Air Travel

I hate air travel.  Not for the all too common reason of being scared of flying you understand.  No, I have absolutely no problem with flying through the air in a giant tin can that looks so heavy you’d be surprised it can even trundle along the runway let alone get off the ground.  I understand the physics behind it, I know the probabilities of actually dying in air disaster of some kind… I frequent Glasgow for feck sake!   There’s more chance of me getting stabbed by Captain Trackie, hero of the neds, than there is of me plummeting to my death from the skies!  Doesn’t stop me going into town, does it?!

No, I hate air travel because it is such a total faff to do anything involved with it whatsoever.

There’s getting to the airport in the first place.  I live a stone’s throw from Glasgow Airport.  I could actually walk there in fact.  Yet it’s still a major faff to get there.  Don’t drive, you can’t get near it these days thanks to those guys and their flaming Jeep.  You can’t park there without paying ridiculous charges.  You can’t stop anywhere near it without officious wee Hitler like men coming up to you and moving you on saying “you can’t stop here”.  Seriously, there’s a LAY-BY outside the HOTEL at Glasgow Airport and you’re not allowed to stop in it.  What’s the lay-by for then?!

So, invariably, you get a taxi to the airport because if you’re going somewhere you’ve got your suitcase with you and walking with that would just suck.  The taxi driver will of course rip you off for such a short journey.  Last time I got a taxi to the airport it cost me a fiver.  It costs me half of that to get home on the night bus after a drunken night out in town!  So you don’t get a taxi, you get dropped off somewhere within ten minutes walking distance of the airport instead because you’re not allowed any closer than that.

Right, we’ve made it to the airport.  We are of course THREE HOURS before our flight because some idiot decided that’s how long you need to check in.  Well, sometimes it’s only the TWO HOURS but it seems to depend where you’re going.  I spend less time sitting at Celtic Park than I do in the airport.  I once spent more time in Glasgow Airport than I did in Lisbon, but that’s another rant for another day…

Check in time.  First, you need to queue for ages because there’s never enough desks open, and of course every person needs to be asked the same 101 questions.  Are you in the right queue? Yes.  Are you business class? No.  Queue with the scum then.  Where are you going?  America?  Right, that’s extra checks for you then.  Somewhere else that’s not the EU?  You need a feckin Visa then.  That’s not something I’ve really dealt with – Celtic dealt with my Visa for going to the Ukraine but they did have to send my passport away for a bit.  Somewhere that’s still in the same country you’re currently in?  Yup, expect that to be a pain in the arse too.  You effectively need your passport if you want to fly to London from Glasgow even though you can drive it without that need.  You technically need photo ID, but anything other than a passport just confuses them.  Yes, even the driving license confuses them.  Just use your passport, just for your own peace of mind.

Then there’s the luggage.  Did you pack your bag yourself?  No, my feckin butler did it for me.  What else are you going to say to that?  Does anyone ever answer anything other than yes to that question?  Seriously, the only person that’s ever going to say no to that is a child whose parents packed them, and even then the person behind the desk won’t be talking to the child they’ll be talking to the parents!  A pointless question that’s just going to cause grief if you joke about it.  This happens a lot at airports for me, I have to bite my lip all the time.  Then they weigh your bag and tag it.  For some, this is the last you ever see of your bag.  They’ve never lost mine, but there’s still that tinge of apprehension at the other end when it comes time to collect it – especially if I’ve changed flights half way through the journey and the bags got changed for me.

Bags are very hit and miss to be honest.  I remember one long weekend in Sweden I was flying with Ryanair – lovely company who charge you for anything and everything.  When I booked the flight I was only going for a couple of days so I had a relatively small bag and wasn’t going to check it.  Checking it cost a fiver for each bag after all.  Then some feckin idiot did something on a plane just before I was due to go and suddenly no one was getting any hand luggage on the plane.  So come time for me to go to Sweden, I had to check the bag there and then.  Cost me EIGHT quid to do it rather than the five it would have cost me had I known it was coming.  Pricks.  Anyway, that was the Friday.  I came back on the Monday and the Swedes let me walk on with this same bag, no questions asked.  Nothing had changed over the weekend, it was just that the Swedes didn’t give a toss and the Brits were anal as always.

Anyway, bags checked, next stop is security checks.  Here’s ANOTHER queue where you can be asked to do pretty much anything they want.  Having just left the check in desk, they want to see your passport and boarding card again, just to make sure you’re not sneaking in.  Fair enough, you can still get to security directly from the door, I’ll give them this one.  But then you queue for a bit, before getting to a machine.  By this point you’ve emptied your pockets because you don’t want this buzzer going off.  Maybe you’ve removed your belt and your trousers are already pissing you off cos they’re kinda falling down now.  Then the security monkey might ask you to take your shoes off.  Shoe bomber guy, remember him?  Yeah, he’s a prick.  I’ve seen shoes, trainers, FLIP FLOPS, SANDALS… you name it, I’ve seen it asked to be removed.  I’d love to see the genius terrorist who gets a bomb in a flip-flop.

Then, you walk through.  You KNOW you’ve nothing on you, yet you’re still apprehensive about the buzzer going off.  Did you miss a coin?  Is the button on your jeans going to set it off?  Does it matter?!  You’ve got nothing to hide, but you look suspicious as all hell!  If it DOES go off, you step aside and they wave their wand at you.  They spot that it’s your button on your jeans and wave you on your way.  I’ve never known anyone who’s been taken away for the full glove search.  That could be a myth for all I know.  Probably a good thing, I don’t fancy being fisted before a long a journey.  I don’t fancy being fisted period.

Of course, all my knowledge of this is soon out of date, because now we’ve got the pants bomber – a guy who only managed to set fire to his own pants – and we’ll get the full body scanners shortly.  Why are we scared of these people again?  Recently all we’ve had is a couple of bad drivers set themselves on fire and get a kicking off the locals for it, a guy whose shoe didn’t do anything, and a guy who set his own pants on fire.  I miss the good old days of real terrorists like the IRA.  Well, I don’t really, but they at least did the whole terrorist thing properly – and usually (not always sadly) – didn’t actually kill anyone in doing so.  They just planted a bomb, told the British government where it was, got them to evacuate the place, then blew it up. Bloody Al-Qaeda are rubbish at it by comparison!  They get caught even if they keep it a secret!  If it weren’t for the fear mongering of the governments of the world reacting to that terrible “terrorist group” I’m not sure I’d care about them at all.  I suppose technically the ones spreading the terror are actually the government, not Al-Qaeda.  Hmmm…

Anyway, these full body scanners.  Child pornography, indecency laws… take your pick for how these things infringe on your human rights!  Apparently they’re going to keep the folk looking at these pictures of you naked hidden away in wee booths!  As if it weren’t bad enough, now imagination is going to step in and think about it being Gary Glitter working behind there!  Lets face it, when people are looking at pictures of your wobbly bits all because you want to get on a plane, I’m starting to think maybe Al-Qaeda have won.  Well done guys, the western world is now so screwed I have to show my penis to get to Disney World.

Right oh, we’re through security.  Next up, the duty free shop.  Every airport I’ve ever been in sends you THROUGH the duty free shop immediately after security.  Not round it, through it.  Like they’re FORCING you to buy something.  Usually the juice or food you’re going to require to get you through the next few hours that you couldn’t bring through security with you.  At over inflated “we’ve gotcha” prices of course.  Not that I’m at all cynical about that little quirk, oh no.

Usually at this point, I’m just glad to be through security.  I sit down, get my book out, and read.  Every so often glancing up to see if my gate has been called yet.  Eventually it says “Go To Gate”.  So you go.  Is the plane there yet?  Not always.  What’s definitely true is the doors to get onto the plane are never open at this point, they just want you out of the lobby bit because you’ve stopped buying stuff.  Go sit next where your plane might be soon instead.  So you wait, and you wait, and you wait some more.  Then, your plane starts boarding!  Hurrah!

Hurrah my arse.  First, they’ll board certain numbers.  Usually those that have paid more for their seat.  Then they’ll board from the back of the plane forward.  Makes sense, yet SOMEHOW you still managed to bump into just about every single person in rows in front of where you’re sitting by the time you get on the plane.  I dread to think how annoying that would be if they didn’t stagger it.  Of course, before you can pass the announcements desk they check your boarding card and passport again.  I dunno about you, but I wonder about the passport bit.  I had to pass through security to get here, this area is always separate from the local flights bit, so how do you think I got here without a passport?  The boarding card, yeah, fair enough, you need to check I’m getting on the right plane.  Still… you show them and walk down  the closed gangway to the plane.

At which point, a helpful steward wants to see your boarding card again.  What, the guy at the other end of this closed gangway wasn’t enough?  You need to see my card again?  No, you want to show me where my seat is.  It’s not hard, I’m 39-A. A is always the window seat on the left side of the plane (right as you’re walking down).  It’s 39, it’s probably near the back somewhere.  Come on man, I’m not retarded!

Anyway, you get to your seat, past the folk who are still boarding in front of you even though they sit in front of you, and you dump your stuff into the overhead locker or under the seat in front of you.  You sit down, buckle up – you know how, it’s the same on every plane – and get your book out again.  But that doesn’t last long because your happy air steward or stewardess insists you watch their safety announcement.  I know what the safety announcement is.  You don’t do them any different from any other airway I’ve ever flown with.  Here’s how you buckle up, your life jacket (note, not your parachute) is under your seat, here’s how you inflate it, here’s you whistle should you get bored while wearing it and want to play a tune, know where your exit is, know how to open it if you’re sitting over the wing, don’t get up while the seatbelt sign is on, don’t use electrical equipment while we’re taking off and landing, read the safety card (which more or less repeats what’s just been said for those that need pictures) in the pocket in front of you… it’s all the same guff.  My favourite one is the no smoking sign.  Why are there still no smoking signs on planes?  Surely you haven’t been allowed to smoke on planes for so long now that they would have stopped putting those signs on planes by now.  I was on a plane once where that light went out for a few minutes.  I was sorely tempted to nudge my dad and tell him to light up cos it must be allowed now.

So, everyone’s on board (including the inevitably latecomer who seems to be on every flight ever) everyone’s sat down and buckled up – including the cabin crew – and you finally move away from the terminal.  After what seems like you’ve just driven from Glasgow to Aberdeen, you get to the runway, the pilot puts the foot down and you’re up and away… after that ever so slightly longer than seems necessary delay just to freak out those who hate flying and think we’re going to run out of runway of course.  You then climb FOREVER – half way through the climb the cabin crew, but not you, are allowed to get up and walk about.  They get a head start as the next annoying ritual is about to start.  They’re going to sell you stuff.

Another flight I was on once was a quick one – took about an hour.  In the space of that hour we must have spent about 45 minutes climbing or descending.  I swear for the other 15 minutes the cabin crew were running up and down the aisles trying to sell everything on their list.  The headphone run, the coffee and tea run, the juice and crisps run, the duty free pile of crap run… I almost expected one of them to stick their head into the cockpit and ask the pilot if he wouldn’t mind circling a few times just so they could finish up before we landed.  It was mental.  Fortunately most of my other flights are the longer ones so there are periods where they just leave you alone for a while.

At some point in the flight, I usually suffer from not enough room syndrome.  This comes from the fact that almost all “normal” seat planes are built for human beings who are about 5′ 3″ in height and I’m a bit over 6′.  I don’t fit in a normal seat.  Where I can, I request extra leg room.  But I don’t always get it.  It’s usually more annoying on a night flight where I’m trying to sleep.  One of the best flights I went on was coming back from New York though.  Literally, this thing was about a third full and it was night time.  Me and the missus had a row of five seats to ourselves.  We put the arms up and just lay across them.  Best sleep I’ve ever had on a plane, bar none.  Sadly most other flights I’ve been on tend to be packed.  The recent demise of Flyglobespan were so bad for that they pretty much moved my flight every year I went with them just to they could fill planes.  Fat lot of good that did them in the end!  The New York flight was a scheduled flight, so I’m starting to think maybe that makes a difference. We’ll see this year as I’ll be on quite a few of them this year.

The other one that annoys me on night flights is this bloody annoying habit they have of trying to save extra money.  Again, Flyglobespan were especially bad for this.  Dropping the air pressure in the cabin.  If they don’t recycle as much air, it’s cheaper to run.  But then if they drop  the pressure it also does awful things to my sinuses.  Something I get from my dad – I’ve seen him have the same problem on planes I get now.  Oddly, I never got them when I was younger, it’s something I’ve grown into.  Nevertheless, I have a horrible habit of getting off night flight planes with a hankie practically attached to my nose and with a bit of a headache.

Like I say, the flight itself doesn’t bother me.  The in-flight entertainment can be a little lame at times, but I always bring a book with me.  I read more on holiday than I do at any other time in the year.  The length of time the flights take is a bit annoying too, but even then it’s just more time to read my book!  The other trick I use is sweeties.  They’re great for the popping of your ears when taking off and landing.

So, you land.  Idiots applaud this.  Well done Mr Pilot, your computer got us here safe and sound.  There’s only one pilot should ever be applauded and that’s Captain Sully – the guy who landed in the Hudson river.  I’ll applaud him.  Everyone else?  Aye, very good, you did your job.  I don’t get applauded when I reboot your computer, do I?!  Best story I remember about that one was the Swedish journey again.  Some folk applauded when  that landed in a shed.  Everyone on that plane then got on a bus from the shed to the town itself.  When the bus pulled into the station, one guy applauded the driver.  I pissed myself laughing as I could see the cheeky grin on his face.  I knew he was at the wind up.  Good for him.

Anyway, you taxi another 150 miles from the runway to the terminal.  Stop and the seatbelt light goes out.  EVERYONE unbuckles, stands up and starts getting their belongings together.  The happy steward comes over the tannoy saying you should remain seated and your phone should stay off until you’re well inside the terminal even as you start hearing people starting to receive messages.  No one cares what the steward says at this point to be honest.  The door opens and then you queue to get out.  This bit always seems to take longer than it should.

Next stop, border control.  This varies from country to country.  The UK is getting more and more like the US every time I pass through it.  We haven’t quite for the finger print scanners and the 101 questions and the green and blue forms you need to fill in to get into the country, but we’re not far off it.  Even the foreign guys only have a white one to fill in to get into the UK.   I’ve never had a problem at the US border either.  For all they’re quite intimidating, they’re also really efficient.  And despite the horror stories I’ve heard about folk filling in their form wrong, we didn’t have a problem when they suddenly decided last year that me and the missus having difference surnames but the same home address did matter where it hadn’t the previous few years.  Remember that for next time they said.  Fair enough.

Spain on the other hand… any time I’ve been there the border guy has been one guy, half asleep, waving you through.  I like Spain, they don’t care.

Then you go get your bags… in a few countries I’ve beat my bag there.  That includes the UK.  Never beat it there in the US, even if you get through really quickly.  Like I said earlier, never has my bag not been there either.  I hope that continues, I’ve heard that bit can be a nightmare.  So you get your bag, and head for the customs area.  On the way out, you hand a form to a guy who nods and lets you through into his country.  On the way home, you worry about what you might have to declare, decide there’s nothing, go through nothing to declare and wait to get pulled over and panic… Except any time I’ve EVER been in Glasgow Airport that bit is unmanned.  I worry about it every time, and every time there’s no one there.  Maybe I’m just lucky.

So that’s it.  Air travel in a nutshell.  See how long this is?  See how much of it is the bloody airport?  Doesn’t matter how long it takes you to read this far, I guarantee the next time you’re in an airport you’ll be there ten times longer.  I swear British airports are the worst, but most airports I’ve been in are a similar flavour to what I’ve just written.  Someone invent the Star Trek transporter already.

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About Krys

I rant. On twitter, at work, on message boards... well, now I rant here too.

Posted on 6 February 2010, in Rants. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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