Twaddle deep and twaddle dumb in Auckland

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.





  1. trivial or foolish speech or writing; nonsense. (“he dismissed the novel as self-indulgent twaddle”)

Twaddle is right up there with my favourite words and right down there as among my least favourite things.

News reaches The Moodie Blog of an “economic consultant” called Rodney Dickens in my home country New Zealand, who told the New Zealand Herald last week that he was concerned about the expansion of more duty free shops as they impeded passenger movement through Auckland Airport. The newspaper headline dutifully screamed, ‘Auckland Airport under fire: Critic says older travellers could get stuck forever’ in duty free’.

Perhaps it was a slow news day. After all, forever  is by definition quite a long time. In a tale of two cities Dickens (Rodney not Charles) said that Auckland and its trans-Tasman peer Melbourne Airport both suffered (or their passengers did) from the same problem.

I shall quote him twaddle-batim: “In both airports travellers are forced to take much longer routes than needed to get from security checking to the boarding gate because they are forced to walk through the duty free precincts that snake around on themselves rather than travellers having the option of taking much shorter routes.”

Melbourne was worse than Auckland, he claimed. But both were similar in terms of airports servicing themselves rather than core customers — the weary travellers forced to walk much further than needed in the interest in trying to “force” duty free shopping on them, the newspaper reported.

“There is also a lack of clear signage for travellers to follow through the maze of duty free shops, especially in Melbourne but also now an issue in Auckland Airport,” continued Dickens. “I can envisage some elderly travellers stuck forever in duty free unable to find their way out.”

Really? Strange that. I or my colleague Dermot Davitt have been through both airports since their most recent retail revamps. I’ve seen plenty of elderly travellers shopping (I suppose crueller readers might count me as one) and plenty who have chosen not to shop. But I’ve never seen one lost, let alone unable to find their way out. And I’ve seen plenty of them very content with their lot.

And one more thing; it wasn’t Auckland Airport’s decision to have two duty free retailers anyway. The decision was forced on them a few years back by the nonsensical anti-monopoly (more of that in a moment) sentiments of the Commerce Commission.

Lost in space: Two elderly and clearly disorientated travellers battle to find their way out of the duty free zone at Auckland Airport

Building (in fact exceeding) the city of sails’ twaddle quota came this rage from Newstalk ZB breakfast host Mike Hosking. Here’s his highly balanced view of Auckland Airport. “The gateway to the tourist mecca that is this country, was at its full incompetent, back-watery, monopolistic [see earlier comment -Ed] haphazard display in the early hours of yesterday morning. Auckland Airport is an embarrassment, and it has been an embarrassment for years. It appears to have been under construction or refurbishment for years. It is slow, it is understaffed, it is under-resourced and it is a hopelessly amateurish way to arrive here.”

Here are some of the poor chap’s other criticisms. “Our plane, and this has happened to me now several times, didn’t get a gate. So we got to walk down stairs, sort of like they did in the 1940s.” Let me tell you Mr Hosking there are plenty of 1940s airports in the world therefore, several of them in the UK. I think we might call your long walk a first-world problem.

And this. “We waited for our bags for over an hour. After about 40 minutes they made an announcement as to what was wrong, something wasn’t working… Good old Auckland, not a fraction as busy as either of those places, [LAX and Heathrow – see below] has no gates and no ability to toss a few bags your way in under 60 minutes.” Ok I get his anger. Any regular traveller has been through (and vented) about similar experiences. Heck, I remember not getting my bags until after I got home from a ten-day business trip to the US when Heathrow T5 opened so disastrously. But was Mr Hosking’s experience a typical happening as opposed to a bad day that just happened to coincide with the arrival of a tired and cranky passenger? If an airport or its services are consistently slack, and many are, fair enough, but I’m not convinced by his case for the prosecution.

And it gets weaker. “The irony is that both LAX and Heathrow, surely two of the most famously chaotic airports on Earth, put Auckland to shame these days with their services and efficiency,” says Mr Hosking. Firstly, he needs to look up the correct meaning of irony. Secondly, tell me how Heathrow counts as one of the “most famously chaotic airports on Earth” (I have only flown through LAX a couple of times in recent years so will leave it to others to defend that charge)? How often has he flown through the London gateway? I practically live there and can testify to its consistent across-the-board excellence.

I’m not sure that it’s the airport here that is incompetent and haphazard. And certainly not back-watery, mind. My native land is anything but a back water. But that doesn’t spare it from sometimes being a swamp of twaddle deep and twaddle dumb.

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