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Getting away and relaxing

This is a public service announcement – is the airport and flights business the only place where the consumer has no influence? That’s how it feels!

So here I am with Lorraine on a flight to Faro for 7 days R&R (rest and relaxation), however the simple act of getting on a plane has left us frazzled. In the 70’s and 80’s I was lucky enough to travel as part of my job and I really enjoyed it, but the airlines have managed to suck all the pleasure out of air travel and replaced it with stress, inconvenience and expense. Airlines and airports have lost sight of the customer and are completely internally focused on their own goals. I genuinely feel like an inconvenience that’s being tolerated just because I’m the source of their profits.

So the flight is from Edinburgh and the airline is Ryanair. Our good friend Alex drove us to the airport which was wonderful, but for the pleasure he had to pay the airport £1 just to drop us off. This rises to £5 if he has the audacity to hang around for more than 10 minutes.

We arrive with 2:15 hours to spare before take off in the hope of getting a leisurely bite to eat before takeoff (airline food is generally terrible). Ryanair didn’t open the checkin for 20 minutes after our arrival so there was a massive queue which we patiently waited in. Eventually the checkin opened and the queue started to move. Then a second checkin opened and we started to make decent progress for 10 minutes, then it shut again.

A lovely retired couple in front of us had not ticked the box to checkin 2 bags when they booked (lock them up and throw away the key, how dare they,) so after 7 or 8 minutes of the checkin person phoning a superior they were allowed to pay at the desk, with a surcharge of course, as they’d been “stupid” enough to miss a tick box. One couple were overweight by 1kg and had to open their luggage and put 1kg from their cases to their hand baggage, bonkers.

Now I consider myself very Internet literate but the online booking and checkin process makes me very nervous. I triple check every page before moving on. The process is now so complex as to be ridiculous. Book your flight and the opportunities for making an error are huge. Here we go: enter your dates and details correctly, reserve a seat, select your seat, extra legroom, priority boarding, do you have hold luggage, how heavy is it (more options), warnings about hand baggage, what you can and can’t take onboard, warnings about fluids, do you have travel insurance, are you sure you don’t want travel insurance, do you want to hire a car, do you want to book a hotel, passenger names, passport numbers, expiry dates, nationalities, and I’m sure I’ve missed some but hey. Get one thing wrong and it costs you big time. And when it was cheap this was an acceptable pain but its no longer cheap! £420 for 2 returns to Faro. In fact charging your card is the only thing they do with ease.

Our flight was due to go at 12:35 and by the time we’d checked in and got through security after pretty much emptying our hand baggage and stripping off, shoes, belt, cardigan, (what about some carpet to walk on please!) we had 35 minutes to get a look around the shops and get to the gate. Rather than a relaxing experience we were hassled about hand baggage sizes (there was a woman walking down the queue with a cardboard box checking hand baggage sizes), the weight of our hold baggage, the fact we were only allowed on item of hand baggage, the weight of our hand baggage, if we bought anything in duty free it must got into the bag; please just make us feel like a valued customer!

We are ushered through the gate to the plane but end up standing in the shelter on the runway while the previous passengers alight, it’s raining, very windy and cold, just madness.

So now we’re on the plane and Ryanair are playing the most a appalling music far too loud. Every 60 seconds we get an advertisement, phone cards, energy drinks, J2O. On every overhead locker there are advertisements. We’re offered scratch cards, WHAT!

We bought sandwiches from Boots as there wasn’t enough time for a sit down meal but at least we won’t suffer from legalised extortion on the plane.

At some point as consumers we are all going to decide that we’ve had enough of being treated like cash cows (paying cattle) and abandon flying where possible. Our only hope is to vote with our feet or pray a new player can come into the market and offer us a 1980’s experience. Oh yes, and can you please start your routes in Edinburgh?

I hope Portugal is sunny as we need a holiday just to get over the leaving experience.

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