I remember when there was no such thing as a low-cost airline. I appreciate that many more people now have access to domestic and foreign travel and for this I am grateful. But does the whole experience really have to be so wretched?
From booking on-line to stepping off the plane at your destination, every step lowers the spirits and takes another bit of shine off your trip.
The grasping measures your airlines take to inflate our fares from the irresistibly low prices advertised are legion. If, like me, you suffer from mild claustrophobia, you will be delighted and relieved to be invited to reserve the seat of your choice. You will experience a small triumph when you click on the diagram and picture yourself in an aisle seat with leg room. But when you click to confirm – that’ll be £8.99, please. Yes, each way.
If you’re gullible enough to pay an extra £4 per person for the right to “priority boarding,” you will be allowed to join a massive throng when your flight is called, usually about 90% of the people travelling, in my experience.
Then you come to the luggage question. You want to take some luggage on holiday? Really, how odd! Well, unless you can stuff everything you need for a fortnight into a tiny cabin bag, that’s another £15 per bag. Well, obviously each way.
Hectoring messages warn you that no excuses will be be accepted for late arrival at check-in. I can verify this, as my brother and my father, who was suffering from dementia, were turned away when a train strike made them three minutes late. My father’s evident distress made no odds – three cheers for consistency!
And woe betide you if you forget to print your ticket. You will be asked to cough up £40 when you try to check in – co-incidentally the exact figure I take home per day as a low-paid office worker!
I assume that you treat your staff with the same contempt – we have all seen the garish, bri-nylon-style uniforms they are made to wear – so I feel a little guilty making these observations.The pilot of one flight I was on announced that we were flying to London, surprising all the passengers, who had bought tickets to Ireland. Not confidence-inspiring, you must agree. I have have heard a stewardess harumph “My God, it’s like a bear garden in here,” as her hapless passengers attempted to board. On the same flight, seated near the back, I was treated to two crewmembers’ appraisal of us: “a bunch of a*seholes,” they agreed. Could I suggest that some of the profits from selling packets of about six peanuts for £1 go towards staff training in customer relations?
It is a strange business to be cajoled into buying a cigarette subsitute on a forty-minute flight. Even the most hardened smokers I know can last that long. And frankly, I don’t like tannoy messages that try to persuade me to buy scratch cards “for charity” from the firm that tried to charge a disabled passenger for help with a wheelchair. It seems, well, two-faced. And as for the recorded fanfare when a flight arrives on time – is that meant to make us forget what a dispiriting affair our journey with you has been?
Surely there is some way the profit motive and customer service can be reconciled. I know you are busy men, and one of you, if his TV appearances are anything to go by, has severe anger issues, but please spare a thought for the passengers who have made you the multi-millionaires you are today.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.