Super fly: Why I ditched the rose-tinted specs, and other lessons in flying.
This post originally appeared in the Guernsey Press, April 2018
I’ve been travelling a lot lately, both for work and for pleasure. It means that over the past few weeks I’ve spent more than 48 hours cooped up on planes – luckily not all at once. I find, however, I get caught in the very real trap of viewing air travel through rose-tinted spectacles, harking back to the days when flying was this glamorous big- legroom, fine-dining, champagne- quaffing affair. The harsh reality is that flying these days is nothing like those good ol’ Pan-Am days, unless you’re prepared to drop mega bucks to fly first class – and I’m still waiting for my press pass now that I’m a Real Journalist™ before I can experience THAT standard of luxury. Regardless, all this airport-hopping has given me some valuable observations about airports, planes, the people in them, and how to plan it all in the first place. Here are a few things I’ve picked up:
1. Flight Attendants
…are NOT paid enough to deal with your aggression, protests, complaining, effing, blinding, misogny and body odour. They’re trained professionals. They might indeed give you some pretzels and a G&T if you’re lucky, but they’re also responsible for everyone’s safety. They’re the people who might save your life if you become unwell, or if you run into any sort of trouble while flying.
So don’t kick up a fuss if they’re not letting you get in the cabin with a suitcase that’s the size of the Hindenburg. Don’t get salty if you’re not allowed to move into a seat you didn’t pay for. They’re not the ones who made the rules. Yes, trying to cram your case into that awkward metal baggage-sizer at the airport can be a royal pain in the ass, but sometimes it’s there for a reason beyond just making money for the airline. If one person gets to get away with bringing the kitchen sink on board, then we’d all have to. And most flights are cramped enough already.
When McDonalds conducted a study on queues at their fast food joints, they discovered that: even if someone’s forced to wait in line 10 minutes while looking at the menu, they’re still no quicker or more efficient at ordering than someone who orders without queuing or seeing the menu. Somehow, the feeling of being in a line and the pressure of knowing people are waiting behind us means most of us turn into an indecisive, forgetful mess when we finally get up front. I think the same thing happens
at airport security. Airports are one of the few places where hastily ripping off your clothes isn’t fun. Despite having plenty of warning signs about how to get ready for security – take off your belt, don’t carry more than 100ml, don’t smuggle exotic birds in your trousers (I forget some of the details) – I’ve noticed pretty much everyone forgets something along the way. Again, I’m cool with that – just don’t take it out on the people who don’t make the rules.My simple solution, by the way? Wear trousers that fit.
3. Travel Time
One of my biggest travel regrets happened not long after I moved to London and flew back to Guernsey for the first time. A few days with the family, so you want to maximise your time, right? I booked a 7.30 flight from Gatwick. That’s 7.30AM, by the way.
If you’re like me, you’d probably think 7.30 wasn’t exactly an easy time to start, but at least doable. If you’re not like me, and I really hope so, you’d probably have taken a moment to think about all the complexities involved in actually getting to the airport for that flight. You’d think about factoring in 30 minutes to wake up and get ready. You’d set aside an hour to travel there and two hours to check in and get through the airport. Well, I did think about those bits… I just didn’t really execute them. Cue me finally crawling out of bed at 6am, knowing in my gut I wouldn’t make it to the airport, but being too stubborn to accept it and running out the door anyway.It’s an awful feeling knowing there are only about 10 minutes between you making a plane and having to spend £140 on a new ticket and a three-hour wait. It was a painful, expensive, embarrassing mistake. But it’s taught me one of my most valuable lessons about flying, and I know it’s a bit diva of me, but I have a firm new rule: I no longer travel before noon.
4. Airport lounges
We’re incredibly lucky that Guernsey is one of those airports you can breeze through. Hell, when my parents pick me up in Guernsey, they wait until the plane’s landed before they even get in the car to the airport *. Unfortunately, not all airports are as easy as GCI.I really believe booking airport lounges is THE way to stop worrying about travel and have a better flight. I know it sounds terribly bourgeoisie of me, but hear me out on this. You typically pay £20-30 for three hours of lounge (not the £140 change-ticket debacle), so you’re inspired to get to the airport as early as you can. Once you’re there, you can sprawl on a sofa, knowing you’re through security and have plenty of time to kill. And as if that’s not enough, there’s champagne, food and gin aplenty. And it’s unlimited.
It’s all the fun of business class but without the price tag. And, with a certain local airline ditching the free onboard drink, I think there’s never been a better time to treat yourself.
And THAT’S why my rose-tinted vision isn’t dead quite yet.