The glamorous days of international air travel is now a distant memory and the reality of the 21st-century airport experience is now upon us.
Don’t get us wrong, the availability of cheap flights have given most of us the chance to travel the world and see places that were once only reserved for the ‘jet-set’. However, this freedom does come with some drawbacks.
So what are the things about air travel which annoy, irritate or just seem simply ridiculous? In no particular order our 10 (we could do more) are:
1. Overpriced Airport Hotels
Airport hotels, the same chain hotels as you get everywhere else but they are the most expensive and rundown versions. Every time we check in to one it always seems to be after the whole crew of an Emirates A380 have arrived and yes, there’s only one receptionist on duty. Don’t worry we’ll waste some time in the overpriced Starbucks in the foyer where we can enjoy a stale muffin washed down with a bucket of dishwater.
When you finally get to the room, however good the chain, their airport hotel room has always seen better days. Maybe it a design feature and they have all those scuffs and stains built-in from the start.
The TV systems are also from the early nineties, slightly out of focus and the only place that still offer ‘adult channels’, since the internet, why is that still a thing?
Then it’s time for dinner where you pay Michelin star restaurant prices for a ‘Harvester’ meal. Next, it’s time to drown your sorrows and get the taste of that microwaved lasagne out of your mouth, so off to the bar with some aeronautical related name. If you are lucky you may get to see the crew of your flight tomorrow necking back Jägerbombs.
2. Other Passengers
You can find so many annoying passengers at the airport it should get a whole category to itself and as Jean Paul Sartre said after a RyanAir flight from Stansted to Malaga ‘Hell is Other People’.
We can all lose our patience in the overcrowded, hectic environment of the airport but there are some usual suspects which always pop up when travelling. These include the people surprised by the security check at the airport, the person on the plane with the annoying cough or even worse, a disgusting snort and the modern parents who let little Toby ‘express himself‘ for 9 hours.
There are just too many annoying people to mention them all and every trip seems to reveal a new type of rude or bizarre behaviour. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to be flying by private jet anytime soon.
You’ve completed the API, you’ve selected your seats and checked-in online. So what is all the typing going on by the person at the check-in desk? Are they translating a copy of ‘War and Peace’, It could be worse, you could be in one of those exceptionally long lines for an airline you’ve never heard of where all the passengers wrap their suitcases in that plastic wrapping.
If you’re going on a budget airline it’s always fun to watch people trying to squash their carry-on bags into that little metal frames.
4. Security – Shoes On? Shoes Off?
Leaving aside other people and the length of time it takes them to put their belongings in the plastic trays what is it with airport security. Is there any consistency in the procedure, every time seems to be different. Shoes on or shoes off, bags in the tray or straight on to the conveyer belt, it can even be different in the same airport.
You feel like Billy Hayes in the film Midnight Express as you walk through the scanner. If you make it through that without incident, what is going to happen to your bag as it leaves the machine? Will it move along the conveyer belt to your waiting arms or will it be sent to that woman with the swab behind that perspex screen.
5. Duty-Free – Running The Gauntlet
You’ve probably noticed that most Duty-Free shopping areas now lead directly off the security lanes. Within a couple of yards from putting your shoes back on, there’s someone waiting to pounce with a bottle of the latest perfume such as “Desperation” by Calvin Klein.
The seemingly endless walk meanders through the airport before throwing you out into an overcrowded departure lounge. You’ll probably find that the one row of seating will be occupied by a sleeping, slightly odorous backpacker who would have benefited from the quick spray of Calvin Klein.
6. Airport Bars – Especially At Regional Airports
Airport bars, the only place in the country (apart from all Weatherspoons)| where it is actually acceptable to have a lager for breakfast. You can pay £7 for the privilege while worrying if those hen and stag parties
We think the bars at airports should copy the style of the little fishing village pubs you get in Devon and Cornwall where they decorate them with old pictures of shipwrecks and ship relics on the wall. What about pictures of plane crashes and burnt wreckage on the wall in the airport bar? Thinking it through maybe it won’t work – shipwrecks being romantic and plane crashes are just horrific!
7. The Gate Call
You’re comfortable in the lounge when suddenly the gate comes up. This now means walking to a gate which is usually a couple of miles away only to find no action whatsoever and even fewer seats and facilities than in the main departure lounge.
Then someone in a luminous tabard emerges from those doors behind the podium and everyone jumps to their feet, but it’s a false alarm back down the corridor they go. More luminous tabard people come and go before the gate finally opens 5-minutes before the scheduled take-off time. In the meantime, where have all though screaming kids suddenly appeared from?
8. The Dreaded Transfer Bus
Yes, you have priority boarding but it’s a transfer bus! So now you have the luxury of sitting on a bus for half an hour in the cold or heat depending on the time of year. When you are all squashed on, the driver keeps walking back and for. Are we waiting for stragglers? No one knows, he then jumps in the front and does an impersonation of Carlos Sainz around the airport as passengers swing freely from the hand
They keep you on the bus for a few minutes more to get you really hot before the doors open. Go! Like greyhounds from the traps, we all rush for the plane doors but which one, the front or the back? The excitement never ends.
9. Boarding – The Rise Of Carry-On Only
We remember when planes had plenty of room for bags but that was back in the days before the ‘carry-on’ phenomena. Now people travel for weeks with just one small case, something we find bizarrely suspicious. However, some of these carry-on cases are not so small. Their owners have somehow managed to get past the check-in staff and now they are wheeling these Ben-Hur chariot-like monstrosities down the narrow isles. Slicing ankles and causing mayhem in their wake before taking up all the space in the overhead bins.
What is it with Toblerone? There are only two places in the world where you can get this stuff. The first being hotel mini bars where you get microscopic versions for an astronomical price. The second place is at the airport where the only size available could be mistaken for a giant redwood.
I don’t think I’ve been to an airport without a Toblerone display and what bizarre person would select Toblerone as their first choice of chocolate anyway! Just like inflatable life jackets on planes, what is the point?