Has air travel lost its magic?
With Ryanair announcing even higher charges for chacked baggage, increased credit card fees, and even extortionate charges for lost boarding passes but with little in customer care or service in return, we ask has air travel lost its magic?
Oh, how the experience of flying has changed in recent years. Whilst on the one hand the advent of the ‘low-cost-flight’ has opened the skyways and broadened the travel of many; what used to be part of the fabric of the trip has now become a chore. The gently relaxing (and exciting) build up to a trip has now become a stress-ridden, sweat-riddled, exercise in self control; even more so if you are travelling with children. Airports are not built with the comfort of the traveller in mind; they are planned and constructed with a focus on the travelling ‘consumer’. How can they elicit the largest amount of spend from each passenger passing through, is the only question that comes to mind; and with little else to do at most airports, most of us have a large dint in our trip budget before we have even reached our destination. Bring into the equation a bunch of tired, irritable and bored children and it is a recipe for copious amounts of mental stress for the parents and neighbouring travellers; a cure for which is usually a mini-spending spree. It doesn’t get any easier when you finally board the aircraft, as you daren’t move or even look at the menu for fear of having to pay.
There are ways of trying to ease into a flight with some semblance of calm and key to this is a positive and relaxed attitude to what is going on around you.
Firstly; plan to get to the airport at least half-an-hour earlier than necessary, an hour if you have some distance to travel to the airport. Nothing pushes up stress levels more than arriving late and the dreadful possibility of missing your flight. It also allows you to get ahead of the queues a little and through passport control and security in plenty of time to relax.
Secondly; once you are checked in for your flight, don’t hang around, get through to the departures lounge as soon as possible and BE PREPARED for security. Move keys, loose-change, mobile phones and any other titbits likely to set off the metal detector to a jacket pocket or handbag. Remove belts and be prepared to remove shoes. There is nothing more irritating than being held up at security by someone who suddenly thinks about removing jewellery and rearranging bags; when you have a FLIGHT to CATCH.
Next; just relax and take it easy, making sure that you arrive at the gate in plenty of time for your flight. Keep an eye on the information screens which will update regularly on your flight’s status. Unless you are a regular traveller out of that specific airport – check out where your departure gate is and allow plenty of time to get there.
If you are starting a holiday (or vacation to our trans-Atlantic cousins), then grab a drink or meal providing that you have enough time that is. As a stressed out nervous flyer – I inevitably start most journeys with a visit to the bar – but this is of course not compulsory, most airports have plenty of options for liquid lubrication and a wide variety of food concessions.
Let us not forget the ‘low-cost-airline’ traveller! You have two choices; stress-out and ensure you are in the boarding queue before anyone else – but make sure you know where the queue is meant to start (there is nothing more frustrating than standing in your own queue while within a few short seconds a massive queue has formed two-feet away). Or, relax; chill and have another beer – or whatever takes your fancy – and be the last to join the aircraft! This option is fine for the single traveller who doesn’t really care where they sit; but if you are travelling with children or the love of your life who you simply cannot be separated from – then ‘get in the queue’ or pay for priority boarding if it is an option. Then again; you could always fly with an airline which will pre-allocate seats and chuckle to yourself as you watch the angst ridden Ryanair passengers in their fast-walking-race to the aircraft, elbows and hand-baggage warding off any untidy over-takers!
Casting my mind back to my early days of travelling by air in the early eighties, I don’t recall that flying was as stressful; but is this just because I’m less patient in my middle-age and recent journeys have been accompanied by five children or has the glamour of air travel gone with the advent of low-cost airlines and higher security at airports?