Friday, 5 February 2010

Canada airports to ban books?

New airport security measures in Canada for passengers travelling to the US listed just 13 permitted items which passengers can take into the cabin. There was no surprise that this includes medical devices, canes and laptop computers. But books and magazines are not on the list, leaving Canadian publishers ‘dumbfounded’ as it appears that passengers will only be able to take books bought airside after the security check onto the plane. There is not much to do at airport except read, so if this apparent book ban is implemented, airport book sales will be boosted, and the choice of reading will be narrowed. 

Airport retail benefits from a comparatively wealthy customer base along with lengthy airport dwell times which have increased since 9/11. If there is an airport book ban, I wonder which of these books about aviation would make it to the airport book stores? The History of Air Cargo and Airmail by Camille Allaz, from the first tentative flights of farm animals in a hot air balloon, is informative and fun and positive about the aviation industry, but is only available in hardback so a bit heavy to take on a trip. I doubt that these next three books made it into the airport bookstores when they came out:
Climate Change and Aviation edited by Stephan Gossling and Paul Upham is an authoritative and measured assessment of aviation’s climate change impacts and possible solutions
Ghost Plane by Stephen Grey, this investigation into US and UK complicity in ‘torture flights’ is still bringing information about extraordinary rendition into the public arena
• The Sustainability of Air Transportation by Milan Jani get down to the detail of the environmental impacts of airports, airlines and air traffic control.

Airport book shops typically include an aviation enthusiast section, and, not for the nervous passenger, books about air disasters, averted and otherwise. Books by and about airline executives are often given generous shelf space, like Michael O’Leary of Ryanair expounding on their supposed entrepreneurial spirit. All this conveniently ignores subsidies like tax free aviation fuel and omits to mention that expanding airport retail complexes are a revenue stream that helps keep the cost of flights down. It is extraordinarily effective. Many high streets and malls have gaps where shops have closed down since the recession. Yet, globally, airport retail has continued to grow through the recession with airports including Sydney, Heathrow, Brussels, Seoul and Dubai boosting retail revenues. While the US media was full of headlines shouting that (minor) airlines were going bust, US airport retail spending increased by 20 per cent to $639 million in 2008. Expansion continues, for example Frankfurt Airport is building two new walk through stores.

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