Friday, 25 September 2009

If it all appears to be going to well

A massive queue at checkin, but through in 10 minutes.
Another big queue for security, but again through quite quickly.
Before you’ve even had time to grab more than the bare essentials your flight is showing a gate number.
You walk to your gate, the closest gate there is to the departures lounge.
The plane is already on stand and has off-loaded all the inbound passengers.
A couple of minutes later you are all boarding, nearly 30 minutes before you are due to leave.

It’s at this point that it all starts to go wrong.

Sadly, four people hadn’t been paying attention to the screens, and as the time ticked down to our scheduled push back moment they were still nowhere to be seen.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if they just had hand luggage, shut the door and send the plane on its way.

It is a problem when they have two bags in the hold that have to be located and off-loaded as well.

It had all been going so smoothly, it’s just a shame we were over 20 minutes late leaving!

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The hell that isn’t Gatwick

It’s the first week of the school holidays, the gloomy predictions that not very many people would be travelling this summer have been disproven by a combination of aggressively cheap flights and the promise of a barbecue summer, which instantly condemned it to rain for most of July (which it has proceeded to do!)

Consequently, the thought of going through Gatwick has been filling me with dread, and to begin with today I had every reason to believe my worst fears, of a heaving terminal full of stresses parents and restless children, would be fulfilled. The train was heaving, there was luggage stacked in every corner, and when I saw the queue for the lift off of the platform into the terminal building (at least 10 lift loads deep) I thought it was going to be bad.

It looked even worse when I got to the easyJet checkin area where the queue was massive, but then my preconceptions and fears were proved wrong.

Despite a queue which could have been measured in fractions of a kilometre, it moved at a speed which could have been measured in kilometres. In less than 5 minutes I was through the queue, at a desk and checked in onto my flight.

Even more to my surprise was the virtually non-existent queues for security, which was operating with a level of efficiency I would normally expect from Munich airport, not Gatwick.

So, having left myself nearly three hours to get checked in and through security I find myself in the busy, but by no means packed, departures lounge, with ages to wait for my flight to board.

Lucky I didn’t book that place in the Business lounge that I was thinking about but never got round to. I’d be plastered by the time I boarded if I had!

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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

"Something spectacular is about to go wrong..."

At the end of my last diary entry (link here) I said that “I’m fearing the worst for my next trip, it’s never been that smooth before, something spectacular is about to go wrong!”

Well, this morning I had to go into work as we were having major network changes taking place and I needed to be there just in case something went wrong. The guys were supposed to be in and all of our PCs down between 8 and 10am, which would have left me with a very tight window if something had gone wrong.

By the time I got into work at 8:30 everything had been done and there were no problems.

I got to Gatwick just after checkin opened to find a massive queue, which promptly moved at such a rate that the people who were waiting in the Speedy Boarding Plus queue to supposedly avoid having to join the big queue, ended up waiting longer than I did.

I walked through security, no problems, into departures which wasn’t particularly busy to see my flight listed as being on-time and with a note saying the gate would be announced at 12:10.

At 12:10 the gate number flashed up and I wandered down, sat at the back of the gate room and awaited the hoards as I was in boarding group B I was going to be one of the last to board, so I was preparing for a cramped flight in between a warring couple (see the Ryanair flight back from Verona last May!).

They announced boarding I looked up and there was virtually nobody there, I got onto the plane and, as nobody was sitting there, bagged seat 1A

The plane pushed back on time, had a quick taxi and a smooth flight

10 minutes early I was off the plane, through passport control and my bags were already on the belt.

Straight onto a waiting train at the airport station, a quick change onto a tram in the city centre and then into my hotel.

The only possible thing that could be considered a problem is that the room is shared facilities rather than the ensuite I thought I had booked, but that’s hardly a spectacular failure.

Of course, I could have spoken all too soon...

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Monday, 16 March 2009

Ryanair in on-time arrival shock

For all my scorn poured on Ryanair recently (you might have noticed one or two comments in previous postings that indicate they may not be my most favoured of travel companied), I have to eat a small (and probably seriously overpriced) piece of humble pie.

For the first time that I can remember my flight landed at Stansted on-time (it was actually a couple of minutes early), and by the time I got to the baggage belt my bag was coming round (I’ve previously got to the belt speedily only to wait 45 minutes for the bags)

Because my bags were round so quickly I made the early train from the airport, which meant I made it to the bus stop outside Liverpool Street before the start of the evening rush, and onto a train at London Bridge before the service becomes less frequent.

From the wheels of the plane hitting the tarmac at Stansted to walking through the door at home took less than two and a half hours, half what it has taken on a bad flight (which if I remember rightly was with Ryanair...)

Still, on this occasion they came up trumps, so congratulations Ryanair...

But I still won’t fly with them out of choice!

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Wednesday, 11 March 2009


After the lousy start to the day I didn’t expect the check-in process for a RyanAir flight to be much better, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Having used the checkin terminals (no desks, despite having paid for an airport check-in!) I wandered, as instructed to zone J for the fast bag drop, queued up, got to the front of the queue and was then told I should read the screen more clearly as it said Zone F. I mentioned that it had actually said Zone J but the person on bag drop insisted that I was an idiot who couldn’t read simple English, until the person at the next desk started saying the same thing to another Granada passenger, at which point both check-in staff shrugged their shoulders and said we had to go to F, no apology (though I’m sure I could probably get one if I paid the £7.99 apology fee!)

Over to zone F where there was an even longer queue, partly made up of people who hadn’t read the screen when they were at home and were disputing why for their 99p flight they now had to pay £9.99 to checkin and another £18 for the bags they had with them as they thought RyanAir would let them on if they just turned up.

I can sort of understand why the people in Zone J must have originally thought I had read the screen wrong, but an apology whouldn’t have hurt would it?

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Monday, 23 February 2009

Burying bad news

With their usual level of contempt for their customers, Ryanair have managed to slide out one piece of troublesome news covered by a bigger and noisier, literally, story.

Whilst most people have been discussing the horrific plans to allow mobile phones to be used on Ryanair flights (can’t people be out of contact for just a couple of hours, can’t everyone else be spare their inane chatter for the length of the flight!), another piece of news was release.

By the end of 2009, Ryanair will do away with the checkin desks at all their airports. All passengers will have to checkin online prior to leaving their home, or their hotel for the return leg. Which begs the question, what happens if you don’t have access to a printer at your campsite. Do you have to find an internet café and pay there to checkin? Are Ryanair thinking of setting up rip-off priced internet stalls in place of their checkin desks at airports for those whose relaxing beach break doesn’t involve visiting an internet café?

This naturally leads to the question, what next – you can only print your boarding pass on special Ryanair branded paper which you have to buy in advance, perhaps a final and complete ban on luggage (which is the subtext of what they are trying to achieve) so that they can cut their costs even further?

Those cheap Ryanair flights really aren’t what they once were.

The following is from Reuters 21/02/2009:
LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters)
- Europe's largest low-fare airline Ryanair said on Saturday it planned to save costs by closing all its airport check-in desks by the end of the year and have passengers check in online instead.

"All we will have is a bag drop where passengers can drop off their luggage, otherwise everything will be done online," Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary told the Daily Telegraph.

He said the savings would be passed on to passengers in the form of lower fares.

Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara told Reuters that 75 percent of the airline's passenger already used its online check-in services.

"We are trying to encourage the remaining 25 percent to do the same," he said.

"Hopefully by the end of the year we will have bag drop-in areas instead, which will be manned."

The airline would continue to have staff running ticket desks at airports, he said.

The change would lead to layoffs but the airline used many third-party staff at airports and would attempt to limit the effect of the reduction.

"We are hoping the job cuts will be minor," McNamara said.

(Additional reporting by Carmel Crimmins in Dublin)
(Reporting by Tim Castle; editing by Chris Pizzey)

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Monday, 21 July 2008

Key concepts in architectural design

When building an airport hotel, consider, if it is at the end of the runway, fitting something a little more sound-proofing than bog standard double glazing.

A bit of a disturbed nights sleep with regular take-offs until well after 11pm, a bed that creaked quite a bit (an achievement in a hotel less than two years old) and air-con that was either off or sounding like a jet engine!

Still, I got up a 5:30 instead of 3am, which I would have to have done if I had come from home.

Very quickly through Check-in, scarily smoothly, something is bound to go pear shaped!

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Sunday, 20 July 2008

Wonderful, Wonderful, Luton?

Out onto the road again, starting my trip around Poland and Switzerland (from Gdansk to Geneve as I've titled it), in the slightly less salubrious surroundings of the Ibis at Luton airport.

I should have been having a leisurely Monday morning, journey up to Luton to catch an early afternoon flight, but six weeks ago I got an e-mail from Wizz letting me know my flight had been brought forward by over 5 hours.

With the options being getting up at about 3 to catch a night bus and the night train to Luton, or forking out for the hotel and getting up at 6 I decided to pay the charge and book a night in the hotel.

Sadly, as I have now found out, the hotel is just off the end of the runway, but only halfway up the hill to the terminal. I hadn't booked breakfast at the hotel. I might need it now!

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