Despite repeated complaints to the airport owners, apparently this is a new "security feature" in place at the airport. The terrorists can't bomb it if they can't find it!
The new check-in area is large, and beautiful. And given that Qantas and the other airlines have announced plans to charge us extra for "in-person check-in", what's the point? These 36 check-in counters were obsolete the day the airport opened. Didn't anyone consult the airlines? Clearly all they need are an area for check-in computers and a baggage drop. A total waste of space, which could have been avoided if the designers had actually spoken to the airlines - or read a newspaper.
Today at the security area there were only two lines open, with a 40 minute queue to get thru. And passengers who said they were "late" were routinely told to "jump the queue". This during our slow season! And with such slow queues we have so much less time for shopping and dining!
Then the passenger areas. We're now in the "slow" tourism season for Cairns, and yet today at noon there were virtually no seats available for the mass of departing passengers. It would be my guess that the number of actual public seats available for passengers is THE SAME as with the old terminal. And apparently no one has told the airport company that the Adventure Festival is OVER.
The builder, Hansen Yuncken (try saying THAT fast three times) claims that the terminal size has doubled. I would guess that the bulk of this doubled space is for retail and restaurant uses - the last chance we have to rip money from the public for overpriced airport food and souvenirs. In fact the Cairns Post has been recently running ads for the airport inviting the public in for a restaurant meal and a shop. Madness!
At least two of the restaurants were seen ejecting passengers out of the seating nearest their restaurants, including this La Porchetta. This while the restaurants sat mostly empty (at lunch time, no less). And huge lines are often evident at the coffee shop and Hungry Jack's during the morning rush for flights to Sydney and Brisbane. In fact Hungry Jack's, who sell breakfast items, don't even bother to open early enough to serve breakfast to these first flight passengers at 5:30 and 6 AM. So much for "passenger friendly".
And with a little looking around you can see how construction corners were cut and the usual "commercial features" are missing. The bathrooms at noon today had lines of people waiting to use them (especially of course the women's loo). Apparently a simple task like computing the proper number of bathrooms necessary for 3 million passengers a year eluded the airport designers. And the fixtures and fittings in the bathrooms aren't of commercial quality, nor do they contain even the most rudimentary water saving features. Items found in real airports in the rest of Australia. How soon will the airport be replacing this cheap junk? And they didn't even bother moving roof support posts out of critical passenger loading areas (like the photo at the top shows).
And after you arrive, these three million passengers are all herded thru one more tunnel to the luggage area. One 2.5 meter wide tunnel to freedom.. .
So what DID Cairns get for its $200 million? White walls, white tunnels, white floors, white, white everywhere! Any hint of Cairns tropical/aboriginal/rainforest/reef identity? NONE. We got passenger pick-up and drop-off zones moved a couple hundred meters further than before, with much of the area exposed to the sun and rain. We got NO place for locals to wait for their loved ones to arrive since airport security gestapo won't let anyone park at a kerb that now is two hundred meters from the baggage claim, for "security reasons" - unlike other airports that provide a "mobile phone lot" for drivers to wait to be summoned. We got a "taxi staging area" that drivers insisted include their own "clubhouse" - so far mostly unused and gathering dust. Not to mention the Federal Police who stand with a radar gun at the exit to give a big "Welcome to Cairns" speeding citation after you've barely pulled out of the car park!
What we didn't get was what we were promised, a modern and functional airport with ease of access and use. We now have long white tunnels where passengers queue AND exit in the same space. Who designed this nonsense? We didn't get a proper airplane-level departure area, where passengers could enter the airplane jetway directly instead of walking up a white-painted rat maze to get to their plane. Even the airlines are angry about this decision - one senior manager told me that this increases boarding time by 10-15 minutes, in a business where minutes and efficiency count.
We also didn't get "share ride" and public bus service to/from the airport, which forces arriving passengers into rental cars or Cairns "one taxi company, no competition" mafia. Who ever heard of an international airport with no public bus service?
And the hooligans took away our DC-3!
While this project was ostensibly the work of the new "private" owners of the airport, it's got Queensland Government handprints all over it. This was a design and development done for a price, designed by mindless bureaucrats and morons and built by cheap motherfuckers, with no sense of community, style, or CAIRNS. The Gillard/Rudd School Hall rort times 200. What we really got was lipstick on a pig. At the price of $200,000,000! The thing will need another hundred million of our money thrown at it again before too long.
Start saving your dollars now. This airport is a disaster.