By Sherman Fridman
With apologies to Charles Dickens
Dushanbe International Airport
We begin our aeronautical journey in the capitol of Tajikistan, at Dushanbe International Airport, where the company in charge of handling passengers and their luggage says that it has not been paid for their services, and for this reason the company has put the airport’s passenger processing system out of commission.
For nearly three weeks, the entire airport check-in process has been carried out manually; boarding cards and luggage tags are written and affixed by hand. Even more bothersome, for flights involving stop-overs, connecting flights or aircraft changes, it is not possible to check passengers or their baggage through to the final destination airport.
On average, flights leave Dushanbe after a delay of up to four hours; and not surprisingly, airport employees are frequently subject to verbal abuse from angry passengers.
The airport’s stance is to wait for further developments, and at one point since the stoppage began, the airport director temporarily went missing. It is not known when automated check-in service will be operational again, or whether the airport director will go missing again, this time permanently.
Nearly half a world removed from the Eurasian Steppe, the news coming out of Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal Four – also known as the Tom Bradley Terminal or the International Terminal – is far more likely to be welcomed by arriving and departing passengers.
Fronted by the Westfield Group, which designs, develops, owns, manages leases shopping venues in landmark cities around the world, (including Palm Desert), and its tenant partners, the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) has been the recipient of an $80 million investment to develop new dining and retail programs.
The first phase of the new TBIT, which includes a Great Hall and boarding gates on the west side of the terminal, is scheduled to be open for business by Spring 2013. The second phase, which includes new gates on the east side of the terminal, a new federal security screening area and upgraded Customs arrivals area, is expected to be completed by 2014.
The total cost of the planned modernization of LAX is budgeted at $4.1 billion and is the largest public works project in Los Angeles’ history.
What sets the renovation of TBIT apart from other U.S. airports are the projected public service improvements as well as the high-end retailers who will become tenants at Terminal 4; all of whom wish to take part in the projected $98 million to be generated by the upgrades.
For a long time, European, Asian and Middle Eastern airport concourses have featured high-end retailers who want to catch travelers for last minute gift purchases. Now, LAX also becomes a player in this high-end retail market.
In addition to a variety of new, brand-named eating venues, ranging from caviar and Champagne to the first Starbucks Evening in the country (serving wine and beer in the evenings), internationally-known labels such as Bvlgari, Michael Kors, Coach, Hugo Boss and Armani will also be enticing buyers with time and money on their hands.
Other TBIT improvements are 18-roomer boarding gates built for the new generation of large-capacity aircraft, secured corridors so connecting passengers can travel between the TBIT and Terminals 3 and 4 plus, Dushanbe International Airport take note, a new state-of-the-art baggage-handling systems that will improve passenger wait times and speed travelers through the ticketing process.
Orange County’s Great Park
Looking for a family-friendly venue to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Look no further than Irvine and the Orange County Great Park’s celebration of Great Night!
As an key part of the redevelopment of the publicly-owned portion of the 4,700-acre former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Orange County Great Park attracts visitors from all over Southern California to experience an array of recreational and educational opportunities. Popular activities include the park’s giant orange balloon that gives passengers a 400-foot-high view of the entire park; children’s Carousel; Farm + Food Lab and Kids’ Rock Playground.
Following its successful debut last year, Orange County Great Park will once again host Great Night! Family New Year’s Eve. Admission is free (but parking is $10), and it is open to families and anyone interested in celebrating the New Year with an evening filled with live music and dancing, good food and fun for people of all ages in a festive, alcohol-free environment.
But one caveat; Great Night! operates on Eastern Standard Time, so when the crystal ball drops in New York City’s Time Square at midnight, it will be only 9 p.m. in Orange County. This is to allow parents to ring in the New Year with their children and make it home in time to attend other, grownup, parties.
Orange County Great Park is located in Irvine, at Sand Canyon and Marine Way, and is easily reached by the 5 or 405 freeways.