MADELEINE BRAND, host:
You know, everybody has an airport story, especially this time of year. You think yours is bad? Well, fasten your seatbelt.
This week reporters for the British newspaper The Independent reminisced - if that's the right word - about the worst airports they've come across over the years, the worst in the world. And one of them is just a few miles from us here in Southern California: LAX. We asked several of these veteran globetrotters to share their horror stories.
Mr. STEVE BLOOMFIELD (The Independent): My name is Steve Bloomfield. I'm the Africa correspondent for The Independent. Mogadishu Airport is, I think it's fair to say, one of the more dangerous airports in Africa. The approach to the airport is just stunning. You swoop over the most beautiful untouched white sand beaches and you've got the deep blue ocean and the Indian Ocean. But then, of course, when you land, it's a different story. And there's been a number of cases in recent months of insurgents firing shells at planes as they take off and land. So obviously it's not the most enjoyable of landings.
And then once you actually get out of the aircraft, you've got immigration to deal with. They obviously want to make sure that, you know, people who are coming in are not connected in any way to al-Qaida. Unfortunately, the way they do this is by, after a bit of a discussion, presenting everyone with a piece of paper which says that after a full and thorough investigation - insert name here - is definitely not a member of al-Qaida and can be allowed into the country.
Mr. RUTH ELKINS (The Independent): My name is Ruth Elkins and I'm one of the home news editors at The Independent in London. I used to be their Berlin correspondent.
Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport is on the border between Switzerland, Germany, and France. It is an example of European Union hell. The Swiss exits and the German exits are actually quite well marked, but there's this other exit which you think probably is the same exit as the other exits, but it's not. It's the one for France, and if you go through that, you can't get back in. It's an absolutely nightmare.
Mr. ANDREW GUMBEL (The Independent): My name is Andrew Gumbel, and I'm a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent.
The interesting thing about LAX is you never know what it's going to throw at you. A couple of years ago, I was flying on American and the airline literally lost control of Terminal 4. I arrived at about 6:30 in the morning and already the terminal was so jammed, the people couldn't even get inside the building. There were only two check-in people on duty that I could see. Probably half the people in there missed their flights and nobody cared. The security line was horrible. Even once you did manage to check in, it was just a complete zoo.
Mr. SHAUN WALKER (The Independent): And my name is Shaun Walker and I'm the Moscow correspondent for The Independent. I have to use Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow quite frequently. The first problem with the airport is actually getting to it. There's no reliable public transport, and you basically have to go down this one road to the airport, which is also the road to Saint Petersburg. It's also the road to Ikea. It's also the road to sort of half the city's dachas, the summer houses. So any time of day there's always horrific traffic jams. You never know if it's going to take you 20 minutes or three hours to get there.
One place that sticks in my mind is Yerevan in Armenia. You have to pay a departure tax in cash of $25 in the local money, which is payable to a sort of small hairy man in an unmarked box. And nobody knows about this or tells you about this until you check in, and they refuse to take your ticket, point you in the direction of this man. And you know, you can't pay in credit cards. All the cash machines are broken in the airport. The last time I was there, I ended up kind of running across the concourse to try and find a cash machine to get the money so I could get out of the country.
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BRAND: Stories from around the globe from Shaun Walker, Andrew Gumbel, Ruth Elkins and Steve Bloomfield - all traveling and reporting for the British newspaper The Independent.
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