Posted by: David Stewart | September 17, 2008

Warning: Someone may be watching your pat-down search

In my last trip to China in June 2008, I did my usual Beijing / Shanghai loop. I was surprised that in both of these cities, I was flying through brand spanking new airport terminals.

Shanghai Pudong airport

Shanghai Pudong International has basically doubled in size by adding a second terminal, which is essentially a duplicate of the original. Between the terminals is the station for the high-speed magnetic levitation (mag lev) train to the city.

What is hilarious about this to me is that this airport was brand new when I started coming to China in 2001, and at that time it was almost ghostly in how big the place was and how empty. I wouldn't say it was full by any stretch of the imagination, but now that it has doubled in size, it seems really sepulchral to me.

I also flew through the new Terminal 3 in Beijing. This place is a marvel, truly a totally humongous space, actually two major wings connected by a shuttle.

In June, my experience flying out of Terminal 3 was marred by my petite mal freak out because I didn't seem to have reservations on any flights. But this time, I had lots of time to cool my heels before the flight. So I used my United Premier Executive card to get into Air China's Business Class lounge.

The lounge sort of floats over the terminal in a balcony, with a view of the runway out of one window. Over the other side, you get a fantastic view of … the security lines.

Business class lounge at Beijing Airport Terminal 3

That's right, sportsfans, the security lines. So you have the specter of these indolent frequent flyers who are sipping their free drinks and nibblies while watching people get their pat-downs by security.

Here's the other fun thing about Chinese security lines: almost nobody makes it through the metal detector without a pat-down. You get one chance, and then it's patty cakes! (I've actually managed to escape this now for most flights, we'll see if it continues).

I couldn't believe the poor planning! Or, perhaps it was intentional. After all, this way they give the passengers live entertainment.

I was too embarrassed myself to watch…

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