As what in-flight magazines call a “seasoned traveller” I have quite a bit of experience to draw on when it comes to air travel. My work often takes me to different countries, so I inevitably have to suffer the pain of flying.
It’s not that I mind the actual flying bit. No, it’s everything else that relates to it.
Once you have navigated your way through the airlines on-line booking process, with all its options and add-ons, getting as far as the check in desk is the next challenge. It used to be quite easy to get to the airport. Nowadays however, you must walk the fine line between missing the flight or wasting hours of your life at the airport as you have to allow a buffer for traffic jams, unreliable taxis, off-airport parking (that’s so far away its almost off-country) and so on.
Eventually you get to the terminal and your next obstacle is to get your bags checked in, and acquire a boarding card. This grumpy traveller flies quite a lot, so I always check-in on line, get my boarding card on my phone, and only take hand luggage (a troublesome confession as you will read later). Anyway, once you have checked in your bag, you wave it goodbye – hoping to see it at the other end – and head for security.
First, it’s the document check. You pick a line to join the back of, and hope you do not get stuck behind the buffoon who somehow doesn’t realise that they should actually get their passport and boarding card out in readiness for this step!
Once past the staring and suspicious eyes of the border control team, it’s on to the x-ray bag check. How much money do you think that airports spend on communications and signage to tell the shuffling masses about what is expected of them when trying to get through security control? Well, I do not have the answer but I am sure there are a lot of zero’s involved! And it seems – at least from my experience – that this spend is a complete waste of money. No amount of signs, public announcements, displays showing forbidden goods, video messages on loop showing how to prepare to pass the control check, or security guards stating what items to get out of your bag ready to pass the x-ray, can jolt most bewildered travellers into action. You must stand there, trying to hide your contempt for the person in front as they suddenly realise that they must dig out their laptop, tablet, and toiletry bag. Beep! Ah yes, I left my change in my pocket. Beep! Oh, sorry, I forgot to take off my watch, Beep! belt, Beep! steel toed shoes, Beep! knife… It drives you mad!
Finally, past security, you are forced to walk through “Duty Free” as the airport starts its hard sell tactics on you. An army of plastic faced shop assistants bombard you with fake smiles, squirts of the latest perfume, shots of whiskey, and an avalanche of leaflets. Yes, of course I want to spend £92 on a bottle of after shave that smells like something in the cupboard under my sink, just because it has a designer brand name.
Having dodged all this, you head to the gate, typically about a mile away. Hopefully (but not usually) your flight is on time. When it is finally ready for boarding, you have to be ready to endure the class war that is boarding sequence. Those needing assistance, Gold card, First class, Business class, Silver, oh and then the rest of the plebs. Incidentally, why do people with children get priority to board? I mean, their little darlings are going to be so fed-up an hour into the flight that they will be screaming, or kicking the seat in front anyway, so why not board them last and delay the inevitable? (And I speak as a father of 3).
It is both tragic and hilarious watching people try and stuff their bags into the overhead lockers. So many bags get brought on board nowadays that the cabin crew must be experts in Tetris to get them all in. Why? Well a combination of airlines that charge a fortune for checked baggage, or people full of their own self-importance so much that they just don’t have time to wait at a luggage carousel. (see what I mean about my earlier confession!)
Speaking of those “special travellers”, what is so important that these people must board a plane, still talking to their assistant back in the office; or remain on some tedious conference call, occasionally coming off mute to feign interest with a random comment about “why the project is behind schedule”; or speak in raised tones with Magnus in Helsinki about why he hasn’t sent the report yet. Will people die if they don’t have these last-minute calls? I think not.
Finally, all the passengers are seated… and you will have to wait till next time to hear my thoughts on the rest of the journey!
There is a bit of “The Grumpy One” in all of us. I hope to help you get in touch with yours!