I fly a lot, I know what to expect when I go on a flight, the problem is, other people also have to come on these flights with me who haven’t a clue how an airport works. This (coupled with pedantic airport staff who have been trained by the North Korean army) makes the whole experience rather stressful. Here’s my take on airports and flying, coupled with a few photos I’ve taken along the way.
When you plan your annual holiday, it always seems such a good idea booking the earliest possible flight. Truth is, you won’t sleep the night before because you’re too excited / afraid you’ll sleep in / stressing about something you’ve forgotten to pack.
After your awful attempt at sleep, you wake up before your alarm at 4.30am already in a foul sleep deprived mood. The taxi arrives and there is nothing on the road, great! This is going to be the smoothest trip EVER… until you arrive at the airport. There wasn’t any traffic on the road so it can’t be busy in there, wrong, there is queue wrapped half way around the airport. Shoot me now.
Now your mood is at an all time low. Why did we have to bring a check-in bag? We could have waltzed right up to security if we’d just brought a carrier bag with a toothbrush and a change of underwear. You contemplate ditching your case in the nearest bin but then realise that is a ridiculous idea.
The queue to check-in is cutting in to your airport enjoyment time. Remember the days when you had hours to spare in the airport’s bars and restaurants, filling your hand luggage with Toblerone and magazines… those days are gone. Airports now offer no enjoyment at all. Everything takes 5 times as long as it used to, thanks a lot Osama Bin Laden.
What seems to be an hour after arriving at the airport, you finally reach the check-in desk. Your bag is
15.1kgs, slightly heavier than the allocated 15kgs you’ve prepaid £85 to take away with you. Pedantic check in staff give you the disapproving look they’re taught at airport worker school, if you’re very lucky they’ll let you off, just this one time. Any more than 1kg and you’re forced to move a pair of jeans and some shoes from your big bag, to your hand luggage. Because that’ll make all the difference won’t it… fuming.
Finally we’re checked in! All the good seats are gone and we’re sat across and aisle from each other, but we’re checked in! Now to skip our way through security and enjoy the airport! Wrong. You reach security and it’s another mammoth queue wrapped around a concourse as far as the eye can see. 30 minutes later you get close to the front. You get stuck behind that person who has no idea about the rules of flying. You’re patiently waiting to go through the security scanner and it beeps at the man in front. He has his keys in his pocket. Next time through, his belt is still on, then metal in his shoe, then a plate in his head, JUST LET ME THROUGH!
Hallelujah, you are now through check-in and security!! Good times here we come. You’re made to walk through duty free, overly excitable sales assistants bear down on you trying to spray you with whatever perfume they have lots of stock left. How are they so happy and full of make-up at 6am in the morning? Does inhaling all that eau de toilette do something funny to them? You decide against the perfume, it’s cheaper to buy from the shop in the local precinct anyway.
Time for a look around WH Smith for some magazines and newspapers. Another queue to pay, not to a person but a self service machine. That’s helpful. Old people are brilliant at working out technology like this, at 6am. Your turn to pay, ‘please scan your boarding pass’, WHY!? Why on earth does this have any relevance to me buying a copy of Woman’s Own and Take A Break (so you can do the puzzles around the pool).
Time for a pint before the flight, you’re on holiday, it’s ok to drink at 6.30am, you’re allowed. You hand over the £7.40 for your pint then the call comes over the PA system that your flight is now boarding at gate 219, whaaaaaaaat!? Down that pint quick, it makes you wince because you can still taste your toothpaste, blurghhh.
Gate 219 just happens to be the furthest possible distance from the bar you’re in, you power walk your way past everyone, knocking out small children with your giant hand luggage bag stuffed with jeans and shoes you had to remove from your suitcase. These heavy clothing items add extra thrusting power to your bag which help in knocking over small children and elderly people standing between you and your plane out of here.
You arrive at the gate! Boarding they said? Nothing is happening, everyone is sat down half asleep and half drunk from the pint they’ve just had to neck. You sit there eyeing up the other passengers, some of these people could become friends for life, the bloke in a vest, flip flops and a leather cowboy hat on probably won’t be though. 20 minutes later boarding starts, everyone in rows 26 – 38 are called forward… you’re in row 24, sit back down… Finally it’s your turn to board, you wait patiently, have your passport checked and boarding pass ripped in half, time to run and jump and skip on to the plane! Just after the 200 people queing up in front of you take their seats first.
There is no room for your massive hand luggage bag in the overhead lockers so you have to put it where your legs should be, then your legs have to somehow fold away, the cramp will go after a few hours don’t worry. Flying used to be fun, a free meal, loads of stretching room, TVs with movies and Only Fools And Horses on, the good old days. Take all that away and now you’re on a giant metal bus in the sky, smells the same as a bus too.
A coffee and a bag of malteasers for only £6! Bargain of the century. I’ll have a bit of that. Gin and tonic for £6 or two for £11.50, why not! The boredom of this flight is killing you, but we’re almost there. Strap yourselves in for landing, here we go! The plane thuds in to the tarmac with the grace of a rhinoceros, we’re abroad!
The plane taxis to the gate, the stewards come on the PA system and tell you the local time and not to take your seat belts off until the captain turns off the seat belt sign, this never works. Everyone is stood up and jostling around the cabin the millisecond it feels like the plane has stopped, I wish the pilot would then go forward a bit and slam his brakes on giving instant whiplash to every ignorant person who jumped the gun undoing their seat belt, just once, please.
No matter how quickly you stand up when you land, you are not getting off the plane until all the fat people at the front of the plane waddle out of the cabin door, then the old people, then the drunk people. By law, a plane has to be evacuated in under 90 seconds in an emergency. If there was a fire we’d all be dead, 100%, 90 seconds? More like 90 minutes.
You get to the baggage carousel and nobody pays any attention to the line drawn a couple of foot from its edge that you’re supposed to stand behind. Standing closer will make your bag come out quicker, obviously.
Your bag arrives, time to holiday! (After a 7 hour coach journey stopping at 14 places before your hotel). Bags chucked in the room and straight on the beer to get over the whole flying ordeal.
A week later, sunburnt, fat and broken, it’s time to come home. Time to face the airport once again, but this time it’s the exact opposite experience, it takes 10 minutes to get through check-in and security. Hand gun and machete in your hand luggage? Who cares, just get yourself through to Burger King and enjoy yourself in our overpriced shiny airport!
Everything goes so smoothly on the return leg of your holiday, until you reach British soil. Then you have the queue at security. Just when you think you can run and jump to your awaiting case on the carousel, you face the world’s largest queue to show your passport to someone who really really wants to refuse you access to your own country.
Why can’t everybody be a courteous traveller? I’ve come to realise a lot of people never leave their town apart from once a year to go on their holidays. It’s all very strange and overwhelming for them. Don’t judge them, just grin and bear it, it’s all worth the effort when you’re sat on a beach with a cocktail in your hand.