Tom Fearon

Professional communicator in Canberra

Turbulence of Airport Parking Problem

Oct. 12, 2011

By Tom Fearon

Nothing quite stokes the tensions of class divisions among passengers in China’s domestic travel circuit than the prestigious trio of letters, V-I-P. Just as people were coming down from their Golden Week high and easing back into the grind of work, children’s author Zheng Yuanjie was busy causing uproar on Weibo, China’s popular social networking website. He claimed China CITIC Bank’s VIP car park at Beijing Capital International Airport was empty, while the regular parking lots were more packed than a queue of people lining up for train tickets on Spring Festival eve. Zheng, considered China’s “King of Fairytales,” enthusiastically decried the bank and airport as villains in a gloomy story of corporate greed crushing marginalized motorists.

“Is the airport, built using taxpayers’ money, like a hospital, or is it purely a business?” Zheng posted on his Weibo account. Zheng’s comments were forwarded within hours by more than 6,000 Web users, who whole-heartedly agreed no airport parking space should languish in vacancy during peak travel periods.

Airport authorities were sluggish to counter in the Weibo war of words. On Monday, a lawyer defended CITIC’s VIP car park as “normal business behavior” that didn’t violate the interests of taxpayers. The airport for its part refuted Zheng’s claims that there was no parking for regular motorists, claiming spaces were “abundant” at one of the airport’s three car park towers, where capacity was at a mere 75 percent.

It’s risky these days to defend a big bank, especially amid the current “Wall Street Spring” protests. But Zheng and his supporters shouldn’t level their fury at CITIC in this saga. The bank, like all other businesses, is entitled to pay for its own VIP parking area with no obligation to necessarily use it. The airport’s responsibility is to avoid putting profits ahead of parking at the cost of regular patrons.

In a country where nearly one and half billion people push and shove for every inch or risk being left stranded, there’s minimal tolerance for wasted space.

If you’re a regular “P” in China without much importance, being left behind is a familiar experience. Public hospitals are stretched beyond their resources, with patients often waiting months or even years to receive vital surgeries. In contrast, private hospital staff struggle to keep themselves busy, endlessly mopping hallways until the overpowering smell of disinfectant is enough to put you in a hospital bed.

Beijing’s taxpayers helped pay for their city’s grand airport, the world’s second-busiest by passenger traffic this year behind Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the US. Motorists dip deep into their glove boxes each time they pass tolls along one of the two six-lane expressways leading to the airport. They are entitled to have somewhere to park their car once they arrive at their destination.

It’s easy to understand those who have little sympathy for Zheng and his motorist cohorts who opt to drive to the airport. Owning a car in Beijing remains an exclusive luxury, particularly since the introduction of the license plate lottery system in January this year. Furthermore, air travel during peak holiday periods – when prices invariably skyrocket – makes it even more of an elitist mode of transport. 

As an occasional domestic flyer in China and proud non-motorist, my preferred method of traveling to and from the airport is the subway. There’s abundant space, comfortable seating and the 25 yuan ($3.90) ticket accounts for about a quarter of the regular cab fare. Sure, I miss out on the fun of sitting behind a taxi driver oozing garlic-infused body odor and showing off his multi-tasking skills of driving and sending text messages, but it’s an agreeable compromise.

See the original article here.