December 12, 2007

Down With Cheap Airlines and Small Airports

Oopsss...did we forget to arrange any stairs?THE ON-TIME AIRLINE is a ripoff.

My flying experiences are always nightmareish. Everything I run into flies in the face of quality, decorum, and good service. It is, so to speak, cheap. Where I am usually a good-humoured young chap, airports make me an angry-looking youth who demands service and gets disinterest in return.

To begin with. Although I am due to fly at 10 o’clock in the morning, my only way of arriving at East Midlands Airport on time is arriving at 3 am. “But sir! We are open 24 hours. You can wait in our lounge,” a voice on the phone assures me. At least that’s something, for an airport that impossibly in the middle of nowhere. If you’ve ever been at Coventry West Midlands Airport, well, this is the exact opposite. The check-in and waiting halls are huge, and where WMA is crammed full with seats, at EMA they couldn’t be bothered to place more than a handful against the walls so that there’s a massive floor space unused, and just enough people asleep to occupy all seats. I don’t care, I take a blanket out of my bag, spread it out over the floor and sleep on it. In the morning I check in and pass through customs. If I can please throw away my water bottle. I know it’s supposedly necessary and all but always find it a slightly peculiar line of thought throwing away bottles could save our lives. Anyway, I pass, and want to sit down where I shall soon enter my airplane, however, the gate is still unknown. WAIT AND SHOP, the screen recommends, which makes me cringe. I really just am an object to them, to be measured in terms of consumption and to be manipulated in order to raise those figures.

THE ON-TIME AIRLINE eventually departs 45 minutes late. We are kept on our feet waiting in a disorderly cue even before our plane has landed and let the other passengers out. Then we are cynically shoved in so that air airplane may make up for lost time. The purser doesn’t even look up from his internal phone call as I enter the plane.

Cheap as it may claim to be, THE ON-TIME AIRLINE charges you by the word if you have a question. Every piece of luggage you bring tops up on your ticket bill with a couple of quid, while travel insurance is quietly assumed. I thought to be clever and booked my ticket electronically, only bringing a little 5kg piece of hand luggage with me. You are wondering how they got me this time, aren’t you? Well, so was I. “Sir, it says here you have booked your ticket online. Which means you should have printed off your ticket at home.” For the favour of having it done, I am charged four euros. Somewhat surprised, I protest EMA did not charge me this sum at all (potentially risking a belated extra bill, of course). “Sir, this is procedure. This is no kind of bribe or something.” I concede, what can I do? THE ON-TIME AIRLINE is again around 40 minutes late, but this time they don’t even bother to announce it on any message board. Back in the UK, I am charged five pounds for a short bus ride into town, while I am made to wait for hours before I can finally get onto my coach back to Coventry. I arrived in the UK at 2.30 pm and I get home only by 10.30 pm. Ohh! But let me not even get started on National Express!

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