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a blog by Chris Barrow

The stupidity of air travel

Back at the Aer Lingus check in desk but this time at Cork airport on the return leg.

My ground attendant looks at my ticket and tells me again that baggage isn’t covered.

I calmly explain that I experienced the same problem yesterday in Manchester and that we double-checked and I have a PLUS ticket that covers hold luggage.

Unlike yesterday’s customer service anarchist, this chap tells me “I will put the bag through FOC and you can sort the refund out with Aer Lingus”.

Sanity is restored and this gentleman uses his initiative to reclaim a few lost confidence points for the airline.

Cork airport is clearly a remnant of the Celtic Tiger days.

It is massive, modern and completely empty like a 21st Century Marie Celeste.

A skeleton staff (metaphorically) watch with disinterest as we place our laptops in a separate tray, take off watches, belts, shoes (for the first time in weeks – why?), coats, scarves and wallets and watch them slowly roll through the X-Ray as a very bored looking young lady looks for a moment of truth as she uncovers a sinister container of over 100ml of any liquid.

My briefcase is randomly swabbed by a nice lady who is probably just doing something to pass the time and restore her circulation – and then I’m through

What used to be cafes and shops are in mothballs and airside I am obliged to seek refreshment in a rather tired pub/cafe where the best I can do is a cup of tea and some deep fried vegetables (the best of a poor choice).

They taste lousy and are abandoned.

There is at least free wifi and a few email replies are cranked out before we board.

It does tickle me when I climb the steps to the rear of the aircraft and have to wait while the stewardess reads everybody’s tickets and tells them where to sit:

“Hi there, thank you very much, seat 6C on the left.”

“Hi there, thank you very much, seat 15D on the right.”

Hi there, thank you very much, seat 23A on the left.”

And on, and on, and on – until we are all safely in the right place.

What is the rationale for this?

1. assume the passenger is illiterate?

2. assume the passenger can’t count?

3. assume the passenger has suffered from a short term memory loss since they were at the gate 3 minutes ago?

As I walk slowly down the central aisle I also notice that whenever a passenger reaches their seat, they throw their bag on the seat, turn around, see me and the rest of the passengers behind and then adopt a 45 degree body angle as they try to hunch under the overhead locker, disrobe and allow me past, all at the same time?

I explain to the chap in front of me that I’m happy to wait as we will all be taking off at the same time.

The gent behind me is clearly annoyed at this, the gent in front suffers a mild seizure during his contortion as he now doesn’t know whether to accept my offer, step back out into the aisle, remove his coat, store above and sit comfortably.

The risk of the gent behind me pulling out a gun and shooting us both dead appears too great so he continues with his Lee Evans tribute and I continue to my seat.

At the front of the aircraft a male attendant stands in a greatcoat with quite the most disinterested expression on his face I have seen since I asked LInda Lusardi for a dance (whilst pissed) at a Geordie nightclub in the 80”s.

A lady passenger is struggling to lift her roller case into the overhead locker. He watches expressionless until she has succeeded and then calmly walks a few paces down the aisle and tells her it is too big and will have to sit beneath the chair in front of her.

The lack of passion as he next shows us how to don a life-jacket and fasten a seat-belt is epic – I wish I could have filmed it.

It must be repetitive to have to do that 6 times (12 times?) a day – but so what?

I don’t expect the performers in a West End musical to get bored singing and dancing the same every day and their ticket price is less.

Can we empower us ordinary citizens to make an arrest when we see people in customer service not caring?

Aer Lingus haven’t impressed me this last 24 hours.

Luck of the draw? Maybe.

At least if the airline goes bust they can all rest assured of a job with an NHS corporate.

Contrast that with my Discovery Day at Citygate Specialist Dental Care in Cork and also with the excellent team at The Rothestown Park Hotel.

Operating in the same recovering economy and making sure that guest and patients have a first class experience.

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