Almost lost amid the congratulations and backslapping that accompanied the opening of Suvarnabhumi airport's new tourist court this week were some scary statistics. In the first eight months of this year, as many as 1,980 users of the seven-year-old terminal tried to file legal complaints after falling victim to a scam, fraud or other form of criminal activity. Granted, this is only a tiny percentage of the 150,000 passengers using the facility daily but it is safe to assume other victims simply suffered in silence and decided to spend future vacations elsewhere.
While the court aims to provide justice for the scandalous treatment some visitors receive, its authority needs to be reinforced by a determined drive to rid the airport of the petty criminals who tarnish the kingdom's image. After all, first impressions do count. And when a passenger's trust is exploited by rogue taxi drivers, light-fingered baggage handlers, pickpockets, illegal guides and questionable practices by duty-free shops; a holiday or business trip can quickly turn sour.
The days when airports were an exciting window to the world are long gone. Now they have become a confusing mix of glitzy overpriced shopping centres, unsmiling officials, inconvenient security measures and huge, noisy, shoving crowds. Most polite, law-abiding passengers dread this organised chaos with good reason. While an airline flight might soothe and relax a passenger, a large international airport has the opposite effect. Irate passengers squabbling with officials and holding up queues are all too common and contribute to a stressful experience that strips flying of any glamour it once might have had.