First published in 1968, Arthur Hailey's Airport is one of the original disaster thrillers. Compared to others of its ilk (Hurricane, The Glass Inferno, etc), it has dated poorly but is well-composed enough to still be entertaining.
Even to the layman's eyes, airports have changed substantially in the past 35 years - and even more dramatically in the last 5. The center of the thriller's 'disaster' plot relies on a passenger being able to walk onto a plane clutching a bag of dynamite. In the post-9/11 era, this is pure science fiction.
On a character level, Airport is equally dated. The book's reliance on the 'shocking' sexual precocity of captains and stewardesses to create character drama isn't nearly as pearl-clutching as it was forty years ago.
Hailey earns a lot of credit for featuring abortion and divorce-related storylines, but the years have been unkind to the traditional depiction of sex kitten stewardesses.
Still, Hailey spends enough time discussing the minute detail of an airport's function that a certain banal escapism is possible. The operation of a snow-clearing 'Conga Line' or the arguments over insurance machines are still oddly interesting, despite being sadly outmoded. (Interestingly, given the row over Heathrow expansion, Airport's depiction of a local citizen's group is still very relevant).
Forty years on, Airport is less an example of high-tension disaster fiction than it is of well-researched world-building. It is still an entertaining read - just not for the reasons originally intended.
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