Patrick Smith at Salon.com examines that treacherous trek from your seat on the plane to where you want to be.
In a way, choosing a favorite airport is akin to choosing a favorite hospital: Conveniences and accouterments aside, nobody really wants to be there in the first place, and the easier and faster you can get the hell out, the better. Which brings us to HKG’s most impressive and appealing feature: its rail connection to the city. The sleek, high-speed Airport Express train is literally only steps from the arrival and departure halls. Within a half-hour of landing you can be alighting at Kowloon or Hong Kong Island — without ever having stepped outside. Returning to the airport, you can check your bags and get your seat assignment right there at the downtown station.
Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo-Narita and Shanghai are among other spots in Asia with similar railway links. And this is where it gets depressing. Why can’t American airports have public transport like this? Even our most expensive efforts are half-assed by comparison. Compare the best of Asia with, for example, my hometown airport, Boston-Logan. My commute to the airport by public transportation takes almost an hour and requires two changes, including a ride on the Silver Line bus, which, in addition to being at the mercy of automobile traffic, requires, at one point, that the driver step out and manually switch power sources to the bus.
Or how about JFK, where for hundreds of millions of dollars they finally got the AirTrain completed — an inter-terminal rail loop that can’t take you beyond the Queens subway. Heck, it can take 45 minutes, up and down a byzantine array of escalators, elevators and passageways, just to get from one terminal to another, let alone all the way to Manhattan. The distance from Shanghai airport to the city is about 20 miles — roughly the mileage from JFK to midtown. Shanghai’s bullet train covers this distance in seven minutes.