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a blog by Chris Barrow


So we sit down for a spot of lunch at The Doubletree Hilton in Luxembourg and the lovely waitress gives us each a tablet computer and instructions on how to scroll through the menu and choose our meal, then she wanders off to do other more important things.

Is it me – isn’t the art of customer service, conversation and relationships at its height when we sit down to dine?

If I wanted to interact with a computer I would go to a dispensing machine and grab a sandwich.

What’s missing from this stupid bit of software is a button that allows me to send a Facebook message to Annie on the other side of the table to ask “what are you having?”.

Presumably the next step will be a chute that opens from the wall and the plate of grub just drops down in front of us.

FFS Hilton – what are you thinking?

Almost, but not quite, as bad as the ridiculous system that Flybe have now adopted, which requires me to check myself in, print my own boarding pass, put my own case on the belt, print my own baggage labels and tape them to my own case before I press a button and send it down the conveyor.

The last few times I have done this, in Manchester, Belfast and Southampton, a long-suffering and clearly bored Flybe staff member has had to endlessly teach the passengers how to work their way through this procedure, irrespective of age and dexterity.

I remember our first ever trip to Mwanza in Tanzania and my hilarity at the baggage collection point when a lorry pulled up outside and a plane-load of cases were unceremoniously dumped through a hole in that wall.

It seems we are heading in the same direction but without the natural helpfulness and humour of the East Africans. 

There are times when automation is what I’m looking for – a restaurant that wants to charge me 27 euros for weiner schnitzel is not one of them. Neither is checking in for a flight.

Christ – don’t tell Ryanair – they will have us flying the plane ourselves.

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