08 MAY 2012: When I was growing up; one of three daughters we had a running joke in our family. Whenever a subject matter was close to becoming prickly someone would say “Bring out the hoola hoop.” Just the image of any one of us hooping (yes, that’s what athletes call it) would delight us, making it impossible to return to the subject that caused ill ease.
Earlier last month heavy rains delayed flights at China’s Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
Flight delays in China are typical, in fact affect one out of every four flights; and this is based on when the aircraft door closes, not when it lifts off the ground.
On 11 April passengers booked with Shenzhen Airlines waited 21 hours before take-off undergoing a series of on-again off-again boarding procedures, due to volatile weather.
The passengers; tired and angry wanted compensation so about 20 of them rushed out on the tarmac, interfering with the landing of an Etihad aircraft which had to be redirected.
It is internationally agreed upon that protesting on a tarmac is a no-no. Try that in a communist country and you might expect serious consequences.
In this case the passengers were lured back to the boarding gate for 1,000 yuan ($160).
And then they were fined.
Two days later at the Baiyun Airport a Hainan Airlines flight was delayed by an hour, with passengers more offended by the lack of communication and rudeness of the airline staff.
Off they went to the tarmac; treading in unauthorized territory.
About ten days after that another thunderstorm delayed flights at the Dalian International Airport but this time the Airport Authority was not going to be undermined by irate travellers.
With more than 5,000 stranded passengers they implemented a strategic plan so simple yet brilliant in its sophistication.
They called for the hoola hoop.
In this case it was cheerleaders; a bevy of young women in short uniforms jumping, kicking and toe touching their way into the hearts of the stranded passengers.
An airport press release said that the entertainment was a way to “demonstrate spirit and shoulder social responsibility.”
But I know and so does my family that the pom poms are not for “entertainment.”
They are a distraction tool to prevent passengers from charging the tarmac, like our hoola hoop was meant to sidetrack Uncle Hank from imitating his mother-in-law, seated right beside him.