Air travel Part 2 – last time, Grumpy British Dad took us through the delights of getting as far as our plane seat. Let’s now embark on the journey itself…
Hopefully, you read my last blog where I got you through the airport and onto the plane. The bags are all put away and you can now take your seat.
The cabin crew close the door and you are treated to the P.A. announcements. Where you are going, who the crew are, what the weather is like at your destination, the airlines rules and regulations, and so on. I wonder if there is anyone actually still flying that thinks it’s OK to smoke on board. Nevertheless, you are told it’s a non-smoking flight.
Then you get to the safety briefing. Obviously, there is plenty of opportunity for a moan or two at this point, but all I will say is this: “If you do not know how to fasten your seatbelt without being shown, then you probably should not be allowed to fly!” After this, the cabin crew begin to stalk the aisles, reminding passengers (again) to switch off their phones, or to put armrests down, open blinds, trays away, seats upright, bags away etc.
If not held at the gate for an hour due to “air traffic congestion at your destination” – as often seems to happen to me – you finally get airborne. The undercarriage has barely left the runway before the crew are back on the announcements. “Stay seated and do not use electronic devices until the captain has extinguished the seat belt signs”; another “no-smoking flight” reminder; “we will soon commence the in-flight service offering a range of refreshments” and so on.
Not so long ago, you were only subjected to the ridiculously expensive snack menu if you flew on “low-cost” airlines. Nowadays however, even British Airways have resorted to charging you £5 for a muffin, or £3 for a cup of tepid water and a tea bag. Unless you are in Business class. Then you will get the full silver service, without a plastic cup anywhere in sight! My view is that for a 1 or 2-hour European flight, there is hardly a desperate need to be fed and watered at 32000 feet. We can all survive that long. But the fact that BA used to provide a free bar and a sandwich was a bit civilized and it is what separated it from the EasyJet’s and Ryanair’s of this world. Now that BA have taken this differentiator away, added to their ageing fleet (both the crew and planes), they are not really the airline of choice that they once were.
As you break through the clouds, the seat-belt sign goes out. Another announcement declares you can use your tech again, and with that, all the phones, Tablets and laptops emerge as the important ones continue their critical life or death business activities. Or more likely watch another episode of Game of Thrones that they are trying to catch up on before the next series.
So, you settle into your seat, and either eat, sleep, work, or screen-watch your way through the flying time. You are constantly interrupted by people needing to get out of their seats for a trip to the toilet, some overweight business man snoring and dribbling in a nearby seat, children kicking your seat, or running up and down the aisle, a baby screaming as his ears haven’t equalised pressure, cabin crew delivering food, drinks and the duty-free, then crew collecting all the rubbish… you get the picture… basically no peace!
Eventually the seat belt light goes back on, and yet another announcement states we are descending to land. The “plane police” again stalk the aisles barking orders to you weary travellers. More announcements about gates, transfers, local weather and time, and soon you touch down on the runway. As soon as the cabin crew give the OK to use your phone, the “important ones” are straight back on-line, dialling away to tell someone on the other end – who probably isn’t even interested – that they have landed and should be through customs in 20 minutes.
Once the plane comes to a stop and the seat belt light goes out for the last time, the stampede starts. Many passengers – thinking they are more important than you – leap up to get their bag from the overhead lockers first, just so they can stand in the aisle and wait there for the next 5 minutes whilst the ground crew get around to attaching the sky bridge, or worse, get a couple of buses round to pick you all up.
Either way, you queue to get off the plane, walk miles through the terminal to passport control, queue for ages to get through, and even though all this has taken you forever, your bags are still not at the carousel! Eventually the belt starts to trundle round and with luck you are reunited with your suitcase. If not, then you had better go and wait in line at the lost luggage desk.
You shuffle through customs, hoping not to catch the eyes of a security guard waiting to pounce so (s)he can check your bag and rummage through your dirty clothes. As you get through, there is one final hard sell of tolberone, champagne, or train tickets into the city, before finally you are free. As the exit doors slide open, you arrive at your destination into a sea of people holding up signs with people’s names on, and you might just fall into the embrace of a loved one eagerly waiting to meet you. Or in my case, a bored looking Taxi driver.
Ah, the glamour of air travel!
There is a bit of “The Grumpy One” in all of us. I hope to help you get in touch with yours!