Airlines and Airports

Picture of Aeroplane

It’s always an adventure flying away to an exciting new destination and having a little holiday abroad. That is until you get to the airport. It might just be me, but I find it one of the most stressful places to be.

Like every business, budget airlines are trying to get computers and machines to do the work rather than human beings. So, no more nice lady at the check in desk, smiling and labelling your baggage for you, it’s now do it yourself.

My family and I flew to Germany for the Christmas break to visit my sister.  We had a lot of luggage with presents and all. We stayed within our limit of 20 kg per suitcase, with a little extra to spare in case we received heavier presents than we brought. For the flight back home, the queue at the bag drop was something like Black Friday, everyone trying to get through, pushing and shoving. When we finally reached the machine, it was quite a simple process:

scan your boarding card
put your luggage on the belt
a label comes out of the machine
attach it to your bag and send it off
hopefully to be reunited with you at the other end.

Unfortunately, one of the bags was 1 kg overweight (presents were heavier on the way back) so the machine informed us to pay £10 extra. I’m sure the smiling lady that used to do this job, would have let that go, but not the machine. We contemplated opening the suitcase, taking a few items out and shoving them in our hand luggage, watched by all the other people still in the queue, tutting at us for being so unorganised.

Well I’m sorry but on my sister’s scales, the bags were 20 kg each. Anyhow, you can’t argue with a machine and the budget airline must make some money somehow. But we decided to pay the £10 and be done with it. Unfortunately, you can’t pay directly at the machine, that would be too simple, so I approached an employee of the airline and asked where we needed to go to pay.

“Oh, just over there” she replied and pointed at a man sitting behind a desk, with loads of people queuing in front of him. Queuing turns out to be a big thing at airports. Ok, so off we went and queued, only to be told that we couldn’t pay at this desk and should speak to the lady who just sent us to him. This sparks a huge row between the 2 employees. We just stood there and waited, thinking, had we just taken a book or two out of the luggage we could have spared this drama and had a coffee instead (same price). Amazing how expensive it must be to get food delivered to the airport, the prices as we all know are horrendous.

Once they finished insulting each other we got told to go to the other side of terminal and queue at the airlines ticket desk to pay. So off we go kids in tow and qeuue again. The lady at the desk there must have had a miserable Christmas, as she was clearly not in a smiley mood. Without exaggerating it took her about 15 minutes to put my card through the machine and pay for my excess luggage. I know she doesn’t earn £40 an hour but is this really cost effective?

Finally, the bags are gone and off we go to the security bit. Passports and boarding cards out again. Well the queues are even longer here, you have every airlines passenger queuing, not just your own.

The fact that you practically have to get undressed before you go through the scanner, doesn’t speed up this procedure.

“Coats off, belts off, electronic devices out of your bags” yelled the security guard, as he tried to get us cattle through.

coats off
belts off
iPads out of hand luggage
phone out of hand luggage
put all your liquids in a see-through bag

Luckily, we came prepared and already had our liquids in clear bags. Shoes off also and same for the kids.

Then stand in a machine with your hands above your head and get scanned. Me thinking, ‘I hope this isn’t one where they see you naked as I have been overindulging this Christmas.’ Out the other end and same procedure for the kids. I know it’s all for security, but my god it takes time. Then try to find the trays with all your belongings in. Find your shoes, belt, coat, iPad and handbag, while trying to make sure your kids are still with you and attempt to find their belongings also. Once you got all your belongings together ,take them to a separate table to repack, as you don’t want to hold up all the other half-dressed people.

That done we headed towards our gate. Obviously, it was the one furthest away and although they make it clear the gate will shut at 7:40 that does not mean there will be a plane there ready to board. So, we sat and waited and waited and waited. We couldn’t get a coffee as we were locked in. They wouldn’t want to wait for you. Finally, a plane approached our finger dock and we watched all the passengers get off and the plane being refuelled. As it was late coming in, there was no time for cleaners and we were looking forward to our seats with crumbs on them and tables with spilt drinks. Then it was finally time to board the aircraft and we got another retired sergeant yelling at us “boarding cards and passports ready”. We then got told even though our hand luggage meets all the weight and size requirements, they will still take it off us and place it in the hold with the checked in bags, as the plane is full.

So we opened our hand luggage again, took out what we really needed on the flight, or what we couldn’t afford to lose.

house keys

Whilst unpacking we listened to other passengers having tantrums, as some didn’t check any luggage in and were now forced to wait for their hand luggage at their destination, to come out with the checked in bags.

So let me get this straight: I paid £10 excess luggage. I could have avoided that by repacking 1Kg in to my hand luggage, which would then have gone in the hold with the checked in bags anyway for free. The stupidity of it is beyond my imagination.

I juggled our important belongings in my hands, tried to show our boarding passes and passports (open at the right page) for me and my 2 children. We made our way down the jetty on to the plane, only to find one of our checked in bags by the door with a tag on it. To be ID’d. Great, so off we went to find someone to assist us and we got told that the label wasn’t attached properly and it needed to be relabelled. Not attached properly? How many ways are there to stick 2 sticky sides to each other?

That done we finally boarded the plane and found our crumby seats. While sitting there we got the full entertainment of seeing passengers trying to get away with bringing their hand luggage on board. As the flight crew did not get involved with this procedure, the ground staff had the fun job of coming in to the plane and taking hand luggage back out of the plane.   The odd nastiness was exchanged and of course the airline won. Finally, it was done, we were on board, the doors closed, we had push back and were rolling to the runway. By now I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get home. This was the moment my husband decided to give me a lecture. “You know the whole journey including the endless time spent at the airport, took as long as it would have taken us to drive by car. Including the ferry” Really? Now?

I let him ramble on about how much money we would have saved, had I not insisted we fly. I didn’t care. I was looking forward to my glass of red wine during the flight and seeing the lovely lights of Hamburg as we take off. What a lovely holiday we had!