Monday, March 05, 2007

Lousy LAX

We arrived on time at LAX, dreading the 4-hour layover until our 11:50 pm departure to Guangzhou on China Southern airlines. Since Frontier and China Southern don’t have a baggage agreement, we had to pick up our checked bags and check in again with China Southern. The long underground hallway to the baggage claim was a throw-back to the 70’s. A myriad of brightly colored tiles decorated one wall and the place is lit up bright enough to be a surgery room. The baggage claim area looked like something you’d expect to see in South America, with decades old carousels, construction, and decor. To top it off, a high-pitched whine pierced the air, apparently the result of security alarms on various doors. The whine begins when someone opens a secure door and continues long past it’s closing. After a long wait for our bags, we learned that the international terminal is a separate building and made our way there, where the official airport signs marked with “China Southern” led us through throngs of people of all nationalities – to the wrong aisle. After wandering a bit, we finally found the China Southern desk on a different aisle, surprised to see about a hundred people in line already, more than 3 hours ahead of flight time. After a long wait here, we were chosen as the lucky winners of a bonus security check of our baggage! We carted our load to yet another long line. After a few millennia in this queue, they finally deemed our lugged safe, so we could go get a bite to eat before the marathon flight across the pacific. It was about 2 and half hours since we landed! Good thing we had that long layover.

Next we passed through security on the way to our “gate”, and I use the term loosely here. The gates at LAX’s international terminal are a crowded cattle call with doors opening straight onto the tarmac, where diesel powered busses, packed almost as full as a city bus in China, haul weary passengers for about 5 minutes to odd, free-standing jetways out in the hinterlands of the airport. Finally we packed ourselves into our 3 seats in row 30 of the fully-booked Boeing 777.

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